Right-hander Anibal Sanchez likely won't be back with the Tigers next season. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News)
Detroit — The Dodgers are rewriting the rules.
And, so, in turn, the Tigers are rethinking their rotation.
On the heels of Zack Greinke signing the largest contract ever for a right-handed pitcher — six years, $147 million — it's become quite clear that Anibal Sanchez, barring an unlikely willingness to leave a whole pile of money on the table, will not be returning to the Tigers.
Greinke reached the deal with the Dodgers over the weekend, and it became official Monday with a press conference Tuesday.
Now, all eyes will turn to Sanchez, who seems to have hit the open market at the perfect time. He's actually considered the next-best right-handed starter available.
Some suspected that Greinke signing with the Dodgers over the Rangers would be good for the Tigers, because it would take baseball's biggest spenders out of the Sanchez sweepstakes. But here's the kicker: The Dodgers might actually want him, too — and can pay him much, much more.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told ESPN.com the Dodgers are "done spending, more or less." But there are reasons not to believe that.
Chief among them, of course, the Dodgers are spending money like they're printing it at Wonder World. We've never seen this before — not even from George Steinbrenner's Yankees. It's all because of their unbelievably lucrative TV that's in the works and soon will pay them more than $200 million a year. (For comparison, the Tigers' deal is believed to be worth between $40 million and $50 million annually.)
When Magic Johnson and Co. bought the team from the disgraced McCourts last spring, they said, standing, in the shadows of Hollywood, it was their goal to have a star at every position.
And obviously, they're well on their way, with Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez in the infield; Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in the outfield; and Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Japanese importRyu Hyun-jinin the rotation.
The Dodgers' Opening Day payroll easily will exceed $200 million, and should set the all-time record. And a few years down the road, the unthinkable, $300 million, won't be out of the question (at which point you are certain to start hearing a loud debate about the merits of a salary cap.)
Kershaw, the 2011 Cy Young winner, is a free agent after 2014, and it's probable they lock him up long-term before then, and likely with a record deal, surpassing CC Sabathia's seven-year, $161 million pact.
But first thing's first, and that's this offseason. The Dodgers could want even more pitching — Chad Billingsley also is in their rotation, by the way, with Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano on the fringe, and likely to be traded — and they might actually have their sights set on Sanchez and fellow right-hander Kyle Lohse.
Lohse, 34, is coming off a phenomenal two-year run with the Cardinals, going 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA.
Sanchez, 28, is under .500 for his seven-year major league career (48-51), but much of that is due to playing for an oftentimes poor Marlins team. He was brilliant down the stretch at in the postseason for the Tigers, who acquired him in a July trade.
Lohse is said to want a four-year deal, probably worth as much or more than he made the last four seasons with the Cardinals — about $40 million.
Sanchez, meanwhile, is thought to be seeking a six-year, $90 million contract, which seems wildly unrealistic. Unless, of course, you're the Dodgers.
Even if the Dodgers ultimately decide they're set, though, if the Greinke deal has the ripple effect many suspected it would, Sanchez still has been priced out of the Tigers' comfort zone — which is believed to somewhere around four seasons and less than $60 million. A report from CBS Sports' Jon Heyman said Detroit's initial offer was four years and $48 million, and it was dubbed "insulting."
Dombrowski wouldn't discuss the Sanchez situation at last week's winter meetings, citing a rule against talking about free agents (a rule not everybody follows by the way). But he reiterated the company line, that the Tigers have interest and have made it known.
Sanchez would be the Dodgers first choice over Lohse, if for no other reason, his age. That would be bad news for Lohse, because when you take the Dodgers out of the equation, the money tends to dry up.
That's not to say their isn't big-payday potential elsewhere, however.
The Red Sox, after unloading more than $200 million in commitments on those Dodgers last summer, have a bunch to spend, and a poor rotation. The Rangers have money, too,but they seem to befar more careful with it — which is why they let C.J. Wilson walk last winter, perhaps why they didn't land Greinke this offseason, and why they haven't yetsigned Josh Hamilton. The Angels have financial constraints after the Wilson and Albert Pujols signings a year ago, but they desperately need more starting pitching after losing Greinke and, earlier, Dan Haren this offseason.
And there always is the threat of a wild-card spender emerging out of the blue,too. Here, think Royals. Another starter could actually make them very interesting in 2013.
The Tigers always have the bank of Mike Ilitch at their disposal, too — though it's worth noting that they must keep one eye on this offseason and another on the looming free agency of Justin Verlander, who now is all but guaranteed to get the largest contract ever for a pitcher. (You can bet the Dodgers will be very interested in Verlander, and vice-versa; he definitely has a little Hollywood in him.)
With Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, the Tigers already have a very good rotation — easily the best in the division, despite the Royals' recent face lift of James Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie; and the Indians trade for Trevor Bauer. The White Sox staff is solid, and the Twins' is poised to get better, but not for a few years.
So in terms of holding off division rivals, Detroit can afford to be picky, and pounce only if the right player comes along. Lohse, you can bet,is not that player.
But the Tigers' goal is a World Series championship that Ilitch can enjoy, and that clock is ticking. So the Tigers very would still could upgrade the rotation, if — OK, when — Sanchez moves on. They've already tried, according to CBS Sports' Danny Knobler, who said they talked to the Rays about Shields.
Makessense, too, since theTigers found out last summer that a back two of Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly wasn't good enough. That's why they added Sanchez, and paid a heavy ransom for him.
Pitching coach Jeff Jones has plans to work this offseason with Porcello — much like hitting coach Lloyd McClendon did last winter with Austin Jackson, who ended up making impressive strides — and Smyly, a promising left-hander, will have a whole lot of big-game experience under his belt.
So those two could prove to be just fine in 2013. But if the Tigers aren't completely convinced, there are a few, cheaper names to keep an eye on — such as former Tiger Edwin Jackson, who, for some reason, can't seem to get a big payday; another right-hander,Shaun Marcum; and left-hander Joe Saunders.
They all should be affordableoptions.
Sanchez, however, almost certainly is not. The Dodgers have made certain of that.