Detroit Tigers: Time for Dave Dombrowski to Pull His Usual Trade Deadline Magic

With the news that the Detroit Tigers are in fact not going to be sellers, its once again time for general manager Dave Dombrowski to pull is standard trade deadline magic.

The Tigers need the help, and thankfully, Dombrowski is adept at providing it.

Dombrowski has a long history of winning trades. He fleeced the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, turned Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson into Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke as well as acquiring Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Wilson (plus a prospect) for Rick Porcello.

While those trades are wonderfully lopsided (at least in the Tigers’ favor), some of the Tigers GM’s best work has come at the trade deadline. He convinced the Mariners into parting with Doug Fister essentially for a singular reliever while acquiring Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for what has amounted to a couple of A-ball pitchers.

However, the most impressive trade on Dombrowski’s resume may have been dealing for David Price. The Tigers dealt Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly and Willy Adames (a top shortstop prospect, but not one that was going to unseat Jose Iglesias as the team’s long-term starter) in order to acquire their current ace.

It’s time for Dombrowski to work that same magic.

There’s probably skepticism in the Tigers adding at the trade deadline. If you made a dollar for every time someone lambasted Detroit’s “lack of a farm system,” you’d have more cash than Bill Gates. Still, Dombrowski acquired Price without surrendering a hoard of top prospects, and did the same with both Fister and Sanchez.

It would not be surprising to see Dombrowski dip into the Tigers’ farm system and deal for talent. The reality is that Detroit’s system isn’t nearly as bad as people think. Two of the team’s top prospects last year (Detroit was again critiqued for having a bad farm system), now rank as two of Baseball America’s top 50 prospects in. Both were traded at the deadline, but it just goes to show that the prospects in the Tigers’ system may get a bad rap.

Additionally, the system has produced notable, young big leaguers such as Devon Travis, Smyly, Avisail Garcia, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Castellanos and James McCann.

Travis is hitting .302 in his rookie year in Toronto. Smyly has been injured a good deal since heading to Tampa Bay, but owns a stellar 1.96 ERA as a member of the Rays. Like Travis, Suarez has been a force at the plate for his new team, hitting .315 with five home runs and 18 RBI in only 35 games. Garcia is a cornerstone player for the White Sox, while Castellanos is finally showing signs of being the hitter the Tigers envisioned when they drafted him. McCann has quickly established himself as one of the premier young backstops in the league, making Alex Avila and his comparatively massive salary expandable.

If anything, the trade for Price, with Adames and Smyly going the other way, has proven that Detroit’s system is underrated. While it is unlikely that consensus top prospect Steven Moya is moved, the team has a glut of minor league catchers and relievers that may interest teams. The Tigers are set behind the plate with McCann and have Bryan Holaday in Triple-A. They could deal Avila, or top catching prospects Grayson Grenier, Shane Zeile or Arvicent Perez. Infield prospect Javier Betancourt (Adames’ former double-play partner) could also be dealt in the right trade given not only Iglesias and Ian Kinsler’s presences, but also the presence of two-way infield prospect Dixon Machado.

Regardless of who is traded, it’s time for Dombrowski to slightly rejig the team in an attempt to claim the World Series. The Tigers have the offense to succeed in October, and can look to their division-rival Royals as an example of a team that (last year) made a second-half run all the way to Game Seven.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Players the Detroit Tigers Could Move at the Trade Deadline

Even with all the evidence pointing towards selling, the Detroit Tigers will more than likely be a buyer at the upcoming trade deadline. Most of the reasoning behind selling has to do not only with the team’s .500 record, but also the lack of a supposed farm system.

Look, Detroit’s system isn’t the best in the league, but it may get a bad rap. Two former Tigers prospects are ranked in Baseball America’s top 50 mid-season prospects, while the system has produced other talent in recent years such as Devon Travis, Drew Smyly, Avisail Garcia, Nick Castellanos, James McCann, Eugenio Suarez and Bruce Rondon. Detroit also has two exciting outfield prospects in prolific slugger Steven Moya (prolific is probably an understatement. Dude’s got power like you wouldn’t believe) and speed demon Derek Hill.

Detroit’s system may not be the greatest, but don’t underestimate it. Dave Dombrowski has pulled off some stellar trades for the team before, dealing prospects from a supposed “awful system” for impact players.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the players Dombrowski and the Tigers could deal in order to improve the team at the trade deadline.

