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July 24, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Tigers Shore Up Problem Spots UPDATED

by R.J. Anderson and Kevin Goldstein

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired 2B-R Omar Infante, RHP Anibal Sanchez, and a 2013 compensation draft pick from the Miami Marlins for RHP Jacob Turner, C-L Rob Brantly, LHP Bryan Flinn, and a 2013 compensation draft pick. [7/23]

Give Dave Dombrowski credit; he just patched his team’s two biggest holes without yielding top offensive prospect Nick Castellanos.

Unlike last year’s Doug Fister acquisition, Sanchez might only be a rental. A free-agent-to-be, Sanchez becomes the Tigers’ second-best starter. Sanchez is one of the league’s most consistent pitchers; his ERA has settled between 3.55 and 3.94 since 2010, while his FIP has deviated from 3.31 to 3.46 and his FRA from 3.77 to 3.84. You could argue that, despite the increases in those numbers, Sanchez is pitching as well as he ever has. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is up (3.33), and his quality start rate is as well (74 percent). The reason for the increase stems almost entirely from a pair of poor starts in June that saw him allow 13 runs over 10 innings pitched.

Sanchez attacks batters with a plethora of pitches, including a low-90s fastball, a slider-cutter, a high-70s curve, and a mid-80s changeup. Sanchez gets ahead in the count, throws strikes, and gets a fair number of groundballs. His command is average, and that can cost him, but he can pass as a number-two or -three starter. If Sanchez avoids meltdowns over the rest of the season, his numbers should reflect his improvements as a pitcher.

Detroit welcomes back Infante nearly a decade after he began his big league career there. Infante is a better hitter now than Tigers fans might remember. His 33 extra-base hits this season are just six off last year’s total, and in 293 fewer plate appearances. If Infante hits as he did with Miami (.280/.314/.404), then Detroit should be thrilled. The trio of Ramon Santiago, Ryan Raburn, and Danny Worth led the Tigers to an aggregate .201/.286/.276 line at the position.

Infante is more than a bat, though. He is a skilled defender and a sound baserunner, particularly during the run of play. His 10 stolen bases this season (at a 91 percent success rate) represent an uncharacteristically aggressive and efficient approach in that field. As a bonus, Infante will remain in Detroit next season at a $4 million cost. Infante isn’t the marquee name in the trade, but he is an important piece nonetheless.

Yes, this is the first time teams have swapped draft picks. Still, it’s hard to get a feel for how teams are valuing them since the two sides just swapped picks. Whether teams are willing to accept the picks straight up for a veteran player is something to watch out for leading into the deadline. —R.J. Anderson

MIAMI MARLINS
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Acquire RHP Jacob Turner, C-L Rob Brantly, LHP Bryan Flinn, and a 2013 compensation draft pick from the Detroit Tigers for 2B-R Omar Infante, RHP Anibal Sanchez, and a 2013 compensation draft pick. [7/23]

The Tigers completed their rotation and filled the black hole that was second base, but it came at a stiff price. The big prize in the deal is Turner, the top prospect in a shallow system. The ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, Turner was rushed through the Tigers’ system, reaching Double-A at 19, which has helped lead to good (but rarely great) numbers in the minor leagues. In another system he might still be at Double-A, so it's hard to judge his ugly big league numbers. He's still seen as a potential number-three starter with the frame to eat up innings, and the stuff to be an above-average pitcher in terms of runs allowed. When things are going right, Turner features three average-to-plus pitches; his fastball sits at 91-93, touching 95, and both his change and curveball are solid offerings that rate at least average. He had some minor arm issues this spring, and his control and command have slipped a bit. At times, he seems to lose confidence in a pitch and reduce his arsenal. Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports that Turner will begin his Marlins career at Triple-A.

A third-round pick in 2010, Brantly was a late addition to this year's Futures Game roster, but that was more based on availability as opposed to him being seen as one of the top catching prospects in the game. That's not to say Brantly is without value, though. He's a contact machine who works aggressively, as he rarely walks or strikes out, and he employs a line drive swing and uses all fields. This leaves him with limited power and on-base skills, so he needs to hit for average to have value as an offensive catcher. Unfortunately, the more advanced pitching of Triple-A has been able to exploit his expanded strike zone. He's a capable defender with an average arm and will join Turner at Triple-A, projecting as a future backup or second-division starter.

