Tigers Retool With Infante, Sanchez

The Tigers are built to win now. From the owner to the position players to the pitchers, this team is built for short-term glory and some long-term pain. in that context, their latest trade — a package featuring top prospect Jacob Turner for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante — fills their greatest short-term needs and readies the team for postseason play.

Their 83-year-old pizza magnate owner, Mike Ilitch, bought the team from another pizza magnate, Tom Monaghan, in 1992, or eight years after the Tigers won their last world series championship. After some early success, the owner looked to put a long-term plan in place and hired Dave Dombrowski to captain the ship. 2003 saw the Tigers lose more than any other American League team in history, but then the pieces Dombrowski put together started to come to fruition. It’s still the stars from that accumulation of talent that power the team — Justin Verlander, Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera — but recent acquisitions have cemented the win-now feeling.

Spending $214 million on an iffy-bodied first baseman when the team had two or three first basemen already in the fold was probably the biggest sign that the team is focused on the short-term. That says “this team is a bat away,” and says it loudly. But this train might have been moving to a win-now mentality ever since the Cabrera trade sent their best prospects away for two players.

Of course, the early 2012 season didn’t turn out exactly as the Tigers had hoped. After roaring out to a 9-3 start, the team lost seven in a row and ended April at .500. They were still looking up at the Indians after May, too. The idea was maybe that the team’s fielding was hurting them, and that the pitching wasn’t as sure of a thing as it might at first have seemed. Well, the team is second-to-last in fielding runs in the league (-29.5), so that part might actually be a problem. But the Tigers rotation has the most WAR in the American League and even their ERA (4.13) is better than average.

Still, the Braves might be a one-team example for the “you can never have too much pitching” maxim, and past Justin Verlander, even the most ardent Tigers fan would have to admit to excreting a few beads of sweat when Max Scherzer, Doug Fister or Rick Porcello step on to the mound. That threesome has been great for stretches, but they’ve also had some terrible times.

So Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante do fit their needs well.

With positive defensive numbers (and experience) at every position except pitcher and catcher, Infante can provide a better glove at any infield position than the Tigers currently boast, save for (perhaps) Jhonny Peralta. Even if his power regresses (.155 ISO this year, .121 career) and his BABIP (.307) stays below his career levels (.310), Infante’s recent .330 wOBA type of work would be a great improvement over the .243 wOBA (and league-worst -2.0 WAR) that the Tigers’ Ryan Raburn, Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago and put together at the position. It probably won’t be a four-win gain for the Tigers — Infante’s career high in WAR is 2.7 and it would be surprising for the 30-year-old to almost double that this year — but at least the team won’t have a below-replacement position on the field any more.

Sussing out Sanchez is harder. Well, it is if you get too caught up in his recent work. The 28-year-old starter spent June with an ERA over seven, and given the fact that he once had shoulder surgery, it might have made sense to worry about his durability some. On the other hand, Sanchez has been playing with the same (slightly lower) velocity all season, and even recently saw an uptick in fastball gas. And if you look at the season as a whole, he’s put up his third-stright season with an FIP under 3.5 by consistently improving his control while still seeing average ground-ball rates and above-average swinging strike stuff. He looks healthy and is a good pitcher. He could be worth a two-win swing himself.

A four-win addition is actually pretty important for a first-place team: with the new rules in place, getting into the second round of the playoffs by winning your division outright is invaluable, as Jesse Wolfersberger pointed out last week and Dave Cameron and Vince Gennaro expounded upon as well. This also gives the Tigers help at the front of their rotation, defensive help around the infield, and offensive help at second base.

At the cost of their top pitching prospect, yes, but that’s not a prospect without questions or a prospect who’s value was on the way up — Marc Hulet had him down at 25 in his mid-season update. The rest of the reported package — Triple-A (and probably depth) catcher Rob Brantly, iffy lefty Brian Flynn & 2013 Comp B pick — is about as lottery-ticket-esque as it comes. It is the first trade of a draft pick in modern baseball, though. [Update: Now it seems like the Tigers may be getting a pick back, so it was a pick upgrade for the Tigers. This part deserves its own post.]

