The city of Atlanta is hungry for another championship. The last time it happened was 1995 when the Braves won the World Series, but they won’t get back there if they keep signing mediocre players. Otherwise, the team is going to be mediocre. The Braves are supposed to be coming toward the end of their “rebuilding” mode and entering a time of success. Last year the Braves had a $126.1 million payroll and they didn’t do much with it. They got Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey; fan favorites but not always reliable. If they didn’t sign someone reliable or consistent when they had the money, what are they going to do when they don’t have as much money? Sign Anibal Sanchez and Ryan Schimpf. These two players fit the category of mediocracy.
On Friday, March 16, 2018, the Braves signed Anibal Sanchez to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Craig Calcaterra with Yahoo Sports described Sanchez and the deal with the Braves as “[He] is basically cannon fodder at this point in his career, but if the Braves are still a year or two away from true contention, there is value in signing cannon fodder.”
2017 was not Sanchez’s year. In 17 starts he went 3-7 with a 6.41 ERA. With such an awful year with Detroit, what can he bring to the Braves? We can only hope that a new team and a new city will be a fresh start for Sanchez. He is a more seasoned pitcher but will that translate on the field? In the past 5 years, Sanchez’s ERA has steadily increased each year. The last time he had a phenomenal year was back in 2013 when he led the American League with a 2.57 ERA with a 14-8 record in 29 starts.
He has pitched for the Marlins and the Tigers over the past 12 years. In 2012, Sanchez was acquired by Detroit from the Marlins. He played with the Marlins from 2006-2012, then spent the next 5 years with Detroit. Earlier this year he signed with the Twins before he was dropped from the team to make room for Lance Lynn.
In an interview with the AJC, Brian Snitker said, “We brought him in to get a look, see where he’s at…He’s a depth piece. I mean, who knows? He might make our club. We’ll evaluate. He’s in shape. “He’s a guy that knows how to pitch.”
Sanchez’s first start for the Braves in Spring Training was definitely different for him compared to the last few years. He pitched four innings, walked one and had two strikeouts. He did good and got the win. But this was only one game. You can’t judge a pitcher’s consistency off of one game. It would be nice if he did emerge as a dependent pitcher; to have someone as a back-up in case the starting rotation gets in trouble.
If Sanchez doesn’t pan out the way the Braves are hoping, then, unfortunately, he will be placed in the same boat as the rest of the “veterans.” He may have the experience, but he is past his prime and his past few years are proof of that. Sanchez is not the type of veteran the Braves need. It seems as if his only purpose right now is to be an example in the minors, with the possibility of being called up if someone gets hurt.
Ryan Schimpf is another guy that joins the club as a just-case player for the Braves. Schimpf was designated for assignment a few weeks back, to which, the Braves picked him up in exchange for cash. He spent the last two seasons with the Padres but was traded to the Rays in the off-season. The Rays dropped him from their roster after a very disappointing first half of spring training. Since moving to the Braves this spring, Schimpf is overall 0-30 with 19 strikeouts.
Last season when Schimpf played third base for the Padres, he did have some success with the bat getting 14 home runs but in 197 plate appearances, he had a .158 batting average with a .284 on-base percentage.
It seems that the reason the Braves picked him up is because of his connection to GM Alex Anthopoulos. When Schimpf was making his way through the Blue Jay’s farm system, Anthopoulos was the Jay’s GM, so familiarity seems to have influenced this player pick-up.
Snitker said, “[The acquisition] is attractive with options…He’s done some damage in a short period of time. So, we’ll see where he fits.”
Schimpf is not a player that can be relied upon with numbers like he has put up this Spring Training. He may have had a few homers here and there but overall his numbers and talent won’t benefit the Braves. Something is not meshing right with him and a bat. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is dropped again within the next month or so if he does not improve. Additionally, I don’t think there is a chance that he would ever be considered for the third base position with so many better third basemen like Johan Camargo or Austin Riley.
If a team is not going to spend the money to get someone good and that can benefit the team long term, then the organization needs to step back and evaluate. They then need to focus on developing the players they have and stop signing so many average players. Not every team can be an all-around All-Star team like the Astros or Dodgers but if they want success they need to not give every washed-up player a chance. The Braves won’t ever get to the Dodger-level of player success if they keep signing mediocre players like Sanchez and Schimpf. For now, let’s hope these two guys can make a positive statement for the team and sooner rather than later.