Detroit Tigers: Five Spencer Turnbull Trades

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Spencer Turnbull #56 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Ring Central Coliseum on September 06, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Spencer Turnbull #56 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Ring Central Coliseum on September 06, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Let’s throw some Spencer Turnbull trades at the wall.

Yesterday we took a long look at Spencer Turnbull’s trade value and determined he carries about $40 million in surplus value right now. That sounds great. Why, with that amount of money we could buy a ridiculous house, or 1,650 sets of guinea pig armor, or 500,000 beef jerky bouquets. But $40 million is still a bit abstract in baseball terms, so let’s go shopping and see what kind of trades we can make.

At the bottom of this page you’ll find a slideshow with five hypothetical Spencer Turnbull trades, but before we get to those we thought it might be helpful to look back at other trades involving pitchers like Spencer Turnbull.

The first thing we noticed is players like Turnbull — mid-rotation pitchers with fewer than 200 MLB innings and more than 4 years of team control — almost never get traded for prospects. Typically they are on the other side of the deal, heading to a rebuilding club as part of a package to land proven veterans.

Should that make the Tigers think twice about dealing Turnbull? Probably. It’s hard to find cheap, league-average starting pitchers, so Detroit shouldn’t make a move unless they get a strong return. On the other hand, the organization lacks impact bats, and they’ve recently watched three young starters hemorrhage trade value because of injuries and ineffectiveness.

Below you’ll see a reminder of Spencer Turnbull’s production and remaining team control, and then five instances when similar players were traded.

Spencer Turnbull

Similar Trades Part One

Doug Fister, July 30, 2011: Traded by the Seattle Mariners with David Pauley to the Detroit Tigers for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Chance Ruffin, and Casper Wells.

Analysis – Tigers fans certainly remember this classic Dave Dombrowski heist, and a quantity-over-quality return like this for Turnbull would be disappointing. The players Seattle acquired provided about 2.5 WAR for the Mariners, while Fister gave Detroit close to 10. Fister and Turnbull share a lot of similarities — both were right-handed sinkerballers who never made a top-100 list, didn’t reach the majors until they were 25, and got very little run support. Turnbull throws significantly harder, but Fister had twice as many MLB innings and much better command.

Similar Trades Part Two

Mat Latos, December 17, 2011: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the Cincinnati Reds for Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal, and Edinson Volquez.

Analysis – This feels very much like a trade from a bygone era. Alonso (2007), Boxberger (2009), and Grandal (2010) were all former first-rounders, and Alonso and Grandal were both top-100 prospects at the time. Volquez was a bit of an enigma, but he had two years of team control remaining. Latos was a big, hard thrower like Turnbull, and while he was never a top-100 prospect, he was coming off two excellent seasons and had just turned 24 at the time of this trade.

Similar Trades Part Three

Andrew Cashner, January 6, 2012: Traded by the Chicago Cubs to the San Diego Padres for Anthony Rizzo.

Analysis – This looks bad in retrospect, but it was a pretty reasonable deal at the time. Cashner threw a bit harder than Turnbull does, but they were both big righties with power sinkers who could occasionally dominate a lineup. Cashner had a bit more pedigree as a first-round pick who made the back-end of Baseball America’s top-100 list once, but he had a very limited track record at the time of this trade. He broke into pro ball as a reliever, but was going to join the Cubs’ rotation until a strained rotator cuff caused him to miss most of 2011. Rizzo was a top-100 prospect for the Red Sox and the Padres, but San Diego shipped him away after a tough 49-game stretch in 2011.

Similar Trades Part Four

Chase Anderson, January 30, 2016: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks with Isan Diaz and Aaron Hill to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner.

Analysis – This deal is a bit more complicated, but Chase Anderson was another unheralded pitcher who nevertheless found some MLB success in his mid-20s thanks to a five-pitch mix, though he didn’t throw quite as hard as Turnbull. The Diamondbacks included one of their top-ten prospects in Isan Diaz, and they also threw in veteran infielder Aaron Hill and ate $6.5 million of his salary. The key return was former all-star Jean Segura, who was still just 25 and had three years of team control remaining.

Similar Trades Part Five

Marco Gonzales, July 21, 2017: Traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Seattle Mariners for Tyler O’Neill.

Analysis – This is stretching it a bit, but we told you these trades don’t happen very often. Gonzales was a former first-round pick and top-100 prospect who also happens to be left-handed and rarely scrapes 90 mph. About the only things he and Turnbull have in common is they throw sinkers, they had four more years of team control left, and they both missed most of the 2016 season. In Tyler O’Neill, St. Louis received a top-100 prospect with tremendous raw power, good athleticism, and hit-tool questions.

On With the Show

That’s enough examples from the past. Let’s make with the fake Turnbull trades!