Angel Nesbitt

The Tigers don’t have a ton of relievers who are close to major-league ready, so dealing one of the few away could be problematic. Still, if the right trade comes along, Dombrowski and company shouldn’t think twice.

The young reliever’s best pitch is his heater, and that will likely be his calling card in the big leagues. Teams with more pitcher-friendly parks could find him especially useful given that he isn’t a finished product and would have more room for error as he develops.

If Neftali Feliz’ signing has taught us anything it’s that quality relievers go on the market all the time, and if the Tigers feel they need depth in Triple-A, there’s always the waiver wire.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Javier Betancourt

Who is Javier Betancourt you ask? Betancourt is (according to MLB.com) the Tigers’ eighth best prospect and plays both middle infield positions. He’s estimated to arrive in the big-leagues in 2017. He has two-way potential, and may be Ian Kinsler’s long-term replacement, but the Tigers have already dealt one second baseman (Travis), so the team may not have found Kinsler’s heir-apparent yet.

Plus-plus defender/ middle infielder Dixon Machado is only three years older and was an All-Star in Triple-A this year thanks to a .272 batting average, 19 extra-base hits, 12 steals and 36 RBI. He was recently called up to the Tigers’ roster and may be better suited in Andrew Romine’s super-utility role until Detroit is ready to move on from Kinsler.

MLB.com calls Betancourt “an above average defender” at second base and is “an advanced offensive player for his age”. If you remember, the “advanced for his age” tag was one given to Betancourt’s former double-play partner (and centerpiece of the David Price trade) Willy Adames. If Betancourt is comparable to Adames (a top 50 prospect), Detroit should sell high in search of starting pitching help.

Grayson Greiner

Catching prospect Grayson Greiner is another prospect at a position of surplus who the Tigers could move. While he’s struggled in the minors, he remains the top catching prospect in the Tigers system. MLB.com ranks him ahead of minor leaguers standouts like Betancourt and Machado and Tigers’ Futures Game representative Joe Jimenez.

Detroit already has James McCann and Alex Avila behind the dish, as well as Bryan Holaday in Triple-A. Catcher is one position (like middle infield) where the Tigers have depth to play with. Given Greiner’s upside and age, he could entice a rebuilding team in a swap, or be packaged along with someone like Betancourt in a larger deal.

Marc Krauss

The Tigers just acquired him, and while he did well to homer in his first game for Detroit, he’ only has one hit since. Hitting .111 in Motown. Platoon mate Jefry Marte has shown better (albeit in limited playing time) and strikes out less often than the swing happy Krauss. Marte also provides manager Brad Ausmus with more defensive flexibility as the rookie can play both first and third base

Krauss won’t bring much in return, but he’d be one of the first hitters jettisoned if a different alternative to Miguel Cabrera is found.

Alex Avila

This one will be tough to swallow. Not only is Avila one of the longest tenured Tigers, but his dad works in the front office. However, McCann is the Tigers’ future behind the dish and is outperforming Avila on a number of levels this season. McCann rates out much better defensively and has trumped Avila offensively. McCann’s batting average and OPS are both nearly 100 points higher than Avila’s number. Additionally, McCann has scored the same number of runs as Avila has hits. Dealing an impending free agent like Avila to a team in search of help behind the plate (like Seattle) for pitching would make sense.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Success with Roster Turnover the Reason Team’s Championship Window isn’t Closing

Since the Detroit Tigers started their run of success, they’ve everyone will tell you some combination of these next seven statements about the Detroit Tigers.

  1. Their bullpen is dreadful.
  2. Their defense is bad too.
  3. They’re not built for the future.
  4. They’re top heavy.
  5. They spend money at a rate that isn’t sustainable.
  6. Their farm system is “barren”.
  7. They have no minor-league depth.
  8. The window is closing.

The first two statements are indicative of the team’s shortcomings over the past few years, but this season they are vastly improved. Detroit has solid a bridge to closer Joakim Soria consisting of Tom Gorzelanny, Joba Chamberlain and Alex Wilson. Additionally, Angel Nesbitt, who has pitched well as a rookie along with fellow youngster/flamethrower Bruce Rondon (once he returns from injury) will be vital bullpen cogs moving forward. Throw in rebound candidate Al Alburquerque (10.29 ERA at present, career 2.82 ERA entering the season) and you have a solid bullpen.

