The White Sox may have gained a half-game on the Tigers Monday, but the current AL Central leaders came out of the day as winners despite their idle status. Detroit, in keeping with their going-for-broke strategy, dealt prized pitching prospect Jacob Turner, two other minor leaguers and a competitive balance draft pick to Miami for starter Anibal Sanchez, second baseman Omar Infante and the Marlins' competitive balance pick. In the short term, the deal is a major win for Detroit.
Kenny Williams has already made a pair of shrewd moves, acquiring Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and two fat wads of cash for fringe major-leaguers and low-level pitching prospects. Youkilis has already made a positive impact, while Myers should help out a fairly young bullpen down the stretch.
Detroit finally punched back on the trade market Monday, and while they may ultimately regret dealing away Turner, Sanchez and Infante, the deal will make the Tigers a much better squad for 2012.
Second base has been a gaping hole in the Tigers' lineup this season. The Brandon Inge experiment failed pretty quickly, and Ryan Raburn is hitting .172 in 208 trips to the plate. Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth have been the best of the bunch, but their successes (about a .215 batting average and a slugging percentage well below .300 between them) have been Pyrrhic victories at best.
Offensively, Infante is an upgrade even though he comes to Detroit with a .312 on-base percentage for Miami. But perhaps more importantly, Infante brings a plus glove to the Tigers' infield, an asset from which one of the baseball's worst defenses will certainly benefit.
But the real get in the deal for Detroit is Sanchez, a 28-year-old righty who's developed into one of baseball's more successful starters over the last two and a half seasons. Since the start of the 2010 season, Sanchez has a 3.69 ERA and the consummate FIPs to prove that number isn't a mirage.
The concern for Detroit regarding Sanchez is that he's untested pitching in the American League. That's a fairly common issue for pitchers coming from the National League to the circuit with a designated hitter, but given Sanchez's high strikeout and low walk rates coupled with fair success keeping the ball on the ground, he seems like a decent bet to continue his success in the different league.
Sanchez has the added benefit of moving to a field that plays similar to Marlins Park in Comerica Park -- he's not going from Petco Park to U.S. Cellular Field (although that transition wasn't why Jake Peavy struggled through his first few years with the White Sox).
As Drew Smyly hit a wall and then the disabled list, Detroit's fifth starters -- which included Turner -- struggled to keep opposing teams off the board. Sanchez gives the Tigers a legitimate No. 2 to back Justin Verlander, and if Max Scherzer, Rich Porcello andor Doug Fister (who may be the best bet of the three) can turn things around, the Tigers will have a formidable rotation for the stretch run.
The reality of late July is that the Tigers are, finally, looking like the club everyone thought they'd be back in early April. Adding Sanchez and Infante without subtracting from the major-league roster certainly makes the team stronger.
That doesn't mean the White Sox are doomed to a second-place finish. Ask anyone on the team, they'll say they're only concerned with that they can control. Detroit getting better, at least on paper, is out of their control.
Plus, the White Sox already have got better this season with Youkilis and Myers. Consider this Detroit's rebuttal.