FORT MYERS, Fla. – Anibal Sanchez is 28-35 with a 5.15 ERA over his past four seasons. He has been demoted to the bullpen, then to the minors. At age 34, he might not have much left to offer as a pitcher.
The Twins want to be the judge of that. They signed the righthander to a nonguaranteed contract worth $2.5 million, with another $2.5 million attainable through incentives. He is expected to arrive at camp Sunday to take a physical, and the Twins could have the deal wrapped up by Monday.
“I know it’s not what everyone thought would be our first starting pitching move of the winter,” manager Paul Molitor said, acknowledging how the club pursued a more accomplished starter in Yu Darvish, only to see him sign a six-year, $126 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
The Twins are not done looking for starting pitching help. But they view Sanchez as a low-risk move that can pay off. They think they can fix him.
“Obviously, the long ball bit him a lot,” Molitor said. “A lot of people think it has to do with pitch usage and some other things. But they really liked a lot of the weapons he still has. They think he got away from things that would give him a better chance to be successful.”
The Twins might want Sanchez to use his money pitch, the changeup, differently. When he went 14-8 with a 2.57 ERA in 2013, he threw it 24.1 percent of the time. He hasn’t thrown as much since then. Add in some injuries, and the Twins think he’s better than the 28-35 record he has had with Detroit over the past four seasons.
This will be of test of their evaluation room, in which analytics have taken on a greater role. “I think they feel there are some things that they can try to build on that are still really positive,” Molitor said.
Byron Buxton arrived at camp Saturday, eagerly pointing out that he was two days early. He immediately went to work — filming a commercial before hitting the practice field.
Buxton spent most of the offseason in his home at Georgia, but he couldn’t watch another football game after his Bulldogs lost to Alabama in overtime for the national championship. Buxton hasn’t watched a football game since, including the Super Bowl.
“I would have come up if the Vikings would have been in the Super Bowl,” Buxton said.
The only two position players to have yet to report to camp are Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano. That doesn’t include catcher Willians Astudillo, who has yet to report because of visa issues in his native Venezuela.
Getting a look
Molitor, at the request of new pitching coach Garvin Alston, stopped by the bullpen Saturday and watched a few pitchers throw. He prefers to stay away from the bullpen.
“What am I going to look for?” he said. “Like I understand the fundamentals of pitching.”
Let’s meet: Brian Navarreto
Position: Catcher • Age: 23
2017 stats: .209 average with four homers and 28 RBI between Class A Fort Myers and Class AA Chattanooga.
Acquired: Selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.
Role: Competing for a spot at Chattanooga.
Did you know: If he has any kind of major league career, it will be because of his work behind the plate. In five minor league seasons, Navarreto has hit .209. His arm is his ticket to the majors, as he has thrown out an impressive 64 of 127 runners attempting to steal. Navarreto when to high school in Florida but was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the same town as Jose Berrios.