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Trading Places: Tigers Deal For Sanchez, Infante
Dan Port | Tuesday July 24th, 2012
Omar Infante should fill Detroit's hole at second base. (US Presswire)
Omar Infante should fill Detroit's hole at second base. (US Presswire)
Monday afternoon kicked off the MLB trade season with several deals, including one between the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins that sent Detroit's top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to the Miami in exchange for starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante.  The Marlins also acquired a pair of Tigers minor leaguers in catcher Rob Brantly and lefthanded pitcher Brian Flynn.

The Tigers have a one game lead on the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central Division entering play on Tuesday July 24th, and the acquisition of two proven major league talents should help them boost their rotation and the second base spot.  The 21 year-old Turner entered 2012 as Detroit's top overall prospect, according to Baseball America, and though he's mainly struggled in six big league starts (three this season) he has an excellent minor league resume and ace potential.

Infante, age 30, began his career in the Tigers system and played a variety of different infield and outfield positions up to and including his All-Star season with the Atlanta Braves in 2010.  He's played exclusively at second base during the last two years and is expected to play there in Detroit.  The Tigers have utilized multiple players at second base this year, including Ramon Santiago, Ryan Raburn, and Danny Worth.  None of those three have provided much of an offensive contribution for the club, and Infante's .276 lifetime average and fair power numbers (he has 8 home runs in 2012 already) should provide a significant upgrade there.

Sanchez, a 28 year-old righthander, has sometimes been outstanding as a major leaguer since his debut for the Marlins back in 2006, and he even tossed a no-hitter on September 6th of that year.  However, he was beset by injury and ineffectiveness after a very strong rookie year and his big league success was far from assured after struggling to a 5.57 ERA in 10 starts back in 2008.  But since that season, Anibal has made 99 starts (including 32 in both 2010 and 2011, and 19 in 2012) and in that time he has a 3.72 ERA and 540 strikeouts in 598 1/3 innings (8.1 strikeouts per nine innings).  It doesn't appear that Sanchez will ever be the ace he appeared he could possibly be when he notched a 10-3 record and a 2.83 ERA in 17 rookie starts back in 2006, but he should provide the Tigers with a solid mid-rotation starter and could easily take a turn in a playoff series.

The Marlins got a pretty good return for their two big leaguers, particularly in Turner, a righthander who was the ninth overall pick in 2009 amateur draft.  Turner doesn't overpower hitters or post huge strikeout numbers but shows remarkable command for a player his age.  His fastball sits in the low to mid-90s and his off-speed stuff shows great potential, particularly his changeup, though he's still developing secondary pitches.  He has averaged just 2.4 walks per nine innings (BB/9) in his minor league career and over a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk (K/BB) rate, despite fairly pedestrian strikeout totals.  Jacob hasn't shown too much at the major league level yet, but he could be a frontline starter within a year or two, assuming health and development.

Catcher Rob Brantly and lefthanded hurler Brian Flynn round out the trade for the Marlins, and though neither is at the same prospect level as Turner, both could have major league futures.  Brantly, age 23, entered 2012 as Detroit's 7th-best prospect (per Baseball America) and was a third round pick out of UC-Riverside in 2010.  He has split time between Double and Triple-A ball this year and has a .287 average with a .332 on-base mark, 3 home runs, and 20 doubles in 82 total games.  His defensive skills could allow him to be a big league starter someday, but his offensive game is aggressive and projects more to line drive power than home runs. 

Baseball America
listed the 22 year-old Flynn as the Tigers' 24th best prospect prior to the 2012 season, due mainly to his potential as a hard-throwing lefthander with six-foot eight-inch height.  The Wichita State product has allowed 121 hits in 107 innings (mostly at High-A Lakeland) this season, but development of better off-speed stuff could help him reach the majors someday, possibly in a bullpen role.

From a fantasy standpoint, Infante and Sanchez should benefit from a move to a contending club.  Assuming he can adjust to pitching in the American League, Sanchez should be able to post his usual numbers and rack up a few more wins.  Infante could be a key cog in the Tigers' potent offense, particularly if he is hitting in the second spot in the lineup and in front of sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Overall, this deal is pretty helpful for both sides; the Tigers acquired a pair of major leaguers to aid in their push for a for a division title and a World Series run, and the Marlins received a great prospect and a pair of possible future big leaguers who could help them down the road.
Dan PortDan Port has been a writer and article editor for Baseball Press since the fall of 2009. He's a Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident, as well as an aspiring novelist, moderately successful gambler, and avid craft beer aficionado. You can reach him at dan@baseballpress.com or check him out on Twitter @danport and at DanielPort.com.