In terms of the defense, the additions of Anthony Gose and Yoenis Cespedes, coupled with the subtraction of Torii Hunter, the return of Jose Iglesias and the improvement of Nick Castellanos have left the Tigers with a strong defensive unit.

What’s significant about almost all of the aforementioned players is that general manager Dave Dombrowski brought them in an attempt to shore up the bullpen and defense. That’s been the Tigers model since their magical World Series run in 2006, reload and reshape.

The Tigers have gone from a team with a powerful lineup with no real weakness (2006) to one with the best rotation in baseball (2013), to this year’s team which excels at defense while still bringing the pop offensively.

They’ve been dependent on one major offseason acquisition/bat (Magglio Ordonez) before turning to another player brought in from outside the organization to lead the team (Miguel Cabrera).

They’ve also moved from one ace (Kenny Rogers) to another (Justin Verlander) before repeating the process again (Max Scherzer to David Price).

They’ve achieved all this with a perceived “weak” farm system. But regardless of prospects, the Tigers have continued to sustain success. They won their fourth straight AL Central title last season and are tied with the New York Mets for the best record in baseball over the course of the young season.

All good things have to come to an end, but Detroit’s window won’t be closing any time soon because of their ability to sustain success. They rarely deploy homegrown prospects, instead deciding to flip them into better, more established players. For as much as certain mainstream pundits like to go after the Tigers system, the belief is clearly not shared throughout the rest of the league. If it was, then the Tigers wouldn’t have been able to pull off trades for the likes of Price, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister. Throw in players like Devon Travis and Drew Smyly excelling elsewhere and the Tigers “system” doesn’t look quite as bad other writers make it out to be.

This continual roster reshaping/reloading has firmly jammed Detroit’s championship window open. They’ve continually dealt for top talent while bringing in replacements of equal value when that talent grows old, ineffective or too expensive.

Dombrowski turned Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, both of whom were All-Stars in Detroit and the on the verge of massive contracts, into Scherzer and Austin Jackson. Scherzer would go on to win a Cy Young award in Detroit while establishing himself as one of baseball’s best. Jackson, on the other hand, provided stellar defense in centerfield before growing too pricey relative to his production. He was one of the key pieces in the Price trade.

Rick Porcello was also shipped out before he grew too expensive, he brought back Wilson as well as Yoenis Cespedes, who has provided good defense while hitting .310 and driving in the same number of runs as Cabrera (17).

All in all, the Tigers aren’t as fiscally irresponsible as you might think.

The Tigers are rarely on the side of the deal that yields prospects for one player thanks to a history of trading prospects. Recent acquisitions Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene have joined a lit that also includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jhonny Peralta, Jose Iglesias, Delmon Young and Soria. The most significant player traded in all of those deals? Avisail Garcia, who hit .244 for the White Sox last year.

Detroit has continued to tinker with their team while not being afraid to cut their losses if an experiment fails. Furthermore, the team isn’t afraid to make bold/unpopular moves to further success.

Jeff Baker was acquired by Detroit in August 2012 for the stretch run, but due to ineffectiveness, was traded before the month was out. The Tigers ate money to move on from Prince Fielder despite their being seven years left on his contract. Robbie Ray, the still-developing centerpiece of the Doug Fister debacle was moved in a three-team trade to bring in Greene.

Bringing in Greene and Simon to replace Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello is certainly bold, as is dealing fan-favorite Granderson and replacing him with an unproven Jackson. Even bolder is the decision to deal nearly every prospect of note in the system (at the time) for Cabrera.

However, the moves seem to have paid off. Scherzer was essentially replaced in kind by Price, so swapping out the now over-paid Porcello and Drew Smyly for the comparatively cheaper duo of Simon and Greene is a win considering how well Simon is pitching this year and the potential Greene has shown. If Cabrera continues his current career trajectory he’ll be discussed in the same discussion as Hank Aaron… so that trade worked.

The team will do whatever it takes to win, and continue winning. They mortgage their future by swapping out prospects for veterans. However, when that future comes, they simply trade excess players and more prospects for new parts in order to maintain success.

Pundits will tell you that the Tigers will decline and be a very bad team soon, but they’ve been saying that for a while now. The Detroit Tigers have perfected their model and stayed competitive for nearly the last decade. Who’s to say it won’t happen for another decade?

