2012 Top 10 Stories: #7 – Tigers Trade for Sanchez and Infante

Based on Number Eight in this completely subjective Top 10 list (The Black Hole at Second Base), Number Seven should come as no surprise: the Tigers move aggressively to fill the void at second base by reacquiring old friend Omar Infante and add a blue-chip starting pitcher, Anibal Sanchez, to bolster the rotation.

The July 23 trade with the Miami Marlins came at a steep price: top prospects pitcher Jacob Turner and catcher Rob Brantly, along with 6-ft. 8 -in. minor-league lefty Brian Flynn and a 2013 compensation draft. (The day before the trade, Turner pitched 5.1 innings against the White Sox in a 6-4 win that put the Tigers a game and a half ahead of Chicago, and showed potential trade partners that Turner was healthy and ready to perform in the big leagues.)

At the time, Infante was the headliner because of the Tigers’ glaring need for an everyday second baseman and, to a lesser degree, the fact he was returning to his original big-league franchise. Tigers fans had watched Infante mature into a solid big-league player in his three seasons with the Braves and season-and-a-half in Miami and seemed to welcome him back. From Jason Beck’s story on the deal:

“For us, from a second-base perspective, that was an area we definitely wanted to address,” Dombrowski said. “There’s not a lot of second basemen that are available. There’s not a lot of second basemen available particularly that are good players.”

In Infante’s case, Dombrowski said, “He’s a real solid player to us, one of the better second basemen in Major League Baseball.”

(snip)

“One thing for us, it’s good to have a bat that’s another threat to drive the ball into the gaps and steal a base,” Dombrowski said. “For us, it’s a plus.”

Sanchez, on the other hand, was an unknown quantity and a curiosity of sorts. After all, he’d pitched seven seasons in south Florida for more or less forgettable Marlins teams. (The only thing I knew about him was that in 2006 he’d thrown a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks.) But as Doug Fister struggled to return to form after two trips to the disabled list, it became clear in a hurry that Sanchez was just as big a piece of this trade as Omar Infante – and perhaps bigger.

“He’s been one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball,” Dombrowski said. “He feels great, he has quality stuff and he gives us a chance to have five established Major League starters.”

Early on, Sanchez surrendered five or more earned runs in three of his first four Tigers starts and looked shellshocked by American League. But soon he had found his rhythm and was providing Jim Leyland with quality starts in eight of his next nine outings. In fact, Sanchez registered a quality start in five consecutive starts Aug. 22 – Sept. 15, and finished 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA during that stretch. And on Sept. 25 he notched his finest outing in a Tigers uniform: a three-hit shutout against the Royals, striking out 10. His final line: 12 starts, a 4-6 record and a 3.74 ERA.

In the playoffs Sanchez he was superb. In three postseason starts he allowed just four runs and a 1.77 ERA, which certainly helped his free-agent asking price and helped bring him back to Detroit for five more seasons.

As for Infante, he brought to the Tigers exactly what they’d hoped: a solid player that stabilized a critical infield position and, on many nights, the number-two spot in the batting order.

All told, a big trade, a big payoff – and a big story.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

Despite Saturday’s Gem, Rick Porcello’s Time is Up … Right?

I admit it: if the Tigers traded Rick Porcello, I’d be more than okay with it.

What? Yes, I did track the game last night and he was the Porcello we see all too infrequently. As Jason Beck writes, Saturday night’s start against the Rays was the righthander’s finest outing in 14 months. But that’s just it: should we have to wait more than a year between stellar performances from a guy in his fourth big-league season? My answer today is: no way.

After last season, with a couple of postseason starts to add to his solid work in Game 163, I thought Porcello was ready to elevate his game. “He’s still only 23,” I’d say to anyone who was down on him last year or in the offseason. But now, after watching him get hit hard in a game at Wrigley Field last month and sitting through frustrating six-innings-at-most starts, I’ve changed my tune.

I think.

I mean, he’s still only 23.

Though, as the Doug Fister situation becomes more mysterioso and alarming by the start, we can’t watch the Tigers jettison serviceable young arms can we? We can if it brings back a package including Matt Garza and Darwin Barney, or Jed Lowrie or Jose Altuve and Wandy Rodriguez.

But Porcello did have a decent outing against the Rangers last week — one run on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts over six innings — so maybe he’s putting it together now. Yet this could be the height of his trade value and Dave Dombrowski would be wise to include him in a package. Better him that Jacob Turner, Drew Smyly or Casey Crosby. Right?

I still believe many of us Tigers fans are paralyzed with fear that the club will commit another John-Smoltz-for-Doyle-Alexander trade with one of their young arms or catching prospects. My gut tells me that wouldn’t be the case with a trade of Rick Porcello. What we’ve seen is what we’re going to get.

Or maybe not.

I mean, he’s still only 23.

Who’s the Tigers’ Youkilis?

White Sox third basemen are hitting something like .180 this season with a single home run. As usual, Ken Williams does his thing and plugs in Kevin Youkilis to anchor the hot corner.

Tigers second basemen are hitting .196 (.192 if you include 20 at bats from Brandon Inge and a pair from Hernan Perez) with three* home runs – two from Ramon Santiago and one from Ryan Raburn). Dave Dombrowski is looking to plug this hole with … Matt Garza. Wha-?

*It’s four if you add Inge’s one homer.

I get why DD is looking for a dependable arm in the fourth spot; Rick Porcello‘s days in the Tigers rotation should be drawing to a close and who wants to see two rookies at the four and five spot? Not me. (Though, of course, I love what Drew Smyly has done and what Jacob Turner will do later this year or next, but come on.)

My guess is the Tigers are looking for – have to be looking for – a package deal with Garza and maybe second baseman Darwin Barney to patch the roster.

As I’m watching Tigers games I picture the opposing second baseman in a strategically placed slot of Jim Leyland‘s lineup maybe hitting second.

But as Lynn Henning writes today, just about every team is alive in their division and has needs of their own. You have only to look at the Pirates’ offense to see that teams hovering near the top of their division could use a serving of firepower.

If the Tigers are going to make a move chances are it will involve lots of bodies, like last year’s Doug Fister trade, right? And if they do, it can’t result in only one decent player coming to Detroit (calling David Pauley.)

My guess is Dombrowski isn’t feeling any pressure because of Williams picking up Youkilis. He’s been dealing with him for 10 years in the A.L. Central. Any pressure is coming from the calendar, the lineup and perhaps the owner.

The Friday Fungoes: White Sox, Geno’s First Homer, and Jimmy Connors

It’s Friday. It’s Labor Day Weekend. It’s the White Sox and Tigers at Comerica Park. What’s not to like? Besides the White Sox, of course.

Leading Off: The Royals continued their irritating ways yesterday, out-slugging the Tigers 11-8, to earn a split of the four-game series. Let’s face it, Kansas City could’ve very easily swept this series and probably should have. Overshadowed by the Royals’ plucky play was a tremendous day for Magglio Ordonez: a homer, two doubles and stole a base — his first of the year. Rookie Jacob Turner was rocked for six earned runs but thanks to the Tigers’ comebacks he avoided taking the loss. Austin Jackson hit his eighth homer of the year and is at last hitting above .250.

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The Tigers are in first place, 5.5 games ahead of the White Sox and Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. White Sox – Justin Verlander (20-5, 2.38 ERA) vs. John Danks (6-9, 3.63 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Tigers Lineup

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

White Sox Lineup

  1. Juan Pierre, LF
  2. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  3. Paul Konerko, 1B
  4. A.J. Pierzynski, DH
  5. Dayan Viciedo, RF
  6. Alejandro de Aza, CF
  7. Tyler Flowers, C
  8. Brent Morel, 3B
  9. Gordon Beckham, 2B

Notes on Verlander

  • He’s 11-1 with a 2.62 ERA in his previous 12 starts against division opponents this season.
  • In four starts against the White Sox this season he’s 3-1 with a 4.03 ERA. Lifetime, he’s 10-10, 4.45 ERA in 23 starts.

Notes on Danks

  • Danks is making his 14th career start vs. the Tigers and third in 2011. He’s 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 2011 and 4-5 with a 3.95 ERA lifetime.
  • In his last three starts in Detroit, Danks is 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA  and a .329 opponents average.

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Around the Central: The A’s smoked and blanked the Indians, 7-0, to salvage a game in that series … the White Sox and Twins were off. Tonight the Indians travel to Kansas City for the first of three against the Royals, and the Twins face the Angels in Anaheim.

The Tigers enter tonight’s game having won 15 of the team’s last 21 games over the White Sox dating back to Aug. 14, 2010. They’re hitting .293 with 115 runs scored, 35 doubles, four triples and 23 home runs over the 21-game stretch versus Chicago. Tigers pitchers have compiled a 3.33 ERA during the stretch against the White Sox.

This is the first time Delmon Young will face the White Sox as a member of the Tigers. It could be good timing: he’s batting .344 with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 35 RBI in 57 games during his career against them. However, Magglio Ordonez has the best lifetime stats against tonight’s starter Danks: he’s hitting .517 (15-29) with two home runs and seven RBI lifetime.

In case you were wondering, here’s how the Tigers have fared day-by-day through the first five months and one day of the season: Monday 8-9, Tuesday 13-6, Wednesday 10-10, Thursday 9-8, Friday 11-10, Saturday 10-11, Sunday 14-8.

Happy 27th Birthday to Dusty Ryan and Happy 59th to Nate Snell.

