The Tigers made the right move at the right time.
That's a simple statement made about a complicated deal. Broken down to its simplest elements, the Tigers moved their top pitching and top catching prospects to the Miami Marlins in order to place a strikeout-throwing pitcher in the middle of their rotation and a two-way second basemen near the top of their lineup. It was a bit more complicated than that, but let's just boil it down to the basics. A high price to pay, certainly. but one that a good playoff run can make academic.
Neither move should come as a big surprise. The Tigers have year after year attempted to keep young, inexperienced starters away from postseason races. In 2009 they brought an experienced pitcher in Jarrod Washburn. You know how that went. In 2011 they brought Doug Fister. That, obviously, fared much better. Drew Smyly had just one year of pro baseball under his belt before becoming the Tigers' fifth starter in 2012. Then he was injured. Jacob Turner, to quote manager Jim Leyland, needed more seasoning. The addition of a veteran pitcher was inevitable.
Second base has been an issue most of the year. For a few weeks, it looked as if the Tigers might be able to make a bigger impact with additions elsewhere. That window closed, and second base remained a problem for the Tigers. Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, the names changed but the results at the plate were generally poor and the results in the field were nearly as bad. If the Marlins had not just lost five consecutive games, maybe Infante isn't available at all, and maybe the Tigers can't find a solid upgrade. The Marlins' losses were the Tigers' gain.
So, the pitching is better. Sanchez is a veteran. He strikes out more than his fair share of batters while walking few. The defense is better up the middle. The lineup is better -- and Leyland has found his lineup's No. 2 batter against left-handed pitchers.
The Tigers took a question mark and a frowny face, and penned in the right answers. From that angle, I find it hard to be anything but pleased with the deal.
The price, as we've said, did not come cheap. TigsTown.com, whose stock in trade is following Detroit's minor-league organization, ranked Turner No. 2 and Brantly No. 3 recently. You could pretty much put it in ink that Brantly was not long for the Tigers organization. A well-respected, left-handed catcher, he was going to be a part of any trade that brought in a difference-making player. As Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said during a teleconference, Brantly and Alex Avila would not be playing on the same team: Both are left-handed catchers. They like Avila; Brantly had to go when the right deal came.
Turner was more likely to be moved than third-base/outfield prospect Nick Castellanos. Again, for an impact player, the possibility of Turner being moved was strong. Other teams are undoubtedly as familiar -- no, more familiar -- with Casey Crosby and Andrew Oliver. They aren't exactly trade gold.
What makes things more difficult is the contractual situations. Detroit gets a year and a half of Omar Infante, at a fair rate. That will certainly make life easier for the club. But Sanchez is a rental. He's eligible to leave as a free agent after this season and the Tigers can't expect to get compensation for him. If they sign him to an extension, he'll solidify the rotation for a few years, but there's no surplus value to be found there.
To me, the value of Sanchez fell somewhere less than Turner yet somewhere more than the players the Tigers had in the organization. That's not a deal breaker. Just makes the deal a bit harder to swallow in the end.
Pundits and fans like to affix "winning" and "losing" to deals. This deal fits both clubs' needs. Miami gets a couple of players who can contribute at the major league level soon. Detroit gets a couple of players who fill needs and can help get the team into the playoffs this season. If Sanchez and Infante play to their potential, it should be pretty easy to feel good about this deal at the end of the year.
For the Tigers, who put a premium on winning today and routinely worry about tomorrow when they get there, the deal arrived at the right time and was just what they needed.
They moved deeper into the drivers seat in the Central Division. That's all we could fairly ask of them.
Teleconference live blogged. (Check the comments)