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Evaluating the Urbina – Polanco Trade

I’m still a little baffled by this deal. First off, without a workhorse like Urbina, I can see the whole bullpen falling apart in what would be a worst case scenario. Percival can’t handle the innings, and I see another stint on the DL for him. As for guys like Farnsworth and German, I really hope they’re up for the task.

And for all intents and purposes, Martinez was a throw in, so I’ll be pretty much keeping him out of the analysis. I guess we can call him the tie breaker.

I’m also a little surprised they gave up on Infante so quickly. If I look at the VORP figures through yesterdays game, Polanco (11) has about a 15 run edge over Infante (-4). Of course the Phillies lose little, because Chase Utley has them both topped with 19.4 (second best second baseman only to Jeff Kent). So on the face of things, we’re getting an upgrade.

Now if we compare Urbina and Polanco, we have close to wash. Urbina has been good for 16 pitching runs above replacement so far, while Polanco has been good for 22 (8 hitting and 14 fielding). That six run differential is about half of a win, so that explains why we threw Martinez into the deal.

But numbers aside, through the end of May last year, Omar Infante had three homers. This year, he also had three homers. So if he went on a run, he could easily get himself closer to where he was last year. Polanco has only ten extra base hits, while Infante has 16. And Omar’s eight fielding runs above replacement is a mere six runs less then the slick fielding Polanco (which explains a lot of the differential between the two).

So I just don’t see what we’re getting here. Our pen definitely gets worse, and while Polanco might get an extra single here or there, it’s Infante that can mash the ball if can return to form. And throw in the fact that Polanco has only a one year contract, and it makes the thing even more befuddling.

I really thought we’d be able to get some front line prospects from, well someone, for Urbina. While I’ll never count the Tigers out this early, an eleven game deficit is really tough to come back from so making a move to short things up this year seems somewhat fruitless. And when you throw in the fact that the Indians could pass them if the Tigers falter, it makes things look even more dicey.

Thanks for the analysis, it kind of is in line with what I was thinking, but again the numbers prove it. This could really ruin what was turning into a sound bullpen. Percival now assumes the role of worst closer in baseball, a Tiger hasn’t held that position since Todd Jones.

Posted by KS on June 9th, 2005 at 6:59 am

I wonder if this means they are really worried about Guillen, with Infante sliding to shortstop if Guillen goes on the DL. Also, Infante has been terrible, .211/.255/.343. With Guillen missing time (already a dozen games this year), Infante will have chances to play even if Guillen remains off the DL. If the Tigers can’t make a move in the standings, they shop Polanco at the trade deadline.

Posted by Man of Leisure on June 9th, 2005 at 8:07 am

I tend to disagree with your assessment. I think this is a win-win for both teams as Polanco is a very solid player. He hits well, gets on base well (something the Tigers IF lacks) and can play everywhere on the IF, plus LF is you’re desperate.

As a Cardinal fan, I was thrilled to get Scott Rolen from the Phillies, but hated the price the Cards paid to get him. Losing Polanco wasn’t easy for the team. Fans liked him and he does whatever is needed to help the team win. This isn’t a disaster trade by the Tigers.

Posted by The Bench Jockey on June 9th, 2005 at 9:49 am

I love a little healthy debate. I agree that Polanco is a quality player, but I question why we need him. His contracts up at the end of the year, and while he’s better then Infante, I doubt he’ll be the guy that puts us over the top.

I just thought we’d be better off trying to nab a prospect or two.

Posted by Brian on June 9th, 2005 at 9:52 am

I agree with you Brian. I have to admit I’m a fan of continuing to develop the Tiger Farm System, so I always tend to skew more towards prospects. I also know that Polanco is a solid player.

I’m just a little disappointed that they’re so quick to dismantle the best part of the club to shore up a shaky spot. Like you, I have a weird feeling like the bullpen could collapse at any point this year w/o Urbina, especially if Percy has another DL stint.

I like Dombrowski, and maybe this deal will pay dividends, but I have to say I’ve disagreed with many of his moves during the past year, and this one is no exception.

Posted by Kittlesnbits on June 9th, 2005 at 10:50 am

I don’t think the Tigers were looking to be pushed over the top – just over .500. I’m glad we got a major leaguer. The worst thing that could happen this year is to show no improvement and we were basically on the same pace as last year.

Posted by Carl on June 9th, 2005 at 10:59 am

Note the comments from mlive.

Posted by Orvin on June 9th, 2005 at 2:02 pm

That story explains a lot with the timing. Sort of had a “Randy Moss trade” feel to it, i.e. rushed. I’m sure Dombrowski has had offers on the table, so he just had to pull the trigger.

Posted by Brian on June 9th, 2005 at 2:20 pm

Yeah, makes total sense now… I was relating this to a member of Red Sox Nation here where I work… He said that Ugie got in a fight with Wakefield while he was on the Sox, too… “Volatile personality” is the polite term, I suppose…

Posted by jeff k on June 9th, 2005 at 5:48 pm

Oh, and one more thing… I think they should send Infante down to Toledo, and tell him to go get his at-bats, and if he kicks serious ass, we’ll make no effort to re-sign Polanco.

Of course, if they *had* to pull the trigger on this, is it possible that Double-D is gonna flip Polanco somewhere else? Not likely, I’ll admit, but not out of the picture, either… Kind of like that year that the Indians traded David Justice for Ricky Ledee… Then traded Ledee to Texas about a week later.

Posted by jeff k on June 9th, 2005 at 5:52 pm

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