Tigers get Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from Marlins

28 Comments

While the baseball world waits to see if Ryan Dempster to the Braves actually happens, the Marlins and Tigers have pulled off an even bigger trade.

Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that Miami is sending right-hander Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to Detroit. According to his colleage Ken Rosenthal the Marlins will get pitching prospect Jacob Turner, plus minor leaguers Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn. And the two sides have also agreed to swap competitive balance draft picks, which marks the first time those have been included in a trade.

Sanchez is a significant upgrade for the Tigers’ rotation, but he’s also an impending free agent set to cash in big on the open market at age 28. He has a 3.75 ERA in 132 career starts, including a 3.94 ERA and excellent 110/33 K/BB ratio in 121 innings this season. And now he joins a rotation that already had Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello.

Infante was originally signed by the Tigers as an 18-year-old out of Venezuela in 1999. They traded him to the Cubs for Jacque Jones in 2007 and since then he’s also played for the Braves and Marlins. Infante has hit for more power than usual this season, but his .754 OPS is relatively close to his .714 career mark and he figures to play mostly second base for Detroit.

Turner was promoted from Triple-A last week because the Tigers needed rotation help, but after three starts they decided he was worth parting with to bring in a proven veteran like Sanchez. Turner was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 draft and ranked as one of MLB’s top 30 prospects in 2010, 2011, and this season according to Baseball America. He’s widely considered one of the top 10-15 pitching prospects in baseball.

At age 21 he may not be quite ready to thrive in the majors, but the Marlins did well to get a legitimate top pitching prospect in exchange for an impending free agent and a good but not great infielder. And obviously the Tigers, after spending all that money on Prince Fielder this offseason and finally taking over first place in the AL Central last week, are fully in win-now mode.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
20 Comments

On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.