A seventh-round selection last year, Flynn is a fascinating pitcher who has always frustrated scouts. It's hard not to be intrigued by a six-foot-eight, 240 pound southpaw who can throw strikes with an 88-92 mph fastball, but those are still the most positive things about his scouting profile. His curveball and slider are both below average, as is his changeup, and scouts don't project much improvement in them. He lacks the big platoon splits of a future LOOGY and will require significant improvement just to make it as a reliever. —Kevin Goldstein


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

23 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Richard Bergstrom

I'd like to think, if this was the price for Jacob Turner, that the Cubs could've worked something out with Dempster and Barney/Baker for it.

Also, I'm surprised the Marlins focused on Turner instead of getting someone like Castellanos.

Jul 23, 2012 17:24 PM
rating: 0
 
SGreenwell

I'm kind of surprised too, just because Turner has pitched pretty poorly this year, and at least from the outside looking in, the Tigers haven't done a great job developing pitching prospects in recent years.

- Turner's AAA ERA was good, 3.16, but it took him a while to even pitch this year because of injury, and either KG or Keith Law said that the reports they were getting on him weren't that good. His K rate also fell from 7.6 to 6.1. It almost makes you worry if he's another...

- Rick Porcello. He's another guy who was a highly regarded Detroit prospect, but who's never had a full season ERA below 3.96. In another deal with Miami / Florida a couple years ago, the Tigers sent them Andrew Miller, who also never developed.

- Looking at the Tigers' SP from 2011 and 2012, minimum of 10 GS: That Verlander guy is pretty great, but he was drafted #2 overall in 2004, almost a decade ago. Scherzer came up with Arizona. Phil Coke was drafted and developed by the Yankees, and didn't stick in the rotation anyway. Brad Penny and Doug Fister were vets acquired in trades or via free agency. Drew Smyly has pitched OK in the rotation, but is probably replaced via this trade, and KG put his ceiling as a No. 4 starter before the year.

Jul 23, 2012 17:59 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I'd actually disagree on the Tigers inability to develop pitching prospects. Sure, there have been some that have underperformed like Porcello, but there is something to say for developing league average and even fifth starter types like Armando Galarraga. You could even give them a little credit for Bonderman and for helping Edwin Jackson turn it around.

Have they been amazing at development? No. But they're better than a lot of teams out there.

Jul 23, 2012 18:11 PM
rating: 1
 
SGreenwell

Eh, I'd put Bonderman more in the "no" category. I remember him being a better pitcher than he was, since his lowest ERA was 4.08 in a full year, and his highest single season WAR was 2.9, in that same 2006 season. He also had a good postseason that year, but outside of that year, he was essentially... Rick Porcello.

Jul 23, 2012 18:16 PM
rating: -2
 
Richard Bergstrom

But as I was saying, even developing an average major league pitcher has some value. The Tigers have been able to do so without having as forgiving a home environment as Oakland or San Diego. No, they haven't done a "great job" but I'd say they've been average with perhaps a sniff of above average.

Jul 23, 2012 18:28 PM
rating: 3
 
John Carter

Yeah, I'd agree the Tigers have developed slightly more than their share of non-prospect pitchers into half-way decent Major League pitchers. Look at Charlie Furbush, Drew Smyley, Brayan Villareal, and Duane Below to name a bunch currently having good to excellent years. Their record on top notch pitching prospects used to be horrendous, but Verlander alone turned that record around. No teams succeeds with them all and Verlander has surpassed his lofty expectations. Zumaya pitched brilliantly until his arm fell off. Yes, Andrew Miller was a bust - and so might be Jacob Turner, Casey Crosby, and Andy Oliver. Rick Porcello has been passable - but he is still young and may yet prove worthy of his hype.

Jeremy Bonderman was a first round Oakland draftee pitching for high A Modesto when he came to the Tigers' organization in a Jeff Weaver trade. The next year he was a regular in their rotation, but did have some struggles. Then, he was pretty solid his next two seasons (near league average - no injuries). In his fourth year, he produced that 4.08 ERA (still in the steroids era: 111 OPS+) with 214 innings that led to a league championship and a 3.10 post season ERA. That is a success by my reckoning. That he was still only 23 and his career went rapidly downhill afterwards was the disappointing thing about Bonderman.

Jul 24, 2012 10:15 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Arrgh: Smyly Villarreal

Jul 24, 2012 10:17 AM
rating: 0
 
Sharky

Not as close as you might think.
Infante >> Barney/Baker
Sanchez >= Dempster

Jul 23, 2012 18:21 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I do agree with that Sharky.

However, last I checked, the Tigers had some problems in their outfield. The Cubs have a few different outfield options that might interest the Tigers and help bridge that gap.