It’s a little surprising to see the Marlins selling so soon after making a push for their new stadium, but Sanchez will be a free agent at year’s end (Infante is signed for another year at $4 mill), and Turner can help them going forward. On the other hand, it’s not surprising to see the contending Tigers retool and fill in their only significant gaps. A quick, surgical strike while much of the baseball world was waiting on Ryan Dempster‘s decision, and the Tigers are ready for the postseason.



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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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Ghost of Gload
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Ghost of Gload
3 years 10 months ago

This article has some horrible errors. 1992 is 8 years after the Tigers last World Series Championship, not 4. Verlander was acquired in 2004, Jackson in 2009. How can they be considered part of the same talent accumulation? The Cabrera trade was not sending a bunch of Tigers prospects for a single player. The Tigers also received Dontrelle Willis, who at the time was entering his age 26 season with 1022 innings of 111 ERA+ under his belt.

I’m only a couple of paragraphs in.

Tim
Guest
Tim
3 years 10 months ago

What a steal of a trade for Detroit, didn’t even have to give up Castellanos. Sanchez is #6 in WAR among NL pitchers the last three seasons and I’m assuming he’ll re-sign pretty quickly given the Venezuelan connections in Detroit. That rotation is scary, 6 SP with xFIPs under 3.88.

byron
Member
byron
3 years 10 months ago

Your phrasing on Castellanos makes it sound like you think giving him up would have been reasonable, if painful. Giving up Castellanos for a rented pitcher and a utility man (also rented?) would have been absolutely insane. Sanchez re-signing in Detroit is worthless; Detroit could have signed him this winter. The only Sanchez value in this trade is the next few months.

But yeah, I like the trade that exists.

Bob
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Bob
3 years 10 months ago

Yes, but the Tigers can exclusively negotiate an extension with him for the rest of the season. If the Tigers are interested in him long-term, that is a big advantage.

byron
Member
byron
3 years 10 months ago

Just because other teams can’t talk to him doesn’t mean the Tigers aren’t negotiating against the market. Or, rather, what Sanchez and his agent expect the market to be. His agent isn’t going to forget that Sanchez is a couple months from free agency and sign a below-market deal.

Bob
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Bob
3 years 10 months ago

Exactly. What Sanchez and his agent expect the market to be. Much diiferent than actually comparing offers.

the fume
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the fume
3 years 10 months ago

The reason that guys would sign for less with their current team isn’t because they mis-judge the market, it’s because the time with the team is essentially a 3 month recruitment. If Sanchez is happy in Detroit he will probably be willing to sign for a bit less than a team/city he is unsure about.

It also lets Tigers front office and coaches see him up close for an extended period do they get a better sense of his value.

byron
Member
byron
3 years 10 months ago

Bob, Sanchez is at least as likely to overestimate the market as underestimate it, meaning the Tigers would be negotiating against a tougher market than reality. That’s part of why there’s no value here for the Tigers.

Fume, I don’t think any of your points are wrong, but I don’t think they’ll make even a 5% difference.

zatchj62
Member
zatchj62
3 years 10 months ago

Honestly, Detroit was pushing Turner to the majors a little quickly and possibly stunting his future performance. This trade clinches the division and makes the Tigers a serious contender.

rea
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rea
3 years 10 months ago

Detroit was pushing Turner to the majors a little quickly

They gave him a couple of spot starts this year–they had no intention of leaving him on the mlb roster.

jim
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jim
3 years 10 months ago

you literally cannot know that

Beau
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Beau
3 years 10 months ago

I’m pretty sure that a career BABIP of .310 and a season BABIP of .307 are the same exact thing. Any statistical regression to his career mean would be meaningless.

Andrew
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Andrew
3 years 10 months ago

I feel like there isn’t a single baseball commentator in the country who can just let The Tigers have a good team. My criticism is admittedly anecdotal, but it seems as if any praise this current Tiger squad comes hand in hand with the assumption that this team is in for some “long-term pain” in a few years. It just doesn’t seem to be that important of a detail at this point.

Tim
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Tim
3 years 10 months ago

I don’t even see what kind of long term pain is coming. Verlander, Cabrera, Fielder, Scherzer, Fister, Porcello, Sanchez, Villarreal, Jackson, Dirks are ALL under 30 years old and all but Sanchez are under team control for the next couple years. Then you also add in Martinez’s very affordable deal once he returns and long term pain just doesn’t seem imminent at all unless Verlander and Cabrera BOTH bolt as free agents three years down the road.Hell, they’re losing Delmon Young and Jose Valverde after this season which will open up $16.5 million AND improve the team via addition by subtraction.

