Detroit Tigers Acquire David Price: How, Why and What it Means for the Tigers and the Pennant Race

Who Was Acquired: The Tigers acquired starting pitcher David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade.

Who They Gave Up: Centerfielder Austin Jackson, starting pitcher Drew Smyly and minor league shortstop Willy Adames.

Who Else Was Involved: The Seattle Mariners, who acquired Jackson while also sending infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay.

What it Means for the Tigers:

Detroit acquired one of the premier starting pitchers in the game, David Price. The cost? Austin Jackson, Willy Adames and Drew Smyly. The price to pay (if you excuse the pun) wasn’t as high as say the pieces Kansas City gave up for James Shields, but it was still high. Jackson is as good of a defensive centerfielder as you’ll find and brings pop and speed to the lineup. Smyly, on the other hand, is a young, controllable and versatile pitcher who has quality numbers in his career out of the ‘pen and in the rotation. Adames is in the lower minors and is a long way away from the Majors.

The Tigers didn’t pay a whole lot for Price. You could arguably say that the Red Sox got a better haul for either Jon Lester or John Lackey. Chicago may have gotten a better deal for Jeff Samardjiza. Detroit can now pencil in some combination of Price, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer for games one through three of the postseason. That’s not even mentioning Rick Porcello, who is finally showing all the potential and promise he had earlier in his career, or Anibal Sanchez who not only was ridiculously dominant against Boston in the playoffs last year, but also led the American League in ERA last season.

This trade was partly made possible due to offseason acquisitions Rajai Davis and JD Martinez. Before their acquisitions the outfield was very clearly Jackson, Torii Hunter and some combination of players filling the third spot. Now with Martinez hitting like a middle-of-the-order bat and occupying the corner outfield spot opposite Hunter, the team can slide Davis to center to fill the void created by Jackson. Davis’ skillset also made it easier to part with Jackson. Last season, Jackson was the lone source of speed in the lineup— something that was exposed in October. Davis can cover ground in the outfield, can steal a multitude of bases (even more than Jackson) and hit for some power. On a minor note, this solves the Andy Dirks issue. When he’s healthy, Dirks will be the fourth outfielder, something that wasn’t clear before, due to all the outfielders and Dirks’ injury.

Price’s acquisition also sets up an all-out war for the American League pennant. With all due respect to Anaheim and Baltimore, the AL champ will be from Michigan (more likely) or the Bay Area. The Tigers and A’s have met in the last two postseasons, with Detroit winning both matchups. Oakland has made big acquisitions as well, bringing in Jon Lester and Jeff Samardjiza. The A’s made these trades to win it all, but also to get by Detroit who have knocked them out of the playoffs the last three times Billy Beane’s team have made it.

The acquisition of Price also gives the Tigers insurance down the road. If Max Scherzer leaves, the Tigers now have Price as cover, if you want to call one of the best pitchers in the game “cover.”

If anything, this trade signifies pitching as king in baseball. The Tigers now employ the last three American League Cy Young winners in the league. If the previous thinking holds, and pitching is king, the Tigers have it in spades. Look out World Series, here comes Detroit.

Tigers’ Dombrowski Keeps Looking Better and Better

Dave Dombrowski is one of the better GMs in the sport of baseball. Maybe the best. His latest trades are a testament to that.

First off, Miguel Cabrera? Remember him? MVP having a ridiculous year? Widely regarded as the best hitter in the known universe?

You know what Dombrowski gave the Marlins for him? Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Burke Badnehop and some minor leaguers. Fun fact, of the players that Florida Miami got from Detroit there are more players currently on the Brewers’ payroll (two) than the Marlins (zero).  So that was a train robbery, not so much of a trade.