So, though I agree with your valuation, I'm just saying that, if the Tigers thought the Marlins package fit that the Cubs could've been a decent match too.

Jul 23, 2012 18:26 PM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

Second base was a far bigger need for the Tigers than another corner outfielder.

Jul 23, 2012 19:16 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

But they could've gotten it all from the Cubs. A starting pitcher, a 2B and a corner outfielder.

Jul 24, 2012 08:20 AM
rating: 0
 
ddufourlogger

Everything I hear has Theo holding out for ransoms for anyone he's trading, so that may have had much to do with it.

Jul 24, 2012 09:35 AM
rating: 0
 
SaberTJ

Where exactly would Castellanos have played if traded to the Marlins? 3b and the corner OF spots are blocked at the Major league level atm. I guess they could have moved Morrison to 1b, but that would make both players offensive expectations higher than what they are likely to produce.

Jul 24, 2012 05:16 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

Great call on Nolasco's command vs control, R.J.

He has no problem throwing strikes, but he demonstrates how it can hurt to miss by 6 inches as opposed to 16 inches. Nolasco is a perfect example of the Com-v-Con distinction.

Jul 23, 2012 17:51 PM
 
Agent007

Re:Flynn - I didn't think you could trade players until one year after the draft.

Jul 24, 2012 07:21 AM
rating: 0
 
timber

Reply not working...Agent 007, Flynn was a 2011 draftee; he can be traded.

Jul 24, 2012 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

As a Tigers' fan, I love this trade. But then, it seems whenever they make what seems to be an outstanding trade, the team performs much worse than expected. The Tigers flopped after acquiring the supposed 1000 run offense in 2008. They dropped to 74-88 - fifth place in the pussycat division. (Miguel Cabrera was fine, Edgar Renteria and Gary Sheffield were not. The team as a whole got old or whatever and sank.) Detroit got off to a very slow start this year - even offensively after acquiring Fielder and filling another gaping hole by moving Cabrera to third.) How about that Jerod Washburn deal? Detroit was in first place trying to fight off Minnesota. Washburn was having one of his best years ever: 2.64 ERA over 20 starts. For Detroit he produced a 7.33 ERA and they lost the division. Washburn's career was over. Fortunately, the prospects the Tigers gave the Mariners for him didn't pan out either: Mauricio Robles and Luke French.

Then last year, I thought Detroit gave way too much for Doug Fister - and that looks untrue, now. Fister insured Detroit's division mastery and probably got them past the mighty Yankees into the ALCS. We'll see what Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, and Chance Ruffin do. Even with the current deal going as expected, I'd be surprised if they can get past the Rangers in the play-offs.

Jul 24, 2012 10:43 AM
rating: 1
 
flyingdutchman

Never forget Scott Sizemore. He'd have made the need for Infante a little less pressing.

Jul 25, 2012 14:05 PM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Facts that must be mentioned: Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago were the Tiger's DP combo for part of the 2003 119 game losing team and reserve infielders for part of the 2006 American League Champion team. Since Santiago was traded in 2004 (with Juan Gonzalez for Carlos Guillen, thankfully), this is the 2nd time the two utility middle infielders have been reunited.

Infante is Venezuelan (as is Miguel Cabrera and the sluggers who surrounded him last year: Victor Martinez and Miguel Ordonez). Santiago is Dominican (as is Jhonny Peralta and five-sevenths of the bullpen: Valverde, Benoit, Dotel, Villarreal, and Marte). Only the lefties in the pen (Coke and Below) are American.

Jul 24, 2012 11:00 AM
rating: 0
 
John Carter

Uh, Magglio Ordonez

Jul 24, 2012 11:02 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

No soup for you.

(just kidding)

Jul 24, 2012 11:13 AM
rating: 0
 
andrews

With regard to Bonderman, you fail to mention that at the All-star break in 2007 he was 10 - 1 with an era about 3 and with dominant pheripherals ( i can't remember gis WARP, PERA etc).

Then he hurt his arm.......

Then he got the blood clot.....

Nothing to do with the Tigers ability to develop pitchers.

Also, if Andrew Miller didn't develop surely that's down to Florida?

Jul 25, 2012 05:27 AM
rating: 1
 
andrews

.... So your case that Detroit are bad at developing pitchers essentially rests on Rick Porcello, a pitcher who has had to do his 'developing' while pitching to major league hitters.

Jul 25, 2012 05:30 AM
rating: 0
 
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