Big Daddy V
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Big Daddy V
3 years 10 months ago

Don’t forget, they were losing Delmon Young after last season, too.

the fume
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the fume
3 years 10 months ago

The great thing about being a Tigers fan is I feel like their MLB team has never been better and their minors has never been better. Well, this trade hurts that a little but but to have a guy like Smyly as your #6 starter in the minors is something I’ve been for since we kept having to rely on Willis and Robertson and a damaged Bonderman. And with Dirks and AlAl and VMart hopefully coming back we’ll have as much depth as we’ve ever had as well for the rest of the season.

As an aside, I’d be absolutely thrilled if they work out a reasonable extension with Sanchez. I never paid much attention to the guy but his secondary stats compare with Matt Garza. I’d certainly take Garza’s more effective fastball over Sanchez’s more effective changeup, but looking at their stats they’re not that different of pitchers really.

Tim
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Tim
3 years 10 months ago

Except Young is unrestricted after this year and given the emergence of Dirks and the return of Martinez there is literally no chance he’s brought back, but yeah, other than that, good point!

ALEastbound
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3 years 10 months ago

@theFUME – the Tigers minor league system is in horrible shape right now.

Doc
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Doc
3 years 10 months ago

As it has been for years. BUT at least we have the prospect “firepower” to make the moves that Dombrowski feels should be made.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
3 years 10 months ago

Well, It looks like Detroit answered and upped ChiSox’s trade (for Brett Myers, etc) with one of their own. Not quite check and mate, but ChiSox (and cleveland), the next move is yours.

Number #6 Organization
Guest
Number #6 Organization
3 years 10 months ago

Good swap for both teams

A comparable swap of Garza/Barney would have cost more..but the results could be same.

Is Sanchez officially a FA after this season though? I’ve heard some conflicting reports..

tmorgan1970
Member
tmorgan1970
3 years 10 months ago

This deal was well done. Second base is the bigger upgrade, because the Tigers were running a bunch of absolute stiffs out there. Sanchez is a good not great pitcher, but he’s a big upgrade over “current Turner”, Smyly, Oliver, or any other options.

As a Tiger fan, I’m OK with moving Turner. He looks a lot like Porcello, and we don’t need another one of those, especially with our suspect infield defense. He may turn out to be a good or even great pitcher, but in terms of what is currently known and the Tigers’ needs, this was a very well-executed deal. Getting a pick upgrade as well is nice, too.

Colin
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Colin
3 years 10 months ago

Smyly is actually very good.

tmorgan1970
Member
tmorgan1970
3 years 10 months ago

Sanchez is better. Smyly started well and has faded (and is now hurt). I think he has a chance to be a league-average starter in a year or two, which is certainly useful.

the dude
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Overall a good article. I think the author sells the Tigers rotation short though. Scherzer has a ton of strikeouts this year. Fister has turned into a really good started.

Nathan
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Nathan
3 years 10 months ago

Scherzer has a hard time stringing more than a couple good starts together, that’s been his big issue. He has no-hit stuff any given night, or inning for that matter, and then that 97mph just starts running right into bats.

Fister is definitely a legitimate #2 for the club, he’s just had injury problems this year and appears to just now finally be getting back to normal. As a Tigs fan, I feel comfortable counting on JV and Fister from here through the end of the season, but everyone else in that rotation is a question mark.

Red
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Red
3 years 10 months ago

Turner is looking like almost exactly like Porcello. Both had fastballs that could touch 98 in high school. Both down to 95 tops by MLB debut. Both had heavy sinking fastballs with good velocity. Both were supposed to have plus breaking balls, but both have been too inconsistent. Both throw strikes, but don’t miss enough bats. Both haven’t missed bats at a rate expected of their stuff because their breaking balls are inconsistent and fastball is only a ground ball pitch. Turner has certainly fallen and isn’t looking like more than a #3 unless he can start missing more bats.

the fume
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the fume
3 years 10 months ago

Turner has a bit more consistent velocity, tho the sink isn’t as effective as Porcello’s. Turner’s breaking pitch already gets more swings and misses. Porcello is obviously a better pitcher because of teh command differences…..a few years from now that may not be the case.

