Sitting in front of his locker before the Marlins filed out for batting practice Monday, normally reserved second baseman Omar Infante told reporters he had a feeling that he would be dealt before the trade deadline at the end of the month.
“I think I’ll be gone,” Infante said, shaking his head solemnly.
Little did Infante know that his time with the Marlins was down to a few hours. The Marlins didn’t bother waiting for the July 31 deadline to begin cleaning house on a season that has turned sour. They effectively threw in the towel Monday by trading Infante and starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers for three minor-league prospects.
“Let’s face it,” explained Larry Beinfest, Marlins’ president of baseball operations, in announcing the deal. “The current group that was here was not winning. We’ve lost contact with the division. We’ve pretty much lost contact with the wild card. It was time to restructure.”
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Because Sanchez can become a free agent following the season and the Marlins had no intention of re-signing him, Monday’s trade came as no great surprise. Likewise, Infante’s name has been linked to the Tigers, who are need of a second baseman, for a couple of weeks.
But the decision to trade them with a week to go before the deadline was a strong indication that management determined it could wait no longer to see if the underperforming Marlins would suddenly rebound.
“The message to the fans is we’re disappointed, [and] they should be disappointed,” Beinfest said. “The current team did not win at the level we thought it should, and we need to make some changes. We’re not winning as it is, so we might as well try something else.”
In exchange for Infante and Sanchez, the Marlins acquired three prospects who are considered close to major-league ready: right-handed pitcher Jacob Turner, left-handed hitting catcher Rob Brantly and left-handed pitcher Brian Flynn.
“We gave up a lot. It hurts to do what we did,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said.
Turner is considered the plum of the group. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft and has spent brief time at the big-league level pitching for the Tigers. Beinfest said he and Brantly will be assigned to Triple A New Orleans but expects both to see time with the Marlins before the end of the season. Flynn, who is 6-8, will be sent to Double A Jacksonville.
“We’re getting three ‘close-to’ players,” Beinfest said. “Really, in Brantly and Turner, we’re getting major-league-ready players. That makes it more attractive, getting guys you may not have to wait long for.”
For now, Beinfest said reliever Wade LeBlanc will likely take Sanchez’s spot in the rotation.
The Marlins will be shedding some payroll. Sanchez has about $3.3 million left owed to him this season. Infante is due to receive about half that this season and is signed next season for $4 million.
The Marlins might not be done trading, either. Scouts were on hand Monday at Marlins Park to watch Josh Johnson pitch.
“If we need to make further changes, then we’ll do it,” Beinfest said. “I wouldn’t say we’re going to close up shop with a week to go before the trading deadline. We need to go through it. We need to go through it all, and do our work, and if that leads to something, fine, and if it doesn’t, fine.”