We in the baseball media, as well as fans of baseball, have an obsession. Perhaps our obsession is a societal phenomena, ingrained in us from childhood when we start receiving report cards. Whatever the reason or origin, there is a need for Americans to have their performance graded, or being the one who is doing the grading. It’s everywhere you go. From the classrooms across the United States, to job performance reviews in the office. Someone is judging or doing the judging all the time.
Baseball is no different. And why should it be? After all it’s America’s pastime. Writers will dole out mid-season grades. Media members discuss on a daily basis managerial moves made in the prior evening’s game. Especially in this town. Jim Leyland is all too familiar with this concept at this point, and I’m not saying he shouldn’t be.
In baseball, however, there is nothing that fans like to grade or judge more than a trade. We do it all the time, and often, way too soon. The problem is, nobody knows when the right time really is to judge a trade. Is it too soon to call the Doug Fister trade from last season a clear win? I would say no, but what if all four players the Tigers traded to Seattle (Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, and Francisco Martinez) all end up quality big leaguers in three years? Is it a clear win then? I would still say yes. Why?
Trades aren’t made on some linear time line where the two teams involved are in the same place organizationally. More often than not, especially with deadline trades in baseball, one of the teams is heading south in the standings, while the other is contending. The two teams needs are different. One team is looking for potential, and one is looking for performance in the here and now. It’s with that thought in mind, we can judge the Tigers most recent trade a success.
In late July, if you’re a regular follower of the Tigers, you know that the Tigers acquired both Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from the Florida Marlins for three Tigers prospects. These weren’t your ordinary prospects either. Two of them, Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly, were widely considered two of the Tigers top five or six prospects. In fact, both of those youngsters have spent time in the majors already. The third, Brian Flynn, could have himself a shot at the big leagues as well.
The move was considered quite a gamble by Tigers General Manager David Dombrowski, but trader Dave has proven once again a master at managing resources. Turner is considered one of the brightest young pitching prospects in the game, and Brantly has starting catcher potential. The truth is, until it’s realized, potential is just that…potential. The Florida Marlins may or may not be happy in a few years. Only time will tell how this deal works out for them.
The Tigers end of the deal? Well, it’s done exactly what it was supposed to do when Dombrowski pulled the trigger. Since coming to the Tigers in late July, Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez have improved and solidified the Tigers roster. Their time in Detroit hasn’t come without its speed bumps, however, Sanchez was terrible in his first four starts, and Infante has inexplicably had some issues with his defense.
Infante has clearly been a plus to the Tigers on offense though, even if the bar set by Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago was extremely low. As a Tiger, Infante has hit just .257 with an OPS of .668, but he has added seven steals in nine attempts to that as well. Compare that to Ryan Raburn (.171/.480) and Ramon Santiago (.206/.555), and we can see that even Infante’s numbers are a significant improvement. If more advanced statistics like WAR are your huckleberry, according to Baseball Reference, Infante has posted 0.7 wins above replacement, while Raburn/Santiago combined for -2.8.
By acquiring Infante, Dave Dombrowski turned the gaping hole on the roster that was 2B into one that the Tigers no longer have to worry about. The bonus is, the Tigers don’t have to worry about it in 2013 either, since Infante is signed through next year as well.
The bigger gamble of the two Marlins that were reeled in was Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez has always been a gifted pitcher, but has spent his entire major league career in the National League. With the pitchers batting, and lineups in general being more difficult in the American League, it’s hard to tell how any N.L. pitcher will react when they make the move to the American League.
Early on, Sanchez didn’t react particularly well. In his first 20.1 innings as a Tiger, Sanchez allowed eighteen earned runs. It was a number big enough for the Tigers manager Jim Leyland to skip a scheduled start for Sanchez. Since that skipped start, Sanchez has been flat out terrific. On August 22nd, Sanchez came back from the extra days off and has never looked back. He has pitched 54.1 innings since then and has only allowed thirteen earned runs.
No matter how Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn turn out for the Marlins, this is yet another successful trade for David Dombrowski as the Tigers GM. For a trade to be successful, a team doesn’t necessarily have to rob another. It’s okay if Turner becomes a good pitcher for the Marlins, and Brantly a good catcher. The Tigers are in the playoffs, and they likely wouldn’t have made it without the acquisition of Infante and Sanchez.
The Tigers are on the brink of going into the ALDS for the second straight year. They are playing for the here and now and can’t concern themselves with what prospects might eventually do. As fans, we should be grateful for that. It may be too early to judge this trade completely for the Marlins, but for the Tigers, it’s a winner. And that’s all we can ask for.