Humberto Sanchez’s name has been thrown around all over talk radio the past couple of days, and it’s possibly for the wrong reason. After three mediocre seasons in A and AA ball, Sanchez has had a breakout performance. He started the season in Erie and in eleven starts, he went 5-3 with a 1.76 ERA and he struck out 86 in 71 2/3. He then got promoted to Toledo and proceeded to win the International League player of the week. Since getting the promotion, he’s given up only one run in nineteen innings and he’s struck out 17 batters in 19 innings.
Pretty good numbers, and the reason his name is being thrown around is, because many people think Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander are just about untouchable, that Sanchez appears to be the primary trade bait to help put the team over the top. A lot of names have been mentioned in trade rumors, but the two who appear to be the most prevalent are Carl Crawford and John Smoltz.
I think trading for Crawford would be a big mistake. Yes, he’s definitely got some speed and he’s having a career year at the plate as far as homeruns, but his fielding has been off (-2 fielding runs above replacement) and he’s actually on pace to have fewer extra base hits then he’s had the last few years. His homeruns are up (10) but his doubles and triples are way down. I just don’t see him being that much of an upgrade over Marcus Thames.
John Smoltz is a different matter. Even with the solid pitching by Zach Miner, having John Smoltz in the front of this rotation would be huge come playoff time. The question then would be, would I trade Sanchez for Smoltz.
I say, absolutely. And for a couple of different reasons. One reason is, Sanchez hasn’t done much until this year and he was never really highly touted so I’m wondering whether he’s even for real. John Sickels gave him a C rating in his prospect book although he does say Sanchez could be really good (or really bad, or somewhere in between). Also, I think Baseball Prospectus’ mantra of “there is not such thing as a pitching prospect” would be another reason. Sanchez isn’t a sure thing. Smoltz is pretty close to one.
The ultimate irony of all this is, the Tigers traded John Smoltz, a pitching prospect at the time, for Doyle Alexander way back in 1987. A lot of people blast that trade but I still think it was a good deal. We wouldn’t have made the playoffs without Alexander, who went 9-0 down the stretch. And while we didn’t win the World Series, we would have never even had a chance without him. So to now trade a pitching prospect for John Smoltz is, well, odd.
I’m probably going to get blasted for this, but I think if Joel Zumaya’s future is as a closer, I’d rather see him get shipped out. As good of a closer as he could be, that doesn’t make up for a quality starter. Just my two cents.