There was little chance Anibal Sanchez was coming to the Red Sox, given they just signed Ryan Dempster on Thursday afternoon. But if you were holding out hope for a trade that cleared a rotation spot, and allowed the Red Sox to use some of their remaining flexibility on Sanchez, then you're out of luck. According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Chicago Cubs have signed Sanchez for five years and $75 million, pending a physical. Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs deny a deal is in place, Nightengale's tweet came shortly after a Ken Rosenthal report that the two teams were close, and Jon Morosi is also saying it isn't done, so maybe it's not quite official yet.
Five years was likely too much for the Red Sox, especially since they were able to sign a pitcher with comparable results over the last few years for just a two-year commitment in Dempster. The average annual value of $15 million isn't too bad, but with pitchers, it's all about limiting risk. Dempster, at his age, is a risk, but guaranteeing any pitcher significant money over a period of five years is going to be inherently riskier simply because of the length of the deal.
For what it's worth to those unconvinced, Sanchez has averaged 196 innings the last three seasons, with a 109 ERA+. Dempster, over the same stretch, is at 199 and 102, and his elbow problems are much further behind him. Sanchez has never thrown over 200 innings in a season, while Dempster's streak of five-straight campaigns with that threshold surpassed ended this year due to a short stint on the disabled list for a shoulder strain.
They're similar enough that throwing an extra three years and around $50 million at Sanchez isn't necessarily worth it, especially when there's a strong argument to be made that Sanchez only has that contract because he was the default second-best hurler of this year's free agent class. Not to throw out a Josh Beckett or John Lackey comparison, but... well, you know.
As for the Cubs, this allows them to grab a pitcher who can help out a rotation in need of it -- unlike Boston, the Cubs aren't overflowing with pitching prospects who can help them out in a couple of years. Contextually, this contract makes much more sense for Chicago than Boston, given their need to bring in outside help for the job. The Cubs might not contend in 2013, but the plan is clearly to do so at some point during this contract.
[Update] The Tigers are being given the chance to match (or at least one-up) the deal. Nothing is done yet, and frankly given the fact that their window is likely now more than later, it wouldn't be hugely surprising to see them outbid the Cubs. That being said, the Sox are well and truly out at this price, so it's mostly the same to us. --Ben