Friday, November 10, 2006

Tigers Acquire Sheffield

The Tigers acquired Gary Sheffield from the New York Yankees today in exchanged for minor league prospects Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett. Upon completion of the deal, they also extended Sheffield's contract two more years through 2009.

According to The Detroit Tigers Weblog, Jim Leyland said in a conference call that Sheffield will primarily be the designated hitter and occasionally play right field. Sheffield is one of the best hitters in the game when healthy and has a career line of .297/.398/.525. He missed most of last year with a wrist injury and batted .298/.355/.450 in 39 games. He is supposedly fully recovered from his wrist injury and surgery and it is not expected to bother him next year. In 2005, he batted .291/.379/.512 in 154 games.

Sheffield has a superb batting eye and should improve the on base percentage of a team that has struggled in that department for years. He is not the left-handed hitter they preferred but he's the type of hitter that should do well against all kinds of pitching. Dave Dombrowski said that Sheffield is the big middle of the order hitter they were looking for but also mentioned that they were still looking for a first baseman.

The Tigers gave up some pretty good prospects in the deal. Humberto Sanchez was the consensus third best Tiger prospect behind Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller. Sanchez had his best year in 2006 compiling a 2.63 ERA and 129/43 K/BB ratio in 123 innings between AA Erie and AAA Toledo. He has battled injuries his whole career including this year. However, there is a good chance he could start for the Yankees at some point next season.

Reliever Kevin Whelan was also a consensus top ten prospect for the Tigers. He had a 2.67 ERA and 69/29 K/BB ratio for single A Lakeland in 2006. He is regarded as a potential closer of the future. Anthony Claggett is not as highly regarded as the other two pitchers in the deal but had an outstanding year as a reliever for low A West Michigan. He had an 0.90 ERA in 60 1/3 innings pitched.

Overall, I think the Tigers gave up quite a bit for a 38 year old designated hitter. However, if Sheffield hits the way he is capable of hitting, the deal should be worth it. It's the type of deal which I would have disliked as recently as a year ago but the Tigers are in a new position now. They are now expected to contend for the playoffs and deals must be made with that in mind. I think it's a good risk.

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