clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Trade Retrospective: The Tigers acquire Omar Infante and Aníbal Sánchez from the Marlins

The Marlins got a good return for a departing free agent and a utility player.

St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

For the third straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here.

Not long before the 2012 trade deadline, the Miami Marlins sent Omar Infante and Aníbal Sánchez to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn. This also marked the first time in MLB history that draft picks were traded. Conventional draft picks are not allowed to be traded, but “competitive balance” picks are. The Marlins had a pick between the first and second round, while the Tigers had their pick between the second and third round. Those picks were swapped.

In this trade retrospective series, trades will be evaluated based on what was known at the time. That is the only fair, logical way to evaluate trades and strip luck out of the equation: process over results. Having said that, we will still take a look at how the trade worked out for both parties.

The Deal

That season Tigers were in the midst of a tight divisional race. They were riding a five-game winning streak that brought them from 3.5 games back to a 1.5-game lead over the White Sox. It was the first time they held even a share of first place since May 1st. Teams always want to avoid the Wild Card game, of course, but with the competitiveness of the American League in 2012, not winning the division could mean missing the playoffs entirely.

Then-GM Dave Dombrowski was well aware of this, and as we all know, has never been shy about leveraging the farm system to bolster the major league team. At the time of the trade, the Tigers had one of the best rotations in baseball, but they lacked depth. Doug Fister had missed time due to injury, and Drew Smyly was on the DL.

The newly traded Jacob Turner was actually the starter in the Tigers’ last game. It was only his sixth start since debuting about a year earlier. He was okay in that start, pitching 5 13 innings and giving up three runs with three strikeouts. The thing is that he had a career 8.64 RA9. It was only six starts spread out over the course of a year, but Dombrowski appeared to want to go with proven major league talent as opposed to giving a developing prospect consistent playing time during a tight divisional race.

Aníbal Sánchez was heading into free agency, so Dombrowski was trading six cost-controlled years for two months of him and a year and two months of Infante. This trade would be an overpay if Turner was projected to be more than a mid-rotation starter, but that was not the case. Furthermore, owner Mike Illitch had recently turned 83 years old and had not witnessed a World Series championship since he bought the team in 1992.

Sánchez was a solid mid-rotation starter at the time of the trade who would easily be a substantial upgrade over whomever would have started in Smyly’s place. Since 2010, he had a 4.09 RA9 and 8.2 bWAR, albeit with unremarkable strikeout and walk rates. He had also overcome shoulder problems from earlier in his career and had pitched nearly 200 innings in each of the previous two seasons. He was a great solution in providing depth and upgrading an already great rotation.

Omar Infante was never much of a hitter, but he got by as a good defensive second baseman. That might not be a glowing endorsement of Infante’s skills back then, but that is a huge upgrade over what the sub-replacement lever players the Tigers were trudging out previously.

The newly rebranded Miami Marlins wanted to draw fans to their new monument to taxpayers buying stuff for billionaires, so they signed José Reyes and Mark Buehrle in free agency. Unfortunately, the team still was not any good. They were 44-51 and 11.5 games back at the time of the trade. The Marlins have done plenty that is worthy of heavy criticism, but this trade is not one of them. Trading Sánchez and Infante for a projected mid-rotation starter and a couple of lottery picks made a lot of sense.

The Results

The Tigers won the division by three games, and it is a good thing that they did, because the two Wild Card teams had better records. They made it all the way to the World Series where they were swept by the San Francisco Giants.

Illitch was never shy about opening up his checkbook whenever the team needed it, so the Tigers brought back Sánchez on a five-year, $88 million deal. He had far and away the best year of his career in 2013 when he posted a league-leading 2.77 RA9, as well as a 27.1 K% and 6.3 bWAR. Those were all career bests, and he might have won the Cy Young award had he not missed a few starts.

Sánchez fell off pretty quickly, unfortunately. He was mediocre in 2014 and replacement level in 2015. He was one of the worst pitchers in baseball in 2016 with a 6.34 RA9 and -1.2 bWAR. Somehow things got even worse for him 2017. He actually accepted a demotion to Triple-A to try and figure things out, but it did not work. Between spending time in the minors and struggling with injuries, he had a 6.92 RA9 in 105 13 IP. The Tigers declined to pick up the option for his final year.

Infante struggled at the plate after the trade, hitting .257/.283/.385. He bounced back nicely the following year, however, hitting .318/.345/.450. His 118 wRC+ was the best of his career. He left in free agency and signed a four-year, $30.2 million deal with the Royals. It was not for much money, but he declined in a way that few could have foreseen. He was a sub-replacement level player over the first 2.5 years of the deal and then got designated for assignment. He rejoined the Tigers on a minor league deal in 2017 but never got called up. He is currently a free agent.

Jacob Turner had a decent 2013 season with a 4.19 RA9 over 20 starts. Unfortunately, he had command problems and could not garner any strikeouts. The strikeout rates never improved, and his run average ballooned to a 6.20 RA9 in 2014 before the Marlins DFAed him. They traded him to the Cubs, but things did not get any better. He barely pitched in 2015 due to injury. He has bounced around from to the White Sox and the Nationals since then, but he just has not been able to develop into a major league quality pitcher. He signed a minor league deal to return to the Marlins in December 2017.

Rob Brantly has seen little playing time in his career. He is a sub-par defensive catcher with a career line of 230/.294/.333. He signed a minor league contract with the Braves last month.

Brian Flynn was destined to become a reliever. It just did not happen with the Marlins. He was traded to the Royals after the 2014 season but has barely played since then due to injury. He missed almost all of 2015 with a torn lat muscle. He did well in 2016 with a 3.09 RA9 in 35 relief appearances, but that run average belied his peripherals and was deflated by a .223 BABIP. He missed almost all of 2017 because of freak accident that involved falling through the roof of his barn. He suffered a broken rib and three fractured vertabrae.

Tigers Results

Remaining Control WAR Salary (M)
Remaining Control WAR Salary (M)
Aníbal Sánchez 0 1.2 $4.0
Omar Infante 1 3.2 $6.0
Total 1 4.4 $10.0
Baseball Reference

Sánchez’s free agent years were omitted because they did not come as a result of the trade. All in all, the Tigers got a pretty good return for what they paid.

Marlins Results

Remaining Control WAR Salary (M)
Remaining Control WAR Salary (M)
Jacob Turner 6 0.8 $1.9
Rob Brantly 6 -0.9 $0.9
Brian Flynn 6 -0.9 $0.6
Total 18 -1 $3.4
Baseball Reference, Sportrac

Yikes. Brantly and Flynn were basically throw-ins, but it is disappointing to see Turner come out as a bust. As ugly as that table looks, remember that all it cost were a couple of players who were not going to be part of the Marlins’ future.

The results were not there for the Marlins, but the rationale behind the trade was sound. That being said, it never ceases to amaze me how often Dombrowski comes out ahead after a trade plays out over time.

. . .

Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.