The Tigers recently exchanged more players with the Marlins at last year’s trade deadline. Detroit acquired Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for a package of prospects highlighted by starting pitcher Jacob Turner and catcher Rob Brantly. My reaction was extremely skeptical. I thought Turner was much too high of a price to pay for a stop-gap piece (Sanchez). I’ll raise my hand and say I was wrong, because I was. Sanchez has not only resigned with Detroit for the long term, but he has also warranted that contract extension with tremendous pitching. The former Marlin is a Cy Young dark horse and leads the league with a microscopic 2.61 ERA. He was also arguably Detroit’s best pitcher during last year’s World Series run.

There is also the case of Infante. Not only has he solved the massive black hole that was second base, but he has also exceeded expectations with a .325 batting average, further bolstering an already terrifying lineup.

The price that was paid to bring Sanchez and Infante back/ to Detroit was a package including Turner and Brantly. Both are on the Fish’s big league roster and both look to be part of the team’s future. Neither seemed to have that look in Detroit, mostly due to established players ahead of them on the organizational depth chart.

The Tigers continue to make extremely smart trades that make the rest of the league look foolish for not making the deal. Sanchez and Infante join a growing list that includes Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson.

If liked the piece and want to check out more of my work, you can head over to my site dedicated to Seattle Sports, http://www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/.

The Mets Need to Trade RA Dickey NOW

It isn’t often that the reigning Cy Young winner is the subject of trade speculation the offseason after winning the award. But it also isn’t often that the reigning Cy Young winner is 38 years old and is in the midst of so-far unsuccessful contract negotiations.

Welcome to the Mets world.

Normally, a winner of the Cy Young award would be a player that a team, especially a rebuilding one like the Mets, builds around. But, despite being a knuckleballer, it’s tough to build around a 38 year old. Ergo the Mets need to trade him. Continue reading

Silencing the Tigers’ Haters

Much has been made of the Tigers’ “inconsistent” play as of late, as well as the fact that they aren’t in first place in a “weak” division.

This is all irrelevant. Or, unwarranted rather.  The Tigers have, if not the best, then one of the best records in the league since the end of June.

The division is another thing entirely. Yes, the Tigers sit two games out of first place Chicago, but on the year, Detroit has a 7-5 record against the Sox. That’s tied for the most wins the Tigers have against any other club this year. The other two teams the Tigers have seven wins against are Minnesota and Kansas City, which Detroit is a combined 14-6 against. Which brings us to this point, of the 40 games left, twenty six of them are against those teams. Six more of those scheduled games are against the Angels, who Detroit has won three of the four meetings with this year.

So add it all up, and the Tigers, if all goes as it has been going, should end up with the division title. This would in turn remove them from the wildcard-playoff-shtick. Continue reading

The Real Deal or Not So Real: Early Season Contenders and Pretenders

It’s early in the season. Perhaps too early to make assumptions and what not, but here goes anyway.

Every season some teams get off to fast starts, and somewhat slower ones. A fast start could propel you to a successful year (‘06 Tigers) or send you on your way to a horrendous one (‘08 Tigers).

The following teams are off to scathing starts and could very well be contenders…or pretenders:

Candidate Numero Uno- The Texas Rangers

The Rangers are a very deep squad. They feature a rotation that has possibly five front-line starters, when their stuff permits. They also feature two more pitchers who would make most clubs rotations in their bullpen: Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman.

To continue with the pitching, Texas’ ‘pen could be hit or miss (pun completely intended). Joe Nathan could be one of the better signings of the offseason, or one of the worst. If he doesn’t work out, the bullpen could go into a tailspin without a defined closer.

(Side note, the Rangers are 10-2 and Nathan has both losses.)

If you live under a lake or something, you’ll be surprised to know that the Rangers’ pitching rotation isn’t even their “strength”. That “strength” would be the offense. Yes, Texas’ offense is very good. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Mr. Eye Brows himself Nelson Cruz are all guys who could hit .300 with at least 20 bombs. To be fair, David Murphy, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland aren’t terrible either.

So if you haven’t reached the conclusion, the Rangers are CONTENDERS.

