The worst trade made by Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers nobody talks about
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.
And the Tigers traded Infante to the Chicago Cubs for veteran outfielder Jacques Jones following the 2007 season. Just in case you need a reminder, Jones hit .165 in 90 plate appearances for the Tigers and by mid-May of the 2008 season was released.
Santiago has done some good things for the Tigers, but his 162-game average season is.247 with six home runs and 39 RBI. His career OPS is .653. Infante's average 162-game season is .277 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI. His career OPS is .719. Oh, and at 30, Infante is two full years younger than Santiago. The two have roughly identical fielding percentages at second base.
It wasn't like Infante was awful for the 2006 Tigers, either. He hit .277 and had a .740 OPS. He had some issues with manager Alan Trammell when he slumped in 2005, but those seemed behind him in 2006 under Jim Leyland. Also, Trammell was the bench coach in Chicago when Santiago played there with no incidents.
Infante was arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2006 season, so his salary was kicked up to $1.3 million from $385,000. But still, Jones was paid $5.3 million that season, most of it by the Tigers, and after he was released (he played briefly for the Marlins later that season, and never again following the 2008 season).
My commentary on the Nick Fairley situation and the Lions is during The Oakland Press News at Noon cast. Check it out: