July 15, 2024

Cristopher Sánchez, Phillies agree to 4-year extension as LHP rewarded for remarkable rise

A year ago this week, Cristopher Sánchez had been reinserted into the Phillies’ rotation out of sheer necessity. They had no one else. They had asked him to add weight, to be stronger, and to think more like a pitcher. But they did not know what to expect. He threw four scoreless innings on June 17, 2023, at Oakland. And ever since, he has a 3.13 ERA that ranks ninth among all starters in Major League Baseball.

So, before his next scheduled start on Sunday, the Phillies have rewarded Sánchez with life-changing money. The two sides have agreed to a four-year contract that buys out his remaining arbitration years. The deal includes two club options that cover what would be his first two free-agent years — 2029 and 2030.

Sánchez, 27, has had a remarkable ascent. He was an afterthought in 2021 and 2022, bouncing between the majors and minors and rotation and bullpen. He was still in the organization in 2023 only because the league granted the Phillies a fourth minor-league option year on Sánchez. He made changes to his body, developed confidence, and now throws one of the most effective changeups in the sport.

It represents a huge transformation for the pitcher the Phillies acquired in a small trade with Tampa Bay in 2019. He made an impression during his first spring training. “He was throwing 98,” manager Rob Thomson recently said, “but it was hitting the top of the complex building.” The Phillies dialed him back, found some command, and now Sánchez is a strike-thrower with velocity.

Thomson, again and again this season, has highlighted the maturation he’s seen in Sánchez. Now, with the left-hander locked into the rotation possibly through 2030, the Phillies have four starters on longer-term commitments. Aaron Nola is under contract through 2030. Zack Wheeler is under contract through 2027. Taijuan Walker’s deal goes through 2026. The Phillies are interested in extending Ranger Suárez, who will be a free agent after the 2025 season, but those talks have yet to progress. Andrew Painter, the club’s top pitching prospect, is 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery and has begun to throw from the front slope of the mound. The Phillies are practicing caution with Painter, 21, but they are hopeful he figures into the 2025 plans.

Walker’s status in the current rotation is tenuous. Thomson said he planned to have a discussion Saturday with Walker “to make sure he’s healthy.” Walker, who has a 5.60 ERA in 10 starts, threw a fastball that sat at 90.5 mph in Friday’s start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He insisted he is healthy.

“I feel 100 percent fine,” Walker said.

His ineffectiveness is both a short- and long-term problem, so the Phillies have been patient. There are no assumptions when it comes to starting pitching, and they have Sánchez as proof. Both sides felt it was time to take a leap of faith.



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(Top photo: Bill Streicher / USA Today)