 

Candidate Numero Dos- The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp and Andre Etheir going for them. That’s almost it. Clayton Kershaw is the Cy Young winner, and rightfully so. But after that there isn’t a ton to be excited about.  Dee Gordon and James Loney are nice pieces. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are very good rotation options. There are some young, talented arms in the bullpen, but I’m running out of huge positives here.

Yes, the Dodgers are off to a hot start, but they beat up Pittsburgh and San Diego. There, go ahead, let that sink in a little. They crushed teams that they should be crushing, so to speak, which is what you’re supposed to do anyways.

The Dodgers might have shown their true colors against Milwaukee, who might not even get second in the NL Central. The Dodgers lost the first two games and, as I write this during the third game, it doesn’t look amazing.

Overall this might just be a fluke, or the Dodgers simply beat teams they should. Until they can start beating the big boys I’m labeling them PRETENDERS.

 

The Third Candidate is the Montreal Expos Washington Nationals

I write that because the Nationals haven’t been good in DC. Period. But that could change here soon. Right now as it is the Nationals look very good on paper. They have really good youth and talent at most positions in the field. They seem to have a strong bullpen with the likes of Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge and All-Star Tyler Clippard holding down the fort until Drew Storen comes back. Stephen Strasburg leads a rotation that includes, get this, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmerman. Granted Jackson is in town on a one-year deal, but regardless that’s an exciting first four.

Their offense is led by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and a seething Adam LaRoche. That middle of the order is pretty good even without the currently injured Michael Morse and the long-awaited-and-still-waiting-for Bryce Harper.

Sounds pretty scary.

After all this I still think the Nationals are a year away. They will no doubt be playing meaningful games late, and it wouldn’t totally surprise me to see them sneak in. But with Strasburg’s innings cap and Harper’s late arrival… Next year they definitely will be a force. This year, second or third in the division is more likely.  Verdict: PRETENDERS (for now).

 

Saving the Best for Last- The Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are legit. The only possible questions of concern for Detroit entering the season were their infield defense and the back end of the rotation. Those questions aren’t really of concern much anymore. Miguel Cabrera has been turning in pretty good glove work at the hot corner and Prince Fielder isn’t a terrible fielder to begin with (again, pun completely intended). Jhonny Peralta should have won a Gold Glove last year and Brandon Inge is one of the better defensive players in the game wherever you put him.

The back end of the rotation has been quality as well. And when I say quality, I mean to use it as the worst transition known to mankind to get to the fact that Adam Wilk and Drew Smyly have posted quality starts. They have helped fill the short-term void of Doug Fister’s rotation spot as well as the fifth spot in the order.

The only glaring question now is the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde has been shaky this season, but really, anything is shaky compared to his perfect campaign of 2011. He’ll get it together. Other than that the rest of the team is loaded. And with Austin Jackson finally raking at the top of the order, the Tigers will propel themselves to a deep October run. Verdict- (If you haven’t guessed yet) CONTENDERS.

The Good Old What If Game: Felix Hernandez’s Lack of Run Support

Felix Hernandez might be the best pitcher in baseball not to win an MVP and Cy Young in the same season.

For a prime example of his skill look at the 2010 season when he won only 13 games to 12 losses and still won the Cy. But to be fair, Hernandez not only led the league in ERA, but also pitched the most innings, faced the most batters and had the fewest hits per 9 innings pitched of any pitcher in the league.

It should be noted that the Mariners offense was a complete juggernaut, ranked at an un-godly 28th in the league.

(Sarcasm, sarcasm and sarcasm)

But to be honest, ranking 28th is probably juggernaut-like for the Mariners, who have ranked last in the league in offense the past two seasons.

During those seasons, Hernandez won the aforementioned Cy Young and then followed it up with a 14-14 year in which he had an almost identical campaign to the Cy Year, but allowed 19 more runs in one less start.

I was talking with a friend about why Justin Verlander was the best in baseball from a pitching standpoint. I started with his 24 wins mainly because that’s what you see on the stat line. I got a response somewhere along the lines of “that’s talking like a kindergartener.”

