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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

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