Red
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Red
3 years 10 months ago

The past two years Turner has 167 K’s in 215.1 IP in the minors and 15 K’s in 25 IP in the bigs. Obviously his breaking ball isn’t getting much swings and misses. When coming up, Porcello had the same velocity that Turner has now if not a notch more. At the time of their debuts, they are very similar players. I’m hoping Turner doesn’t turn out like Porcello, but improving while in the majors is harder than improving in the minors when performance isn’t the only thing that matters. Detroit rushed both pitchers before their breaking balls would be good enough to allow them a good K rate.

the fume
Guest
the fume
3 years 10 months ago

Red, that’s not obvious at all, regarding the curve. From what I’ve seen watching a good majority of Porcello’s starts and comparing with what I’ve seen of Turner’s breaking ball, the action isn’t close. Turner certainly doesn’t command it as well but I’ve seen guys swing and miss by a foot, and they never do that with Porcello. Not to mention they miss more frequently.

Red
Guest
Red
3 years 10 months ago

Turner probably does a better breaking ball than Porcello around their MLB debut. But according to KLaw and others, his breaking ball isn’t as sharp now as it used to be. His strikeout rate continues to plummet. 1st year: 102 K in 115.1 IP 2nd year: 110K in 131 IP 3rd year: 57 K in 84.1 IP. Even though his breaking ball is better, that doesn’t mean its getting a lot of swings and misses. If he can’t improve his K rate then his ceiling is lower than what you would expect out of a guy with good stuff that throws plenty of strikes.

Lee Panas
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

I don’t see the pain in the Tigers future. They are loaded for the next couple of years. If they are able to keep Cabrera and Verlander, then they’ll be loaded for even longer. If Illitch is still around they will sign them. If Something happens to Illitch, things could change drastically for the Tigers, but it won’t be because they traded Turner.

Jim Gleeland
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Jim Gleeland
3 years 10 months ago

Shortsighted respondents have been preaching that the Tigers are built for short-term for last 6 seasons. This team has a rock solid foundation. They have one of the best pitchers in the game. One the best all-around hitters in the game. One of the best power hitters in the game. One of the best defensive players in the game. One of the best prospects in the game. What’s not to like about this teams future?

Red
Guest
Red
3 years 10 months ago

They also have a terrible defensive third baseman, second baseman, shortstop, first baseman, left fielder, and right fielder. They have little prospect depth in the minors. See how your logic is fallible?

Instead, you could say they are the best team in the AL Central this year and their core is consisted of mostly young players like Prince, Miggy, A-Jax, and Verlander. They also have a large payroll and their only albatross contract in the future is Prince and Miggy who should still be valuable if still overpaid.

ALEastbound
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

Or just say they play in the AL Central, that covers it.

ThePartyBird
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ThePartyBird
3 years 10 months ago

Uhh, if you’re predicting Miggy’s contract will be an albatross going forward, you must think that most of the contracts in baseball are terrible. Also the only “terrible” defenders on the team are Fielder and Boesch (Young is DH’ing these days). With Infante, their up-the-middle players are all above average.

Colin
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Colin
3 years 10 months ago

Their defense certainly isn’t good, but 3b is not “terrible” and 2b has actually been decent this year on defense. 1b has been bad, Boesch has been bad, and you missed another one who seems to be immune from these conversations, Avila, who is a below average defensive catcher.

Jim Gleeland
Guest
Jim Gleeland
3 years 10 months ago

People like you have been saying that about the Tigers prosepct depth for years, yet year after year, they have prospects that other teams want and trade for. The Tigers did get Sanchez and Infante for nothing. They gave up some nice prospects and they’ve got plenty more too.

Your logic is pure ignorance.

Bill in the D
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Bill in the D
3 years 10 months ago

I’m not sure if this has been done, but I am curious if anyone has compared stats for players before and after a trade to the other league. It seems that for a pitcher it may be an advantage to switch halfway through as teams are less likely to have abundant scouting info. Whereas for a hitter you must now face pitchers that you likely only have a handful of at bats against. I’m not sure I have the knowledge to compile such a study, but it would be interesting to see. I would almost think that Sanchez will likely see his numbers improve and Infante’s decline though maybe not as drastically as some since he does have experience in the NL.

hk
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hk
3 years 10 months ago

Sanchez will now have to face DH’s and will not get the benefit of facing P’s.

