The Marlins have been without Sixto Sánchez for nearly three years. The one-time top prospect and headliner of the J.T. Realmuto trade has had his career thrown off track by injuries. Shoulder problems have been the main concern, as Sánchez has twice undergone shoulder surgery since July 2021.
That extended layoff has left Sánchez without a particularly clear recovery timetable. While he’d expressed some optimism at the start of the offseason he’d be ready for Spring Training, it became apparent by February a midseason return was the best-case scenario. That has seemingly been pushed back a little further, as the team informed reporters that Sánchez experienced some shoulder soreness following an extended Spring Training outing last week (via MLB.com injury tracker).
This particular issue doesn’t seem all that worrisome. Sánchez has already returned to playing catch this week, according to MLB.com. It’s nevertheless a subpar development for a pitcher who is hoping to get back into affiliated games this year. Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald write the organization views August or September as a viable target date for Sánchez’s return to minor league games. It’s clear he’s not an option in the immediate future and at least raises some question about whether the 24-year-old will be able to pitch in an MLB game this season.
Given Sánchez’s repeated setbacks, it’s not surprising Jackson and Mish report that Miami no longer views him as an integral part of their long-term pitching plans. Sánchez is still young and controllable for six seasons but he’ll go almost three years between regular season appearances. Even once he’s able to return, there’s no guarantee he’ll do so with high-octane stuff.
Sánchez averaged 98.5 MPH on his four-seam and 96.6 MPH on his sinker during his seven-start MLB debut back in 2020. The righty told reporters this spring he’d lost almost 50 pounds over the offseason, though, and the organization has taken its time to allow him to build his conditioning after so many stops and starts in his rehab.
The Fish could also soon face some pressure from a roster management perspective. They’ve kept him on the 40-man roster throughout his rehab. That’s a testament to his ceiling but also limits their flexibility somewhat. While they could place him on the 60-day injured list during the season, doing so would require paying him the MLB minimum salary (at which they’ve thus far balked). There is no IL over the offseason, so he’d have to count against the 40-man tally during the winter.
More pressing is that the Fish have used their option years to keep Sánchez on the minor league IL. Most players can only be optioned in three separate seasons in their careers. Exceptions are sometimes made to grant a fourth option year when a player has missed an extended chunk of action. The Marlins received a fourth option on Sánchez for 2023. There’s no such thing as a fifth option, however, so the Marlins won’t be able to send Sánchez back to the minors next season unless they first pass him through waivers.