That is how far the concept of wins has fallen. And to a degree I agree that winning games isn’t everything, but winning 24 is completely ridiculous. We haven’t seen a ton of twenty winners in the past couple years, and the one that we have seen have been along the lines of 20 or 21. Barely scratching the surface, barely getting across the line.

Wins are on the way out in baseball people’s eyes

But here’s my take on it, if you have 13-17 wins like Felix Hernandez, and then do so much more statistically that it blows people away, then the win total certainly doesn’t bear as much weight.

On the other hand, if you have do have the number of wins like a Verlander, and do everything else, then it’s no contest.

Back to King Felix, let’s not forget that in the past three years, he has not only pitched on a horrendous team (’09 is an outlier), but has received historically, maybe the worst run support ever.

Even in the Mariners best season of those three years (’09), the teeth of their lineup included Russell Branyan (another use of the word “outlier” as Branyan had his best years in Seattle and hasn’t been the same sense – who knew Safeco could do that to a hitter?), Jose Lopez, a struggling Adrian Beltre and a declining Ken Griffey Jr.

Their certainly were other attempts to get the King run support, Milton Bradley was one, Jack Cust another. But the future does look a bit brighter in the Emerald City with youngsters Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero ready to hit their primes in Mariners uniforms.

The point here is that Felix Hernandez was spectacular, even winning a Cy Young without a steady supply of run support. He has established himself as a top-3 pitcher in the entire-freaking-league without it.

Now what if he gets run support?

Can Justin Verlander Repeat?

A Cy Young and an MVP award in the same season is no small feat. You won’t find it on many resumes anywhere. But can it be done again? Surely you would think no, but it’s not as obscene as you might think.

There are a of couple contributing factors to this. One is named Prince Fielder. Of Verlander’s five losses, two were by two runs or less. I’m not saying Prince Fielder will change that, but he will surely help in the run department category.

The big thing though is that the division might have gotten worse. Yes, Kansas City will get better, but everyone from Jacoby Ellsbury and Adam Jones to So Taguchi and Joey Gathright struggle against the reigning MVP.

Minnesota might still be in the same rut they were in last season. Cleveland will contend, but doesn’t seem to figure into the big picture. Same with Chicago, who might have gotten worse by trading off Carlos Quentin among others.

Which brings us to our next point, Carlos Quentin is gone. I’m not going to say that this will drastically impact Verlander’s season, but in one of his many losses (read five with a heavy dose of sarcasm) he lost 8-2 to the White Sox. In that game one certain Quentin went 3 for 5 and drove in three runs while scoring another. Also is the fact that only Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Victor Martinez have hit more homeruns off of the reigning MVP than Quentin. It should be noted that Quentin is now playing on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as Verlander, on a west coast NL team (read San Diego).

(As a quick aside, Dye isn’t in the league, Thome is in a reduced role in Philly and Martinez is with Detroit and out for the year with a torn ACL).

(Another quick aside is that the 8-2 loss was Verlander’s last of the year. And it was in mid-to-early July. Yowza!).

As far as repeats go, back-to-back Cy Young’s certainly isn’t obnoxious. Most of his stiffest competition in the past (see Zack Grienke, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay) have all gone over to the NL. The real challengers that are left are mainly Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester and Jered Weaver. This list can probably be lowered down to three with Hernandez’s exclusion. He is certainly worthy, but is backed by a shaky offense. But you never know. Funnier things have happened. As for the other three, they will be in it. But look for Verlander to come back strong in this year’s Cy Young voting.

The MVP repeat is a little more tricky. Of past AL MVP winners, only Hal Newhouser and Frank Thomas have repeated. Incidentally, Newhouser was a pitcher who pitched for, you guessed it, Detroit. It’s not that small of a club, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks and Joe Morgan have all done it in the Senior Circuit. OK maybe it is a small club, but the point is that it’s tricky. Especially for a pitcher such as Verlander. The only other pitcher to repeat was Newhouser, who was a Tiger. So maybe it could happen again.

