Ultimately, in a baseball season, a team has to worry about themselves. Get to 90 wins, then start worrying about standings and divisional strength.
Monday night was all about righting the ship against the Twins; Bad Gavin stumbled through six positively garish-looking innings, but the offense stirred to life and toppled a familiar tormentor in the process. It brought them to the tantalizing spot of just one game behind Detroit for the AL Central lead.
One game! And they played so terrible last week! Things can't be so bad.
— MLB (@MLB) July 23, 2012
#Tigers acquire Omar Infante. Tigers entered day last in MLB in OPS by 2nd basemen (.562). Infante has a .754 OPS this season
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 24, 2012
Front office exec: "F***, that was a good deal for the Tigers."
— Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) July 24, 2012
In one fell swoop, Detroit plugged its two most glaring holes. They put a league-average hitter and fine defender in Omar Infante into a 2nd base position previously stocked with utility players, and solved the problem of Jacob Turner's 8.00+ ERA at the back of the rotation.
Turner was the Tigers' top pitching prospect, but also a bit rushed and not up to the task of contributing to a playoff team, so they flipped him for a shiny Anibal Sanchez rental, and a year and a third of Infante. Sanchez has a 3.94 ERA, but his 3.33 K/BB ratio and 3.50 xFIP portend somewhat better things. At the very least, he's an improvement, at the most, he could become their second-best starter.
The Tigers also threw in catching prospect Rob Brantly, and there's a whiff of the Daniel Hudson-for-Edwin Jackson swap here. But the Tigers are not grasping to stay in the race, they're making a move to pull away. There's also no ambiguity in Detroit's unabashed win-now stance. They've already committed pallets of money to Prince Fielder's later years, so how good Jacob Turner will be in 2015 might be pretty far from their mind.
Another team mortgaging their future is hardly encouragement to the Sox, who make their plans year-to-year, so the only immediate reaction is dismay, as the Tigers have made significant improvements on their expected 2012 win total
Kenny Williams, for his sake, isn't full of discouragement.
GM Kenny Williams on any way Sox potentially become sellers at trade deadline instead of buyers: "Oh hell no."
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 23, 2012
Not that anything less should be expected. The Sox don't just sit all of one game out of the Central, but are only a half-game out of a wild card with Oakland and Baltimore--more overachievers than sleeping giants--standing in their way.
Still, with a Detroit Tigers team that already was pegged as having more talent than anyone else in the division, that has now shook off an early deficit and upgraded, it's worth questioning whether Williams feels pressure to respond. Within reason, of course.
Besides expressing a bizarre amount of interest in the Mariners making Ichiro Suzuki available to the Yankees, Kenny reiterated the importance of John Danks' return (now that he has an imminent bullpen session and everything), while expressing a hesitance to upgrade the offense in a way that would displace Dayan Viciedo or Gordon Beckham.
Danks is still at least a month away, and with Humber and Floyd bringing up the rear of the starting five, that doesn't leave much room to absorb regression from anyone else if no help is coming.
Keeping pace with Detroit just became a much more unreasonable task for this group, but the alternative is emerging successfully from a field for the 2nd wild card that's currently as large as seven teams.
It's been a season of staring down long odds for the playoffs, but Monday played up that theme just a little too well.
Tags: anibal sanchez, Baltimore Orioles, baseball, brian flynn, Daniel Hudson, Dayan Viciedo, Detroit Tigers, Edwin Jackson, Gordon Beckham, ichiro suzuki, jacob turner, Kenny Williams, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Oakland A's, omar infante, Prince Fielder, rob brantly, White Sox