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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

The Three-Team Jake Peavy Trade Revisited

Maybe you thought the Matt Garza trade was the biggest of the season. Maybe you thought it was one of the numerous big-name relievers changing teams that took the prize. Nope. This crown, for now, belongs to the Jose Iglesias/Avisail Garcia/Peavy trade that found the Tigers dealing with the Sox drawer.

The gist of it is this: the Tigers got a shortstop to fill in for Jhonny Peralta in the short term, as well as potentially the long term, Iglesias. The Red Sox found an upgrade to their rotation that they feel comfortable throwing out (pun intended) every fifth day. The White Sox also got a lot of prospects, something struggling teams need because, if you haven’t noticed, Chicago has tanked. They are by far the worst team in the division going forward. Put it this way, they’ve watched usual stinkers Cleveland and Kansas City leapfrog them while they have slowly sunk into the pit that is the basement.

This isn’t a Chicago bashing piece though. If it was, I’d just say look at the depth chart and ta-da, behold the issues. Outside of Chris Sale and some unproven youngsters, the future is bleak-ish. No, this is about the aforementioned trade involving both shades of Sox and the Tigers.

Initially it looked like a stop-gap trade. As mentioned above, Boston got a starter, the Tigers got a shortstop and the White Sox got prospects. All needs. All filled. Now it seems more than that. Peavy’s years in a White Sox uniform were marred by seasons of .500 records and an ERA in the mid fours. Now in Boston, he has settled in at the back of a talented BoSox rotation. He picked up four wins in an efficient 64.2 innings and was superb in his division series start against Tampa.

Iglesias has come back to earth. No longer is he ripping the cover off the ball with a .400 batting average like he was previously in the season. He’s hit .259 in his time in the Motor City so far, a number that isn’t horrible considering how much he contributes on defense and the fact that shortstop is generally an offense derived position.

When I said, “considering how much he contributes on defense,” I meant plays like this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui8yhI6eYX8

Ridiculous.

It’s a nice change of pace to have a star defensive player on a team comprised of offensive stars.

This trade has propelled both the Tigers and Red Sox to where they are now, in the ALCS. Maybe not directly, but they helped. Who knows where the Tigers would be if a suitable replacement for Jhonny Peralta wasn’t found? Where would Boston be if they had to stick with internal options? Or even worse, acquire a pitcher who flopped in the role and was in the bullpen by mid-August?

These questions will never be answered, but one question that will be answered in the coming weeks is who will the American League Champion be? The Red Sox or the Tigers?

Who do you think the champ will be? Tell me in the comments below.

Torii Hunter’s Impact with the Detroit Tigers

I’ll admit I didn’t see the signing coming; I’m a bit of a homer when it comes to placing trust in Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch and Quintin Berry, so I didn’t want the signing initially. But the more I look at it, the more there is to like.  Yes, Hunter is getting up there in years, but after further digging, he’s still a very good player in this league despite being 37.

Last season, the Tigers were knocked for not having a good defensive team. That criticism was mainly placed on the infield. But in terms of “elite” defenders, the only one the Tigers had who could change a game in the field was Austin Jackson. Infield aside, the corner outfielders were a tad suspect with the glove. Dirks, Boesch, Berry and Avisail Garcia’s collective number of runs saved above average per 1,200 innings (from the folks over at baseball-reference) was -26. Dirks was the only one of the group whose number was a positive one with three runs scored above average. The point here is that the overall defense in the outfield corners could have been better. Enter Hunter, who despite being nearly a decade older than every one of the previous four, saved 16 runs above average per 1,200 innings.

The beauty of the signing is this: yes, Hunter is valued defensively, and maybe he was needed defensively, but he also brings a whole lot to the table offensively. So often teams bring in an outfielder or use an internal option that is a far superior defender, but lacks completely with the bat.  Teams feel they need to upgrade defensively and save runs there and completely mail it in offensively. But this is the beauty of the signing. Hunter upgrades the defense and offense drastically.

The other bonus of having Hunter as well as Jackson in the outfield means Jim Leyland has his pick of outfielders to use strategically on a game-to-game basis, whether that be Berry, Garcia, Boesch or Dirks.

The Tigers won the American League pennant last year. They also won it, when at times the death-row duo of Miguel Cabrera and Fielder looked like the walking dead. But now Victor Martinez will be 100% healthy, and Torii Hunter joins the mix. Death row just got a whole lot deadlier.