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Tigers’ roll of the dice reminiscent of ’87 trade

July 29, 2012
Craig Remsburg - Senior Sports Writer (cremsburg@miningjournal.net) , The Mining Journal

With apologies to the late Yogi Berra, it might be "deja vu all over again."

The Detroit Tigers have rolled the dice and traded a top pitching prospect for immediate help in this season's pennant race.

They sent Jacob Turner, rated by many as the Tigers' top mound prospect, and two minor leaguers to the Miami Marlins for veterans Oman Infante and Anibal Sanchez thist week.

Infante, with his .287 batting average and 10 stolen bases at the time of the deal, is a major improvement over the team's revolving door at second base of Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth.

And Sanchez, 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA with the Marlins this season, should bolster the team's starting rotation.

But at what cost?

Turner is just 21. Though he won just his first Major League game last Sunday, the righthand-er was the Tigers' No. 1 draft pick and ninth selection overall in the 2009 amateur draft.

He may turn out to be a star. Who knows?

This is all so familiar. It reminds me of what's considered by many to be one of the worst - if not THE worst - trades in baseball history.

Remember John Smoltz? Now retired from baseball, he was a 1985 Tigers draft pick the team traded to Atlanta for fellow pitcher Doyle Alexander in 1987.

Smoltz was struggling in the minors with a 4-11 record and a 5.73 ERA prior to the trade. Alexander was a veteran who the Tigers believed would put them over the top in their bid for an American League division title that season.

They were right. Alexander went 9-0 with the Tigers with a sparkling 1.53 ERA. He was the difference-maker in the Tigers' winning the pennant that year.

But the next two seasons, he went 14-11 with a 4.32 ERA and 6-14 and 4.44, respectfully.

Alexander then retired from baseball.

Smoltz went on to a likely Hall of Fame berth. He finished with a 213-155 record as a reliever and starting pitcher, with a 3.33 ERA and 3,084 strikeouts for the Braves, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals from 1988-2009.

He also recorded 154 saves.

Smoltz went 15-4 in postseason play, made the National League All-Star squad eight times and was named the 1996 National League Cy Young Award winner.

Longtime Tigers fans can't forget how bad the Alexander-Smoltz deal turned out to be. Neither can media pundits and Major League fans in general.

Will the same thing happen to the Tigers in dealing Turner?

Perhaps. While Infante and Sanchez may be a quick fix for a team needing to at least make the playoffs this season after signing Prince Fielder to a mega-million, multi-year, free agent contract, dealing Turner may come back to haunt the Tigers.

Big time.

Tigers President and General Manager "Dealin' Dave" Dombrowski has rolled the dice with this trade. It could either help the Tigers reach the playoffs and perhaps the World Series this fall, or hurt them in the long run with the loss of Turner.

The Tigers, from owner Mike Ilitch on down, have a win-now attitude. We'll see if this trade benefits the team this season, or turns into another clunker like the Smotz deal.

It's scary. Very scary.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.

 
 

 

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