On this date in 1970, Gene Lamont homered in his first major league at bat, but the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 10-1, in the second game of a doubleheader in Fenway Park.

On Sept. 2, 1973, the Tigers fired manager Billy Martin. In many ways, I still can’t believe the Tigers — Jim Campbell’s Tigers — ever hired him.

On this date in 1987, Tom Candiotti pitched his second one-hitter of the season, but also walks seven batters and makes an error as the Indians lose to Detroit, 2-1. Matt Nokes’ single with two out in the eighth is the Tigers’ only hit.

The American League Cy Young race isn’t over, says Tim Kurkjian, but Justin Verlander will win it.

Finally, just in time for the U.S. Open (one of my favorite sporting events of the year) we wish a Happy 59th Birthday to Tennis Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors. He won the U.S. Open singles title in 1974, 1976, 1978, 1982 and 1983.

Have a great weekend and be safe.

Progress Report on Jacob Turner

John Sickels at SB Nation’s Minor League Ball blog this morning shines the spotlight on Tigers prospect Jacob Turner as the site’s Prospect of the Day:

Although lack of run support has given him just a 1-1 record in 11 starts for Double-A Erie, his other numbers are much better, with a 3.05 ERA and a 61/18 K/BB in 74 innings with just 62 hits allowed. He’s been especially effective against left-handed hitters, holding them to a mere .179 average this year.

Turner could finish 2011 in Triple-A, and is expected to challenge for a rotation spot in 2012. He’s developing exactly as the Tigers hoped he would. Barring a serious injury or sudden loss of command, he has a shot at being a number one or two starter.

Discuss.

Tigers’ 2011 X Factor: Phil Coke

In Phil Coke’s three-year major-league career, he’s finished 31 games and he’s started just one — the Tigers’ final game of the 2010 season. That outing could best be described as abbreviated; he threw 1.2 innings, allowing five hits, a walk and two runs.

What conclusions can we draw from this micro-sample size? Less than nothing.

That’s part of the reason Tigers fans are interested to see how Coke performs in 2011 now that he’s a member of the rotation, slotted neatly behind Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. That’s not to say Coke has no experience as a starter. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Coming up through the Yankees’ system in the mid-2000s, he worked predominately as a starter. From 2005-08, Coke started 77 games.

At Double-A Trenton in 2008, he started 20 games and posted a 2.51 ERA to go with his 9-4 record. That earned him a call-up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre where he was turned into a reliever.

Go figure.

Year Age Team Lg Lev W L W-L% ERA G GS CG IP
2005 22 Charleston SALL A 8 11 .421 5.42 24 18 0 103.0
2006 23 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-A 5 8 .385 3.19 27 20 1 127.0
2006 23 Charleston SALL A 0 1 .000 0.53 5 2 0 17.0
2006 23 Tampa FLOR A+ 5 7 .417 3.60 22 18 1 110.0
2007 24 Tampa FLOR A+ 7 3 .700 3.09 17 16 1 99.0
2008 25 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA 11 6 .647 2.79 37 21 1 135.2
2008 25 Trenton EL AA 9 4 .692 2.51 23 20 1 118.1
2008 25 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre IL AAA 2 2 .500 4.67 14 1 0 17.1
6 Seasons 31 29 .517 3.61 125 77 3 496.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table | Generated 3/28/2011.

 

With his return to the rotation this spring, Coke posted a 3-2 record with a 2.49 ERA in 21.2 innings. Not shabby, but how will it play out over the long season? Lynn Henning today provided this assessment of Coke:

He looked good for much of the spring, but took some knocks late. The switch to starting is still in progress. If things don’t work out, he goes back to the bullpen, Andy Oliver moves in, and the Tigers probably strengthen their seventh-inning options. But they’ll give this experiment a full and necessary opportunity to work.

We’ll have to see what “a full and necessary opportunity” means. If Coke lasts as a starter, what’s the impact on the bullpen? Or, does it mean he’s more valuable in relief compared to the young arms the Tigers can summon to the rotation, such as Andy Oliver and/or Jacob Turner?

And it all hinges on Phil Coke. What do you think?

Monday Mankowskis: Winter Meetings Edition

PhilMankowski77.jpgOne by one, the Tigers’ alleged free-agent targets are signing with other clubs and in the case of Adam Dunn, with the hated White Sox. Now that Jayson Werth has sign a gargantuan deal with the Nationals — the Nationals? — Detroit is left to shoot for the moon (i.e., Carl Crawford) or swing another blockbusterish trade.

I’m still betting on the latter, though the Tigers have fewer minor-league chips to parlay into an impact big-leaguer, and the ones they have — Andy Oliver, Jacob Turner — are the premier prospects. But who wants to see them dealt? Not many, I’m guessing.

Meanwhile …

Continue reading “Monday Mankowskis: Winter Meetings Edition”