Elliott: Sanchez contract renewed for minimum

RHP Aaron Sanchez had his contract renewed for the major league minimum by the Blue Jays. Photo: Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports.

RHP Aaron Sanchez had his contract renewed for the major league minimum by the Blue Jays. Photo: Rick Osentoski USA TODAY Sports.

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

Right-hander Aaron Sanchez had his contract renewed by the Blue Jays this week for the major league minimum of $535,000 US.

Teams have the hammer for players not eligible for salary arbitration. 

Sanchez earned $517,800 last year, but was headed for a raise since the minimum pay went up under the Basic Agreement. He gave up roughly $11,000 when he was demoted to the minors to give his arm a rest.

All Sanchez did in his first full year as a starter was compile an American League best 3.00 ERA and a 15-2 record, which translated to an .882 winning percentage, the best in the AL. 

Could the Jays have paid Sanchez more? Certainly. 

Did they offer more in contract talks? Probably. 

Enough to satisfy the Sanchez camp? Obviously not.

A lot of teams, like the Blue Jays take the stance with players that they should sign for $X amount ... OR the contract will be renewed at the minimum. We’re told that the Jays did offer $550,000, but Sanchez turned it down.

No doubt, the fact Sanchez was renewed will be used as ammo in salary arbitration hearings along with the right-hander’s impressive numbers, should the Jays not reach an agreement with super agent Scott Boras. 

Sanchez walked 63 and fanned 161 batters in 192 innings in making 30 starts. Not bad for a guy who was scheduled for the bullpen a year ago and pitched with the threat of an innings ceiling most of the second half. Sanchez pitched 203 2/3 innings including the post-season, up from 109 1/3 innings.   

It is rather surprising that a green rookie lining up for his first day in the majors on opening day will be scheduled to earn $535,000 ... the same as Sanchez.

General manager Ross Atkins said it was a 10-year-old policy. Now, we’re going to blame Paul Beeston or J.P. Ricciardi for a possibly a bad relationship between the Jays and Sanchez.

The late Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins was given a raises to $635,000 in 2014 and $651,000 in 2015 after being named an all-star and rookie of the year while earning the minimum in his first year. New York Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, Sanchez’s former teammate at class-A Lansing, was bumped to $605,500 after earning $535,375 last year. Kris Bryant was rewarded with a $652,000 renewal in 2016 after earning National League rookie of the year honors and $1.05 million this year after his MVP award.

Being renewed is as big a deal as the player or agent makes it out to be.

Tony Fernandez, renewed in the spring of 1986, left the third base clubhouse calling down “the wrath of God on Pat Gillick,” the Jays general manager. Fernandez was renewed at $275,000 and walked out of camp.

And the next spring, coming off a season in which he led in games played (163), at-bat (687), his .983 fielding average was best among shortstops and his 213 hits were third most in the majors (most ever by a shortstop in major league history), he was offered $325,000. Fernandez refused to play until he signed. 

Fernandez was eight days shy of having have three years in the majors and so was not eligible for salary arbitration. He had sought $500,000 for one year, the Jays eventually moved to $400,000.

Roger Clemens, the former American League Cy Young Award winner and MVP, walked out of the Boston Red Sox camp in Winter Haven in the spring of 1987. 

The Red Sox’s threatened to fine Clemens $1,000 a day starting unless he returned. Told the news of the impending Boston fine when visiting another client, George Bell in Dunedin, Clemens’s agent Randal Hendricks replied: “Starting tomorrow, our offer will increase by $1,500 a day,” said Hendricks. Clemens was renewed at $650,000.

Tom Henke wasn’t happy either and staged a hold out in 1987 as well, coming off a team record of 27 saves. Henke said club management told him of a “new economic climate in baseball,” said Henke who added “I haven’t see anyone lower ticket prices.’’

Henke originally asked for $400,000, although he lowered that offer to $350,000 meeting with Jays assistant GM Gordon Ash and Gillick. Henke finally took a $100,000 raise to $291,000 as Henke’s agent, Craig Fenech, came to an agreement with Ash,