Bill in the D
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Bill in the D
3 years 10 months ago

Ok, but what about a pitcher going the opposite direction, AL to NL. I do recall C.C. destroying the NL when sent to the Brewers.

Shaq
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Shaq
3 years 10 months ago

I think this article glosses over the fact that the prospects the Tigers have given up have fared worse than players they’ve acquired. Their farm system might be barren, but it wasn’t all that stacked when they were trading away Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Miller is a decent bullpen arm now, and Maybin is an above-average player. Burke Badenhop is mediocre, as is Eugenio de la Cruz. Mike Rabelo was worth negative WAR in his short time in the majors. Furbush is an awful starter but a good bullpen arm; Casper Wells may or may not pan out, though he’s playing well right now. Scott Sizemore played poorly from the get-go and then tore up his knee before the season. Jacob Turner was rushed to the bigs and as another commenter mentioned, appears to pitch similarly to Porcello, who was also rushed to the majors.

I don’t see how keeping any of those players and avoiding a “win-now” mentality (which is debatable) would have done them any better. Their prospects, aside from Verlander and Granderson, have been underwhelming for a decade now (Turner, Porcello, Maybin, Miller, Jurrjens, French, et al). The only true loss was the trade of Granderson, but Granderson’s play can be partially attributed to playing in NYS instead of Comerica, and the Tigers still got Scherzer and Austin Jackson out of it.

Ian
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Ian
3 years 10 months ago

Sizemore played very well after he was traded before tearing his ACL. Given the return on that deal, that’s the one main beef I have with Dombrowski. The other deals were quite obviously trying to improve the team in the short-term…he’s been great.

Colin
Guest
Colin
3 years 10 months ago

The Sizemore deal seems like an odd one to point to. He played well before he got hurt, he had a decent pedigree and not enough ML at bats to really form a solid opinion about him. Oh and in addition, he was traded for a mediocre RP.

Trading anyone for a mediocre RP is pretty much an immediate fail on the trade front unless the person traded is also a mediocre RP.

Ernesto
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Ernesto
3 years 10 months ago

I’m disappointed that the Marlins gave up their pick but otherwise, the trade seems good. They sold high on Infante and Sanchez was unlikely to sign an extension with the team anyway. The Marlins farm is pretty empty outside Yelich/Fernandez and with Johnson’s final year coming up in 2013, pitching prospects are needed. Hopefully the prospects turn out better than the last haul the Marlins got from Detroit.

Domenic
Guest
3 years 10 months ago

I keep reading allusions to Sanchez’s injury history, which I suppose is a legitimate concern … but this is his third healthy season in a row, without many hiccups along the way. There was a leg injury from a batted ball, and I think he missed some Spring Training work this year, but he started the season on-time and has pitched very well (aside from some shakiness in June). Given that, I just don’t think it’s reasonable to discuss him as an injury risk.

I’m not picking on Eno, here – it’s just a general observation I’ve made. ESPN, MLB Network, and most blogs I’ve read made similar allusions.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
3 years 10 months ago

I think both teams made out well in this deal. The Tigers upgraded their rotation with Sanchez, who I think could provide 1.5-2 win value over the remaining balance of the season and is certainly an upgrade over Smyly who, even if he did improve in the 2nd half, was likely to run into an innings cap at some point and is not quite ready to face quality big league lineups. Infante provides a tremendous upgrade at 2B, where the Tigers were getting league-worst level production. No one is going to mistake him for Robinson Cano either with the bat or glove, but at worst he’s a solid average hitter with a little pop, a little speed and provides competent defense and stability at the position.

Though scouts have started to sour on Turner over the last year or so, largely due to the lost grade on his fastball and K-rates that did not match his perceived stuff, he is still a top 50 prospect with #2 upside. He may also benefit from moving to a different system, as the Tigers seem to have developed a strange penchant for turning power arms not named Justin Verlander into pitch-to-contact guys. Perhaps in a system with a different philosophy or instructional methods he can rediscover his fastball and turn into the high end #2 many thought he could be. Brantly was expendable for the Tigers because of the presence of Avila, whose true talent level likely resides somewhere in between last year and this year, and provides the Marlins with a solid catching prospect who could hit for a solid average with some gap power and serviceable defense. All around a good deal for both clubs.

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