At one point, Gaby Sanchez was considered part of the future of the Marlins organization. After a 2010 campaign that saw the first baseman finish 4th in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting, Sanchez was part of a core of young players that included Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, defending NL ROY Chris Coghlan, and an upstart 20-year-old rookie named Giancarlo Stanton.
Once promising, that core never developed as hoped and Gaby Sanchez became a forgotten memory in Marlin country. Now, he’s put his Major League Baseball career in the rearview mirror as well, at least temporarily.
Per an Associated Press news release (courtesy of ESPN) Gaby Sanchez has taken his bat and glove and signed a one-year deal with the Rakuten Eagles of the Japan Pacific League. The deal is worth $2.5 million and includes additional incentives based on performance per the release. The base salary alone is worth more than Sanchez made in any one season at the Major League level.
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Drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 MLB Draft, Sanchez made his Major League debut in 2008, but would not become a regular until his break-out season in 2010. Still a rookie, he would put together a .273/.341/.448 batting line with a 111 wRC+, 19 home runs, and 85 RBI on the way to finishing 4th in the ROY behind eventual winner Buster Posey.
Sanchez would put up similar numbers in 2011, posting a .266/.352/.427 slash with a 114 wRC+ and equaled the 19 home runs while putting up 78 RBI. However, things took a sharp turn in 2012, when Sanchez got off to a .202/.250/.306 start with just 3 home runs and 17 RBI in 55 games with the Marlins. He would be shipped to the Pirates at the trade deadline, with the Marlins looking to shed his contract before arbitration kicked in.
Things weren’t much better in Pittsburgh for Gaby Sanchez, as he mustered a .241/.327/.394 slash and hit just 18 home runs with 82 RBI in 309 games with the Pirates. Pittsburgh opted to designate Sanchez for assignment on December 1, 2014, delaying what would have been his third year of arbitration and granting him free agency.
Outside of the sudden decline in run production, Gaby Sanchez was plagued with being a poor fielder at first base. In 4491.2 career innings at first base, Sanchez could struggled to a UZR/150 of 2.5 and a -5 Defensive Runs Saved. His last two seasons were especially bad, with Sanchez putting up -3 in DRS both seasons and not rating any higher than a -3.2 in UZR/150 in either 2013 or 2014.
Rakuten will be a good opportunity for Sanchez to regain some confidence and hopefully reestablish some interest in his services stateside. Now 30-years-old, he doesn’t have a whole lot of time to rebuild his career, but it worked well for Casey McGehee. A lot of things can change in a year’s time.
He went from promising to bust in a year’s time, perhaps he can make the trip back.