Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 7/23/12

The Tigers are built to win now. From the owner to the position players to the pitchers, this team is built for short-term glory and some long-term pain. in that context, their latest trade — a package featuring top prospect Jacob Turner for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante — fills their greatest short-term needs and readies the team for postseason play.

Their 83-year-old pizza magnate owner, Mike Ilitch, bought the team from another pizza magnate, Tom Monaghan, in 1992, or four years after the Tigers won their last world series championship. After some early success, the owner looked to put a long-term plan in place and hired Dave Dombrowski to captain the ship. 2003 saw the Tigers lose more than any other American League team in history, but then the pieces Dombrowski put together started to come to fruition. It’s still the stars from that accumulation of talent that power the team — Justin Verlander, Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera — but recent acquisitions have cemented the win-now feeling.

Spending $214 million on an iffy-bodied first baseman when the team had two or three first basemen already in the fold was probably the biggest sign that the team is focused on the short-term. That says “this team is a bat away,” and says it loudly. But this train might have been moving to a win-now mentality ever since the Cabrera trade sent their best prospects away for a single player.

Of course, the early 2012 season didn’t turn out exactly as the Tigers had hoped. After roaring out to a 9-3 start, the team lost seven in a row and ended April at .500. They were still looking up at the Indians after May, too. The idea was maybe that the team’s fielding was hurting them, and that the pitching wasn’t as sure of a thing as it might at first have seemed. Well, the team is second-to-last in fielding runs in the league (-29.5), so that part might actually be a problem. But the Tigers rotation has the most WAR in the American League and even their ERA (4.13) is better than average.

Still, the Braves might be a one-team example for the “you can never have too much pitching” maxim, and past Justin Verlander, even the most ardent Tigers fan would have to admit to excreting a few beads of sweat when Max Scherzer, Doug Fister or Rick Porcello step on to the mound. That threesome has been great for stretches, but they’ve also had some terrible times.

So Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante do fit their needs well.

With positive defensive numbers (and experience) at every position except pitcher and catcher, Infante can provide a better glove at any infield position than the Tigers currently boast, save for (perhaps) Jhonny Peralta. Even if his power regresses (.155 ISO this year, .121 career) and his BABIP (.307) stays below his career levels (.310), Infante’s recent .330 wOBA type of work would be a great improvement over the .243 wOBA (and league-worst -2.0 WAR) that the Tigers’ Ryan Raburn, Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago and put together at the position. It probably won’t be a four-win gain for the Tigers — Infante’s career high in WAR is 2.7 and it would be surprising for the 30-year-old to almost double that this year — but at least the team won’t have a below-replacement position on the field any more.

Sussing out Sanchez is harder. Well, it is if you get too caught up in his recent work. The 28-year-old starter spent June with an ERA over seven, and given the fact that he once had shoulder surgery, it might have made sense to worry about his durability some. On the other hand, Sanchez has been playing with the same (slightly lower) velocity all season, and even recently saw an uptick in fastball gas. And if you look at the season as a whole, he’s put up his third-stright season with an FIP under 3.5 by consistently improving his control while still seeing average ground-ball rates and above-average swinging strike stuff. He looks healthy and is a good pitcher. He could be worth a two-win swing himself.

A four-win addition is actually pretty important for a first-place team: with the new rules in place, getting into the second round of the playoffs by winning your division outright is invaluable, as Jesse Wolfersberger pointed out last week and Dave Cameron and Vince Gennaro expounded upon as well. This also gives the Tigers help at the front of their rotation, defensive help around the infield, and offensive help at second base. At the cost of their top pitching prospect, yes, but that’s not a prospect without questions or a prospect who’s value was on the way up — Marc Hulet had him down at 25 in his mid-season update. The rest of the package — Triple-A (and probably depth) catcher Rob Brantly, iffy lefty Brian Flynn & 2013 Comp B pick — is about as lottery-ticket-esque as it comes. It is the first trade of a draft pick in modern baseball, though.

It’s a little surprising to see the Marlins selling so soon after making a push for their new stadium, but Sanchez will be a free agent at year’s end, and Turner can help them going forward. On the other hand, it’s not surprising to see the contending Tigers retool and fill in their only significant gaps. A quick, surgical strike while much of the baseball world was waiting on Ryan Dempster‘s decision, and the Tigers are ready for the postseason.


GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Victor Oladipo gets schooled by young boy at basketball camp

John Wall trying to recruit Paul George to join Wizards

Report: Saints looking at ways to recoup guaranteed money owed to Nick Fairley

Martellus Bennett thinks Rodgers is better than Brady?

Fairley expected to miss 2017 season due to heart condition

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cousins could get more than $30 million per year in free agency?

Charlie Sheen puts Babe Ruth trade contract, World Series ring up for auction

Miguel Tejada's home burglarized, suspect arrested

Report: Nationals players privately grumbling about bullpen woes

Dwight Howard responds to those who think he's washed up

Report: Red Sox interested in Sonny Gray

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker