Three key moves: Sanchez, Choo, Youkilis

Throughout the offseason, we'll feature regular in-depth reviews of MLB moves. This week's piece looks at three veterans: Shin-Soo Choo, Anibal Sanchez, and Kevin Youkilis.

Anibal Sanchez signs 5-year deal with Tigers

Sanchez will now try to duplicate the success he had with the Detroit Tigers down the stretch for a full season in 2013 and beyond.

One key change for Sanchez after he was traded mid-season from Miami to Detroit was an increase in the use of his curveball. Including the playoffs, he threw 55 more curves in 26 fewer innings in Motown compared to Florida.

His hook was a liability with the Marlins but became a key out-pitch for him with the Tigers.

Anibal Sanchez Curveball
Last Season

Opponents hit .379 in at-bats ending in a curve and whiffed on just one of every 10 swings against the pitch when he was in Miami.

Sanchez began to throw his curveball more often in all counts, especially with two strikes, after moving to Detroit, and he dominated hitters with the pitch.

After throwing just 14 two-strike curves in a Marlins uniform, he tripled that number with the Tigers. His 47 two-strike curves in Detroit netted him 28 outs and just one hit allowed.

Overall, he doubled his curveball miss rate with the Tigers and opponents hit just .111 against it, including a 3-for-31 mark by lefties.

In his last five regular-season starts and first two postseason starts (vs the Athletics and Yankees), Sanchez threw 104 curveballs and got 27 outs with the pitch, yielding just one baserunner.

-- Katie Sharp

Reds obtain Shin-Soo Choo in 3-team trade

Choo and his .384 on-base percentage over the last five seasons represents a distinct upgrade for the Cincinnati Reds in the leadoff spot. Reds leadoff hitters had a .254 on-base percentage and .327 slugging percentage, which ranked last and next-to-last in the majors respectively.

What are the two aspects of Choo’s game in which he is statistically struggling that are worth watching in 2013?

One would be his issues with left-handed pitching. Choo averaged one home run per 33 plate appearances against lefties in 2008 and 2009, but is averaging just one per 144 over the last three seasons.

Highest On-Base Percentage
In Leadoff Spot Since 2010

In 2012, Choo slugged only .286 against lefties, fifth-worst among the 64 lefties with 100 plate appearances against southpaws last season.

The other problem for Choo is his likely transition to center field. Choo finished with -12 Defensive Runs Saved (a stat that measures the ability to turn batted balls into outs and deter baserunners with your throwing arm). That ranked tied for second-worst among right fielders last season.

The defensive value that Choo has comes from his throwing arm. His 11 Defensive Runs Saved contributed with his arm over the last three seasons are fourth-most among right fielders, behind Jeff Francoeur, Jose Bautista, and Torii Hunter.

One item of note on the Choo trade from the Indians perspective. The Indians got 20 Wins Above Replacement from Choo after obtaining him from the Seattle Mariners in 2006, giving up Ben Broussard.

For the -0.9 WAR that Broussard was worth to Seattle, the Indians get the 20 WAR from Choo, and all the WAR that Trevor Bauer will contribute, being under team control until 2018.

--Justin Havens

Kevin Youkilis signs 1-year deal with Yankees

Youkilis replenishes an offensive approach the New York Yankees were in danger of losing this offseason.

Most Pitches per PA
Yankees Last Season (Min. 250 PA)

Patience, discipline and the ability to work the count have been trademarks of the Yankees offense in recent history.

The Yankees have faced more pitches per plate appearance than the league average in 16 straight seasons. Last year, the team saw 3.89 pitches per plate appearance, fourth-most in MLB.

The Yankees had seven players in the upper half of the league in pitches per plate appearance last season (min. 250 PA). But of those seven, Russell Martin, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez have signed elsewhere, while Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher remain on the market.

Youkilis ranked third in the majors with 4.34 pitches per plate appearance last season behind Adam Dunn and A.J. Ellis. He’s seen the third-most pitches per plate appearance among active players since joining the league in 2004.

--Will Cohen