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.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.