Orioles pick Joe Saunders as Wild Card playoff game starter

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UPDATE: Sure enough, the Orioles just announced that they’re going with Saunders over Johnson against the Rangers. Showalter indicated that Johnson’s knee injury played a factor in the decision.

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Yu Darvish will start the Wild Card playoff game for the Rangers, but the Orioles remain undecided on who they’ll have on the mound. Or at least manager Buck Showalter hasn’t made his choice public yet.

It will either be left-hander Joe Saunders, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks on August 26, or right-hander Steve Johnson, a 25-year-old rookie who made just four regular season starts.

Based on experience and track record Saunders would be the obvious pick and he’s pitched pretty well since joining the Orioles with a 3.63 ERA and 23/8 K/BB ratio in 45 innings. On the other hand the Rangers are a very right-handed heavy lineup aside from Josh Hamilton and led the league in OPS versus left-handed pitching. Not surprisingly Saunders has pretty brutal career numbers versus Texas.

Johnson was excellent in 38 innings split between the rotation and bullpen, posting a 2.11 ERA and 46/18 K/BB ratio, but he’s been dealing with some knee problems and … well, trusting an unheralded rookie with four career starts in the team’s first playoff game in 15 years would certainly be a gutsy call by Showalter.

The Tigers decline Anibal Sanchez’s 2018 option

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From the “this does not surprise us in the very least” department, Tigers GM Al Avila announced today that the club is declining its $16 million option on right-hander Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez had a terrible year in 2017, going 3-7 with a 6.41 ERA in 2017. That’s a long slide down from his 2013 season, in which he won the AL ERA title, going 14-8 and posting an ERA of 2.57 in the first year of his five-year, $80 million deal. Since then he’s gone 28-35 with a 5.15 ERA. He never started 30 games or more over the course of the contract.

The declination of the option does come with a nice parting gift for Sanchez: a $5 million buyout. Which is pretty dang high for a buyout, but that’s how the Tigers rolled three or four years ago.