The fact of the matter is Justin Verlander and the Tigers are going to be extremely dangerous come playoff time. Heck, they’ll be extremely dangerous in the middle of a cross country road trip in Seattle.

Tigers Sign Prince Fielder (Go ahead Tigers fans, go ballistic!)…..

Also start throwing out your “maybe next year” quotes for M’s and Nationals fans. (Also, incidentally the only two teams that have never been to the World Series.)

The Tigers won 95 games last year and essentially replaced an injured Victor Martinez with Prince Fielder.

Martinez tore his ACL. He’ll be out for a while, an October return would be a plus at this point.

The Tigers replaced him with Fielder. Can you imagine the offensive potential of a lineup of Cabrera and Fielder? And then if and when V-Mart gets healthy… I’ve been bouncing off walls ever since this story broke and am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this just happened.

The V-Mart injury created a dilemma for Detroit. They were still favored to win the Central, but the hole Martinez created was huge. There is probably only a select list of guys you could pick to fill in for him. That list probably includes guys like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Matt Kemp maybe a Joey Votto in there. Guess what? The Tigers just replaced him with one of the guys on the list.

And remember, Victor Martinez is only out for this year. Fielder is supposedly signing a nine-year deal. Cabrera is around for a long time with his contract. Think about that 3-4-5 lineup when everyone is healthy. Think about the pitching that the hitters will be scoring runs for. Think about Verlander’s numbers next year. He had an amazing season last year. Verlander lost games against Boston and LA of Anaheim by a run each. He also had two losses of two runs to Texas and the Yankees. With Fielder in the lineup this season those kind of losses might disappear for the reigning MVP all together. Last year’s Cy Young winner is going to be good with or without Fielder. Think about the rest of the rotation. Think about them pitching in a park that is not friendly to hitters whatsoever. Think about the run support they will get with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Think about the headaches opposing managers will get having to stare down a lineup with maybe the two best hitters in the game.

Don’t think about the money that is involved. Don’t think that they grossly overpaid the Prince. Don’t think that you’re paying Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder millions and millions of dollars to play the same position. Most teams would kill, heck some teams might trade entire minor league affiliates, for these guys. Some teams (cough Seattle Mariners cough) need the hitting to even think about competing.

I would take these three guys over any other 3-4-5 middle of the lineup out there. (This isn’t just a Tigers fan voicing his opinion, most “experts” would probably tell you the same thing.) This group is better than the Angels, better than the Rangers and, gasp, better than those heavily favored and subject to lots of bias, Yankees-Red-Sox-Phillies lineups.

Back to the money, don’t attack the Tigers for giving him a lot of money. Yes, there is a lot of money going around between the Tigers middle of the order. The outfield isn’t obnoxiously overpaid, neither are a lot of the pitchers. The Yankees are paying Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson a lot in the outfield.

Their entire infield is overpaid. Derek Jeter and A-Rod are on the wrong side of thirty. Teixeira is on the hook for a lot. Robinson is the one left out in the infield millionaire row. He’s on the tail-end of a sad sack five-year 44 million dollar deal.  (Notice the heavy sarcasm).

AJ Burnett is one of the best examples of a possibly overpaid player due to his Jekyll and Hyde tendencies on the field. CC Sabathia is probably the one guy who is paid the right amount on the team.

Can anyone say that Daisuke Matsuzaka is paid correctly? How about Bobby Jenks making six million dollars as a non setup role. He isn’t even closing. Let alone setting up the closer. Philadelphia is giving Joe Blanton eight million dollars as a potential swing man.

Don’t fuss about the money. Fuss if you’re a Cleveland Indians fan. Or a White Sox fan. You just lost the division by 15 games last year to Detroit. (That was the Indians, Chitown was worse.) The Indians were making a fuss of choosing over Casey Kotchman or the-now-off-the-market Carlos Pena. And now the team you lost the division to by 15 games (holy schnikies) just signed Prince Fielder. (Again, holy schnikies).

