In an effort to help distance themselves between the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians, the Tigers acquired right-hander Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante from the disappointing Miami Marlins, in exchange for prospects Jacob Turner, Ron Brantly, and Brian Flynn. The teams will also swap compensation draft picks.
The Tigers, who began the year with the one of the weaker farm systems – ranked #23 by Baseball America – paid a steep price for what could potentially amount to a three-month rental and a league average second baseman.
Prior to the season, Turner was rated by the national publication as the Tigers’ top prospect, though he’s been surpassed by Nick Castellanos now. He’s a big, 6-foot-5, 210 pound right-hander armed with an above-average fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s and complements it well with two plus-pitches, a changeup and curveball, and a tight slider. He hasn’t been very sharp this season, as his command and strikeout rates (3.3 BB/9 and 6.1 K/9) have taken a bit of a step backward. There’s still plenty of upside here – he’s only 21 – but right now I’m not sure it’s true ace potential. He’ll likely fall just a tick below that, mainly due to some slight concerns over the swing-and-miss ability of arsenal.
Brantly was the organization’s seventh best prospect, an offensive-minded catcher that could develop into a solid big league regular. After hitting .303/.366/.440 as a 21-year-old in A-ball last season, he struggled quite a bit after a promotion to High-A, posting a miserable .219/.239/.322 in 155 PA. Despite those struggles, however, the Tigers promoted him to Double-A to start this season where he rewarded their faith by hitting .311/.359/.461. Again, keeping with their aggressive approach, the front office bumped him up another level, to Triple-A, after 46 games, and he’s been a bit overmatched, hitting .254/.295/.285. His plate discipline – 6.9% walk rate in his career – and power, .108 ISO, should continue to improve to at least close to league average. He’s also shown a strong arm behind the plate as well.
Whereas Brantly becomes the largest benefactor as he moves away from All-Star Alex Avila’s shadow and now behind John Buck, left-hander Brian Flynn is, simply, the largest player. Listed at an incredible 6-foot-8 and an almost rail-thin 239 pounds, Flynn can run it up to mid 90s that looks much quicker because of his height, practically jumping at hitters. He’s shown some promisingly low walk rates for a taller pitcher – 2.9 BB/9 in his career – perhaps suggesting that he can maintain his mechanics fairly well, but he hasn’t generated the quantity of strikeouts one would expect (7.4 K/9) due in large part to some inconsistency among his secondary offerings (slider and changeup). Given his size, handedness, and inconsistency issues with his secondary offering, Flynn is most assuredly headed for a bullpen role.
For Detroit, the Sanchez acquisition is a bit puzzling, perhaps a bit of knee-jerk reaction to Drew Smyly’s injury. Three of the rotation’s top four starters –Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello – have all suffered a bit of bad luck. And the difference between pitchers like Turner and Sanchez down the stretch would probably be about 1.5 wins, probably less.
Infante plugs one of the team’s bigger issues, but he’s a league average starter, at best. He plays solid defense, shows decent pop, though that may be impacted by his new home ballpark, but his walk rates have declined for three consecutive years now and is probably better suited as a super-utility-type, not an everyday player.
It’s very difficult envisioning how the Marlins, who have been unfairly criticized as sellers because of this deal, don’t come out significantly ahead in this deal. They weren’t likely to re-sign Sanchez and cashed in on Infante’s value at an opportune time. Between Sanchez’s remaining few months under contract and Infante’s year-plus left, there’s maybe a total of four wins above-replacement there. Jacob Turner will surpass that total in one full season, probably within two years. If Brantly and Flynn pan out that’s just an added bonus.
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