OmarInfanteTigersPat Caputo of the Oakland Press published a blog post on Monday calling the Tigers’ 2007 offseason trade of Omar Infantethe worst trade made by Dave Dombrowski that nobody talks about”. It’s true that Jaque Jones was terrible as a Tiger (he’s the guy the Tigers got in return for Infante), but Caputo’s point wasn’t that Jones himself returned poor value for Infante, instead he argues the Tigers were wrong to choose Ramon Santiago over Infante. Here’s the crux of his argument:

But the biggest mistake, in retrospect, the Tigers made regarding their infield was choosing Santiago over Omar Infante following the 2006 American League pennant-winning season.

Infante has gone to make an All-Star team as a utility infielder when he was with the Braves, and has since moved onto the Marlins where, playing second base, he is currently 10th in the National League with a .319 batting average and tied with Prince Fielder in OPS (on base and slugging percentage combined) at .880. His OPS has been .750 or better every season but one since leaving the Tigers. He is easily a stronger, faster, more productive player than any of the Tigers' current second base candidates.

Caputo wishes that Infante was around to handle the second base duties for the Tigers, which is fair (I think we’d all take him right now), but it’s not fair to blame his absence on a trade that took place five offseasons ago.

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First of all, both Santiago and Infante have signed two free agent contracts before this season, so there’s was no guaranteeing that either would stick around long-term. Even if you don’t trade a player, you can’t prevent him from looking around for a full-time job elsewhere around the league.

Secondly, and more importantly, I don’t completely buy his argument that Infante has outperformed Santiago since leaving Detroit. Sure, now we know that Santiago has struggled at the plate this year, and Infante is having one of his best years (hindsight is always 20-20), but did we know that would happen heading into 2012? If both were on the roster heading into this season, would we (should we) have picked Infante to man the second base position instead of Santiago. Let’s leave aside the idea that Raburn was slated to play there, and the fact that Jim Leyland “doesn’t think Santiago is an everyday player” and just look at what each player had produced.

Infante PA aWAR* WAR/600 PA
2008 348 1.4 2.4
2009 229 1.0 2.6
2010 506 2.8 3.3
2011 640 2.5 2.3
Total 1723 7.7 2.66

Santiago

PA

aWAR*

WAR/600 PA
2008 156 1.0 3.8
2009 296 0.3 0.5
2010 367 2.3 3.7
2011 294 1.5 3.1
Total 1113 5.0 2.70

*aWAR is the average season WAR of the versions put out by FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. Not shown is that Santiago earned $4 million over these years while Infante earned $7.98 million.

Infante has accumulated more value (WAR) than Santiago, but that’s because he’s been in a different situation with more playing time available. If we look at what each player has done per plate appearance (or per 600 PA’s) we see that there’s really no difference between the two. Infante has been better with the bat, and Santiago has been better with the glove, but heading into this season, there’s really no reason to say that keeping Infante would have helped the team any more.

Really, when we look at the numbers this way, the entire difference between the two players is a hot April and May for Infante, and a cold April and May for Santiago. Was Dombrowski really an idiot for not looking into his five-year crystal ball and seeing that this would be the case in 2012?

Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.