Sanchez batted . 322 last season
Sanchez has frustrated Detroit with his sloppy play in the field in the past, and did again during spring training.
"We've had a chance to watch him this spring and his defense was just not up to the level we like," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said at spring training in Lakeland, Fla.
Last week, Sanchez saw his mother for the first time since 1994.
He left Cuba on a raft 11 years ago, leaving his family behind. Last week, Sanchez reunited with his mother and brother in Miami, where he has a house with his wife and twin boys. Sanchez's mother and brother escaped from Cuba by boat and spent time in Mexico and Texas before traveling by bus to Miami.
Besides Sanchez's defensive shortcomings, he also struggled to get on base when a bunt or single didn't get him on first base -- a big problem for a leadoff hitter. In 365 games, he has drawn 68 walks. His career batting average is .292 over four seasons in the majors with a .327 on-base percentage.
Sanchez batted .322 in last season, but his on-base percentage was just .335 because he walked just seven times and he played just 79 games because of leg injuries.
In 2003, he stole 52 bases in 101 games with the Tigers and 43 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Sanchez's trip to the major leagues started on a rickety raft when he was 18. He joined 11 others for three days at sea, he said without food or water.
Picked up by the Coast Guard, the dozen Cubans were taken to a refugee camp at Guantanamo Bay. Many of his dejected comrades returned home, but Sanchez stayed for about 16 months hoping for a trip to the United States.
Sanchez said his mother didn't want him to leave Cuba. For a year, she didn't know if he was alive because his letters were not delivered to her.
He settled in Miami, attended Miami-Dade Community College, and was drafted by Tampa Bay in 1996. Sanchez was claimed off waivers by Milwaukee in 2001, then was traded two years later to Detroit. He became a U.S. Citizen four months ago.
Sanchez had a $1.35 million, one-year contract that was not guaranteed. By releasing him before Friday, the Tigers owe 30 days' termination pay, $221,311, instead of 45 days' termination pay, $331.967.
Also on Tuesday, second baseman Fernando Vina will begin this season where he left off in 2004 -- on the disabled list.
The Tigers placed Vina, who will turn 36 next month, on the 60-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain and patellar tendinitis in his left knee. He last played on May 11 against the Oakland Athletics.
Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.