Sanches' previous life as a Phillie consisted of 30 games, a 5.75 ERA, and virtual obscurity. Yet the 33-year-old righthander flourished in Florida as a versatile reliever who could pitch multiple innings (think 2008-10 Chad Durbin), and did it better than just about anyone.
In three years with the Marlins, Sanches posted a 2.92 ERA over 1812/3 innings while filling just about every bullpen role possible. Of the 54 relievers who logged that many innings over the same span, Sanches ranks 15th in ERA.
He doesn't throw hard and he wouldn't be used in many crucial situations for the Phillies. But Sanches has value and is an unheralded candidate to round out the bullpen.
"He was a guy we were interested in and targeted," Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "I think it's a good fit. He's certainly in the mix."
Sanches said he expected to sign a major-league contract this offseason, but no team offered one. The Marlins, seeking to fill his role with a cheaper pitcher, cut ties with Sanches because he was eligible for arbitration. Sanches will earn $625,000 if he pitches in the majors for the Phillies.
"It was a shock to me," Sanches said. "I really honestly thought for sure I'd get a big-league deal. It just wasn't the case."
His numbers in 2011 were not as stellar as the previous two seasons, but Sanches suggested there were times of misuse by the Marlins. One instance, specifically, was last July. Four days after he threw 34 pitches against Texas, manager Jack McKeon left him in for 78 pitches of mop-up work against the Phillies. Sanches allowed six runs in three innings that night. Remove that outing and Sanches' ERA drops 72 points. He also made two spot starts for the first time in his career.
Nonetheless, Sanches stranded all 19 runners he inherited in 2011. The major-league average for inherited runners scored is typically 30 percent; Sanches allowed 23 percent to score from 2009-11.
Sanches said his fastball usually sits at 88 m.p.h. He'll sometimes top out at 91 m.p.h. Over the three years in Florida, 55.3 percent of his appearances came in low-leverage situations.
"I know I'm not the overpowering guy who is going to throw mid-90s and all that," Sanches said. "But I've pitched in a lot of different roles. I've done everything from one out to four innings. I feel like I can do that and be a big asset to the team."
His familiarity with the National League East was also an attractive selling point to the Phillies.
"Our scouts thought he could help us in the middle in the bullpen," Proefrock said. "They know him and like him."
The Phillies have plenty of young bullpen arms in camp, but they could decide to keep Sanches over one of them so the younger pitchers can receive more regular work in the minors. It could come down to a decision between Sanches and David Herndon, who has filled a similar role for the Phillies in recent years.
"I know the loyalty," Sanches said. "I want to be a part of that."
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org or @magelb on Twitter.