By: Bob Wojnowski
I call it the Smoltz Syndrome. Any time the Tigers trade a top pitching prospect for immediate help, the gnawing fear returns for some.
Not for me. I have no problem with what Dave Dombrowski did, trading prime prospect Jacob Turner and other assorted young pieces to the Marlins for starter Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante.
It’s a good trade and a reasonable strategy, and not remotely a surprise given Mike Ilitch’s win-now-please approach. In my mind, it solidifies the first-place Tigers, without giving up their top overall prospect, Nick Castellanos.
The only thing that keeps it from being a great trade is Sanchez’s pending free-agency. The Tigers accept he could be a rental, but who knows, maybe he pitches well, enjoys it here and stays. And I don’t have to tell you Infante is a huge upgrade over Ramon Santiago, Ryan Raburn and Danny Worth at second.
But oh, what about Turner?! He’s the latest name that evokes the memory of John Smoltz, whom the Tigers traded in 1987 for veteran Doyle Alexander. They won the division with Alexander but lost a lengthy star career in Smoltz.
You know what I say to that? Oh well. The Tigers got what they wanted, a division title. There’s risk in every trade, but there’s always more risk in relying on youngsters over veterans.
In the past few years, Dombrowski has dealt away pitching prospects such as Jair Jurrjens, Humberto Sanchez and Andrew Miller. Trading Jurrjens was a mistake, but he’s no Smoltz. And frankly, I don’t think Turner will be either.
Some rankings had dropped Turner from a top-15 prospect closer to a top-50 prospect. I wouldn’t base much on his two outings in the past week — awful against the Angels and decent against the White Sox.
I just go on history, and it suggests pitching prospects are much harder to judge than hitters. Yes, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are tearing it up and are barely 20, but major-league pitching talent takes longer to develop. That’s why the Tigers have stuck with Rick Porcello, because for all his maddening inconsistencies, he’s only 23.
Turner is 21 and still a good prospect. But remember, the Tigers sent Miller and Cameron Maybin to the Marlins five years ago and got Miguel Cabrera, one of the great steals in baseball history. And Sanchez (28 years old) and Infante (30) should be in their primes.
If you’re still inclined to fret, look at it this way: If Turner becomes a star in five years; the Tigers can just package a bunch of prospects and get him back! (I kid. But not completely).