Oakland, Calif. — Not so fast.
Anibal Sanchez might not be a rented pitcher, after all. The Tigers are interested in keeping him.
Very interested, in fact.
To the extent that Dave Dombrowski, the team's president and general manager — who normally says little about any player's future — said without hesitation, "Yeah, he's a player we'd like to keep."
Once Sanchez settled in, after a few rocky starts, his value to the Tigers skyrocketed. He probably would have been slated to start the fourth game of the American League Division Series if Max Scherzer wasn't coming off a couple of physical problems (right shoulder, right ankle).
But because it's not been smooth sailing for Scherzer recently, the switch to Sanchez for Game 3 on Tuesday night feels seamless to the Tigers.
With several good, some of them outstanding starts as a Tiger, Sanchez no longer has the look of a pitcher stopping by for a few months before signing as a free agent elsewhere.
In his last eight starts of the regular season, Sanchez went 3-3 with a 2.15 ERA. Only twice in those eight did he allow more than two earned runs.
That's the consistency the Tigers were seeking.
When the deal was made with Miami that brought Sanchez to the Tigers in July, however, it was widely speculated he'd be gone at the end of the season because he already makes $8 million a year.
But the price tag for good players doesn't appear to be a deterrent for owner Mike Ilitch after any season — let alone one that still has a chance of being special for the Tigers.
The Tigers like what the 28-year-old right-hander has done for them. That said, they still acknowledge the risk they took in parting with a package of prospects featuring right-handed pitcher Jacob Turner.
Of Sanchez, Dombrowski added, "We know we gave up a lot of talent in that deal, but for us he's been very big. We have interest in him beyond now, sure.
"We haven't discussed that, but we like him a lot. Is it a good fit? We hope so."
Sanchez, though, isn't letting his future free agency become a distraction.
"I don't want to be ahead on anything," he said. "I'm a person that thinks day-by-day.
"(Free agency) I know is coming, but that's my agent's job. That's why I have an agent. Right now I focus on tomorrow. I don't think too much what's going to happen after that."
Although not certain of his own return, manager Jim Leyland would like to see Sanchez remain a Tiger.
For one thing, Leyland doesn't see a pitcher who's going all out simply because it's his free agent year. He sees a competitor in Sanchez.
"I'm sure he's aware of his situation," Leyland said, "but I think he's just trying to win games.
"He likes it here and I think he's tried to make a good impression on us. Is he aware of what's going on? Yes, but he's not the type of guy who says, 'I'm going to go out and pitch good because I'm a free agent and I want to make a lot of money.'
"I assume there will be some competition for him. That's the way the system works."
The Tigers are well aware of how it works. And they also know the base salary ($8 million in 2012) from which Sanchez's next contract will increase.
But there's no sign of flinching at the cost. On the other hand, Sanchez can't shortchange himself.
"You're pretty naïve and gullible if you don't think they know what's going on," Leyland said. "But again, he's not saying, 'There's a pot of gold out there, I have to do well.'
"He's saying he wants to win. He likes it here; he's gotten comfortable here and I'm real happy about it. I like him a lot.
"But I don't know how it will play out."
At this early stage, nobody can know
But don't be surprised if Sanchez decides to stay — because this much is already known: The Tigers have decided they'd like that.