There were plenty of big splashes made at the trade deadline this season. The Giants nabbed Hunter Pence. The Dodgers got Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino, and the Angels landed Zack Greinke. For the Tigers, they made the headlines, not for who they received, but more so who they traded. The Tigers traded what many consider the top prospect to change hands this season, Jacob Turner, in what many analysts consider an obvious win move now for Detroit that may bite them in the behind years down the road.
Right now though, I don’t think Tigers fans could care less. And they probably shouldn’t.
Right handed starter Anibal Sanchez is 1-1 so far with the Tigers, pitching well in his first start at home, and gets his third start as a Tigers starter today. The other half of the acquisition for the Tigers, Omar Infante, might be the more important acquisition of the two. He is signed for 2013 as well, and is reasonably priced. Not to mention, the Tigers really needed a second baseman.
It’s been well documented everywhere across Tigers nation how bad the 2nd base position has been this year for the Tigers. Ryan Raburn wasn’t the answer, and he has become the target of boo-birds, now landing himself on the DL with an “injury” to his hand. Brandon Inge wasn’t the answer either. Ramon Santiago is what he is, and that is a player best utilized as a bench guy. Danny Worth still hasn’t gotten a real shot, but never seems to string together enough hits with his short opportunities despite the strong glove.
Enter Omar Infante.
Infante as we all know is going through his 2nd stint with the Tigers. As a young guy who went through the growing pains of the 2003 club, Infante at the time was considered on the Tigers future bright spots. In 2004, as a 22 year old, Infante began to deliver on some of his promise. He hit 16 home runs for the Tigers, stole 13 bases, while hitting .264. But by 2006, Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco, and manager Jim Leyland had relegated Infante to part-time status. Infante even began to lose playing time to Neifi Perez, leading many to believe there was just something about Infante Jim Leyland didn’t care for.
After the 2007 season, Infante was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Jacque Jones. Dave Dombrowski hasn’t made many bad trades in his tenure for the Tigers, but this one might actually be his worst. At least Edgar Renteria played a full season for the Tigers, and Jair Jurrjens, despite some strong seasons is struggling now. Infante, after things didn’t work out with the Cubs, hooked up with the Braves, then eventually went on to be an All-Star.
Because Infante wasn’t a big name on the trade market, it’s easy to overlook the importance of his acquisition. At least for those outside of Detroit. In Detroit, we know better. Well, at least some of us. The nature of Tigers fans is to be fickle, and Infante’s slow start in a Tigers uniform had people throwing their hands up in the air already. After all, his first 5 games, Infante went 2 for 19. Since the slow start however, Infante has a hit in 8 straight games, including being a big part of a couple of rallies that have won the Tigers games. In 13 games with the Tigers, Infante has scored 7 runs and driven in 7 runs. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that is a serious upgrade from what the Tigers have been getting. But this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Infante’s quiet nature almost doesn’t allow people to know that according to fWAR, Infante is the 7th most valuable 2B in all of baseball. More valuable this season than the likes of Howey Kendrick, Jason Kipnis, and Jose Altuve. He isn’t elite, but he tops that 2nd tier of 2nd baseman, and for the amount of money he is being paid, he is a bargain, if not darn near a savior at a position that was flat lining for the Tigers.
Defensively, he has had a few errors since coming back to Detroit. Still, he is an upgrade at the position, and in general plays 2B at an above average level. He has soft hands, as evidenced by his easy picking of a hot shot one hopper he picked with ease on Tuesday night. He also has good range, and that should help Tigers pitchers down the road, and may be as big a contribution as anything.
The bottom line, Infante has already come and solidified a position that has been a question mark for years now. The fact that he is signed for next year as well just means David Dombrowski has one less worry on his off-season list. Tigers fans now have one less worry on their way to a playoff spot in 2012.
It’s good to have Omar back.