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Tigers paid high price in Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly, Brian Flynn

July 22, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jacob Turner (50) pitches during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
July 22, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jacob Turner (50) pitches during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

In December 2008, the Tigers sent six prospects, including their top two in Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, to the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. In sending Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly to Miami in exchange for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, the Tigers have sent out a clear signal that they intend to win, and they intend to do it sooner, rather than later. ranked Turner as the organization's No. 2 prospect, Brantly as No. 3 and Flynn as No. 27 at the time of the trade.

Jacob Turner was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the Detroit Tigers' organization prior to the start of the 2012 season. He came to camp at Lakeland with his name penciled in for a spot in the starting rotation if he made a respectable showing and none of the five lefties, who were all considered lesser prospects, clearly outpitched him. While there was a competition for the fifth and final spot in the rotation, most observers believed that the job was Turner's to lose. A bout with tendinitis in his shoulder slowed Turner's ascent to the majors this year, and now he his headed to Miami.

Turner had made his major league debut in 2011, but registered his first major league victory, a 6-4 win over the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park, Sunday, just a day before he was traded. It was his sixth MLB start. Scouts believed that Turner has top of the rotation stuff and could reach the ace level. Turner is 1-3 with a 8.64 ERA in six starts for the Tigers, three in 2011 and three in 2012. In less than three seasons in the minor leagues, Turner posted a 3.21 ERA, showing good control and decent strikeout ability. We profiled Turner here before the season.

Rob Brantly was a rising star in his own right, and also a consensus top five prospect in the organization. Rated the second best position prospect, but being a catcher, he was one of a number of young players at a position of strength in the organization. That list is headed by Alex Avila, already an All Star with less than three seasons of major league experience. Like Avila, he bats left handed. The Tigers also have their first draft pick from the 2011 draft in James McCann, along with Bryan Holoday who made his major league debut this season, and Patrick Leyland, son of the current Tiger manager.

Among that list of good catching prospects, it was Brantly who stood out, being invited to play in the 2012 "Futures Game" during All Star festivities in Kansas City. Viewed as an offensively-gifted catcher with adequate defensive skills, Brantly hit .311 avg / .359 OBP / .461 SLG / .820 OPS at Double-A Erie to start this season, and was promoted to Triple-A Toledo. After being picked in the third round of the 2010 draft, Brantly posted a slash line of .275 / .333 / .383 / .715 in parts of three minor-league seasons. He projects to be a major league starting catcher in the not too distant future, but it wasn't going to be in Detroit.

The Tigers also traded pitcher Brian Flynn, a seventh-round selection in the 2011 draft, to the Marlins. In 174.2 innings over parts of two seasons in the minor leagues, Flynn posted a 15-7 record with an ERA of 3.76 and a WHIP of 1.35. He was just recently called up to Double A Erie. Dombrowski said of Flynn in the post trade press conference:

We liked him. He was a good pick for them. He’s a big tall guy that throws the ball well. he’s been succssful at lakeland. he’s got a plus arm. I think they did a good job of scouting and finding him as a third player

Also of note in this trade is that the Tigers traded their "competitive balance" draft pick in next June's amateur player draft, which will be the sixth pick following the second round, in exchange for the Marlins' competitive balance pick, which is the sixth pick following the first round. That is not an insignificant part of this deal. History shows that the odds of a player sticking around in the major leagues drops off sharply after the first round. The Tigers figure to move up more than 30 slots in the swap. Dombrowski commented on the talent that the Tigers gave up:

We gave up a lot. We know that. It hurt to do what we did. We’re in a position you have to give up talent to acquire talent. It's a unique situation. Sanchez is a free agent at the end of the year. We wanted to get their draft choice. We bickered back and forth trying to put a value on that. We kept going back and forth on that and we agreed to turn over our draft choice between the 2nd and 3rdrounds for them. I think this is the first time draft choices have been traded

Much of the initial reaction to the trade in the national media is that the Tigers gave up a lot of talent for a rental of Anibal Sanchez and a year and a half of Omar Infante. There is no question that is true. However, one must look at the trade a few months from now to determine whether the high cost in talent was worth it. By this time next year, we will know whether Sanchez has either left by free agency or extended his stay in Detroit. We will also know what kind of talent the Tigers acquired with that extra supplemental first-round pick, which figures to be a higher pick than they used to select Nick Castellanos, now the top prospect in the Tiger organization.

Regardless of how the deal turns out, there can be no question that Mike Illitch and the Tigers are determined to win, and win now.