Report: Pirates close to minor league deal with Jonathan Sanchez

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UPDATE: Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review confirms that the Pirates are close to a minor league deal with Sanchez.

7:17 PM: According CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Pirates are close to a deal with free agent left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. No word on whether it will be a guaranteed major league deal.

Sanchez was a complete mess last season, posting an obscene 8.07 ERA and 45/53 K/BB ratio over 64 2/3 innings in 15 starts between the Royals and Rockies. The 30-year-old didn’t make another start after August 3 due to left biceps tendinitis. He finished with the highest single-season ERA in the majors since 2008 (min. 60 innings pitched) while his 2.29 WHIP was the highest in the majors since 2000.

Heyman hears that Sanchez is healthy and has worked all winter on his mechanics, so it’s worth a shot to bring him in as rotation insurance, especially if a deal with Francisco Liriano can’t be worked out. Despite Sanchez’s persistent control issues, one benefit of throwing from the left side is that he’ll continue to get chances.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.