Tigers acquire Gary Sheffield

The Tigers have traded Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett to the Yankees for Gary Sheffield. The Tigers and Sheffield have also agreed on a 2 year contract extension.

Humberto Sanchez was probably the 3rd best prospect in the Tigers system behind Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller. Last year he put together his most complete season between Erie and Toledo, but once again it was sidetracked by injury. He fanned almost 3 hitters for every walk and allowed only 4 homers in 123 innings.

Kevin Whelan was drafted in 2005 with thoughts of becoming the Tigers future closer. He was pretty successful last year at Lakeland saving 27 games and fanning 69 in 54 innings. With Joel Zumaya moving to the bullpen for looks like forever, Whelan didn’t look to be counted on as a piece of the puzzle.

Anthony Claggett was very good for the West Michigan Whitecaps last year with a 0.91 ERA while striking out a batter an inning and only allowing 35 hits.

Meanwhile, the Tigers get perennial All Star outfielder Gary Sheffield. Sheffield will be 38 and is a career 297/398/525 hitter. He definitely fits the bill as the big bat the Tigers were looking for, except for the right handed part. The Tigers lineup is instantly better and with the 2 year extension, Ilitch and Dombrowski look to be making an effort to make the most of this 2-3 year window with Ordonez/Pudge/Guillen.

So the Yankees get a major league ready prospect and a couple other guys who look to have value. The Tigers get the big bat they needed while keeping their team intact. It is a little more than I would have liked to see the Tigers give up for Sheffield given his age, but it isn’t unreasonable. Given the fact that Sheffield got the contract extension he wanted it should help to keep him a happy camper.

Last year the Tigers got 258/309/460 production from the DH spot which was middle of the pack. It produced 81 RC. Sheffield’s RC the last 4 years are: 145/119/112/24. So the upgrade is pretty clear and dramatic. This is a good move for the Tigers in that it helps them in the short term without killing them long term. While I don’t know the details of the contract, I know it only extends out 3 years. If it helps the team maintain its status as a playoff team, the dollars will easily take care of themselves. The attitude issues are out there, but Sheffield sounds thrilled to be coming to Detroit. The fact that All Stars are ecstatic to be coming to Detroit speaks volumes about how far the Tigers have come.

Some nuggets from the conference call:

Jim Leyland – “I can’t tell you how happy we are.” … “I’m thrilled to death. It’s a great acquisition for us”

Gary Sheffield – “I’m more than happy to be united with guys I’m familiar with.” Sheffield also said he was ecstatic to be back with Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski.

According to Leyland, and he spoke with Sheffield prior to the deal, he will be mainly a DH with some playing time in right field. Leyland also said there are no plans to play him at first base.

The names involved in the trade were agreed to on Tuesday and they had 72 hours to work out the contract extension. There was a verbal agreement Thursday night and the deal was formalized after a physical Friday morning.

On being a DH Sheffield said: “I’m all for that. I thank Mr Leyland because he prolonged my career even moreso. I’m more than willing to do it, especially with a team that has been in the World Series.”

Dombrowski on other needs: He said this was the big bat they were looking for, but they are still looking for a first baseman.