Anibal Sanchez hadn't gone anywhere, really, and yet here he was getting a big "welcome back" from Detroit Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.
"It's nice to have you back in that jersey again," Dombrowski said Monday to his right-hander.
It wasn't cheap.
Detroit's deal with Sanchez is worth $80 million over five years, a person familiar with it told The Associated Press last week on condition of anonymity because terms weren't announced. The team said it has an option for a sixth season.
That's the price of doing business in the free agent market for pitchers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers recently gave Zack Greinke a $147 million, six-year deal — the biggest for a right-hander in baseball history — and Detroit is satisfied with what it had to spend on Sanchez, perhaps the second-best pitcher on the market.
"He's in the prime of his career," Dombrowski said.
The 28-year-old Sanchez helped Detroit reach the World Series this year. He had a 1.77 ERA in 20 1-3 innings over three postseason starts, but was 1-2 because the Tigers were shut out in each of his losses.
"We almost get the ring," he said. "Now, I know we got a pretty good team."
Detroit has been good enough to get into the playoffs the last two years. The Tigers hope to improve enough to take the next step and win their first World Series since 1984 thanks to a couple major moves and a standout player's comeback.
They attempted to fill a void in the field and the lineup, just in front of sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, by signing outfielder Torii Hunter to a $26 million, two-year contract. They are expecting designated hitter Victor Martinez to be healthy at spring training in a couple months after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
And, Detroit kept its four-man rotation together by signing Sanchez.
As much as the Tigers are paying him, Sanchez had at least one team — other than the Chicago Cubs, the runner-up to signing him — offer him more at the winter meetings than he eventually got to stay in the Motor City.
"At the end, what do you do with a lot of money if it's not where you want to be?" Sanchez asked.
Detroit acquired Sanchez in July from Miami along with second baseman Omar Infante for right-hander Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers. After a slow start with the Tigers, he pitched well in key games to help them win division titles in consecutive years for the first time since the 1935 and 1934 seasons with a 2.15 ERA over his last eight starts.
"Once he settled in and got a chance to get settled, he was one of the best pitchers in the league," Dombrowski said.
Sanchez is 48-51 with a 3.75 ERA since making his major league debut with the Marlins in 2006. He was 9-13 last year and 8-9 the previous year following a career-best, 13-win season in 2010.
While those numbers aren't impressive, the digits on his contract are because he's on the right side of supply-and-demand economics in baseball.
The Tigers didn't really want to offer Sanchez as long of a contract as he signed, but had to do so in order to keep him around.
"Pitching is a risky business," Dombrowski said. "It's unfortunate, but that's just the way it is."
What's also a reality is righty Rick Porcello might get traded any day because he could be deemed expendable with lefty Drew Smyly seemingly situated well to be the team's fifth starter.
Dombrowski said he's in trade talks with "numerous" clubs because they know the Tigers have six starters and are willing to deal one of them for the right price, perhaps a right-handed hitter to platoon with left-handed hitting outfielder Andy Dirks.
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