Holy Schnikies. Theme of the day. Holy Schnikies. Get ready for one hell of an offensive year for Jimmy Leyland’s Tigers club.

(Watch out when V-Mart gets back!)

Holy Schnikies!

What Victor Martinez’s Injury Means for the Tigers

Victor Martinez tore his ACL. He might end up missing the entire season if not most of it.

This means a lot of things. One is that the Tigers will lose their 5 hole hitter and prime protector of Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. Because of that it also weakens the Tigers’ batting order to a degree.

Believe me, the loss or potential loss of a hitter of his caliber for a couple weeks, let alone an entire season, is hard to fathom.

It feels a bit like the game towards the end of July in 2010 when Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen were both injured in one game against the Toronto Blue Jays that somewhat dashed the Tigers playoff potential and chances.

But on the flipside, it’s not particularly the same. At that point the only other middle of the order protection Detroit had was Johnny Damon, a struggling Brennan Boesch and Jeff Larish.

Now it’s a little different. Delmon Young was a monster in the playoffs. Boesch is back from injury. Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila have both come into their own as top run producers at their positions. Plus Brandon Inge had a resurgent playoffs.

The lineup is certainly much better, as is the pitching seeing as Justin Verlander won the Cy Young and the MVP. Doug Fister went bonkers down the stretch. Throw in Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and the possibility of super prospect Jacob Turner in the rotation, and thinks aren’t as bad as they appear.

Before the Martinez injury, Boesch was probably the number 2 hitter with Young third, Cabrera hitting cleanup and Martinez behind him. After V-Mart there was going to be some combination of Peralta and Avila in the 6 and 7 spots. Following them was probably the second baseman (TBD) with Inge hitting 9th.

The question that will likely come to mind is how can the Tigers can repeat in the AL Central  or contend in the AL without V-Mart? Supposedly their chances are “worse” or the future is “murkier” or whatever term does it for you. Frankly, the chances are a bit worse without their starting DH, but they will contend in the Central and contend for a World Series as well.

Think about the other teams in the Central:

Kansas City is probably another year and a piece or two from really competing. Cleveland might not have the goods to do contend for the first half of the season and could fall into the Buffalo Bills of the Majors in a competing-for-the-first-half-and-then-flopping sense. Chicago has a new manager and is fresh off of trading one of their best hitters (Carlos Quentin) as well as two key pieces of their bullpen (Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor). They also lost long-time ace Mark Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen to the newly named Miami Marlins. Minnesota is the last team in the conference. That probably comes from a talent perspective as well (take that back, they’re tied with the Indians for least talent in the division — go on and start celebrating Royals fans). But come on, Minnesota? Ron Gardenhire’s teams never go down without a fight, but this might be another year in which we see a “fight”. Joe Mauer is presumably without a position. Justin Morneau is one of the few other constants. He and new additions Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham are the only sure things. The Minnesota starting pitchers are going to get you a lot of double digit wins per pitcher, but also double digit losses per pitcher, with the latter out weighing the former. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all go 10 and 15 on the year.

So what I’m trying to say is that Detroit will contend in the AL Central and for a World Series title.

Another small positive to come out of this is the available free agent DH options. There are quite a few. Former Tigers Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon and Carlos Pena could all be fits. One potential fit could be Prince Fielder. I know this is a bit farfetched and a long shot at best, but what if Prince takes a one year deal in Detroit? I’ll leave the monetary value to the agents and GMs, but what about Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hitting three and four? And this isn’t any biased opinion whatsoever, but wouldn’t those two, the rest of the supporting cast and a Verlander-led pitching staff elevate the Tigers to the top of the AL? Or baseball in general?

I’m probably getting ahead of myself and Prince Fielder will probably sign with the Nationals, Toronto or Texas, but wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

One other parallel to think about, last year’s St. Louis Cardinals. I know this has come up numerous times on different sites, blogs and things of the like. But the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to season-ending surgery in spring training and went on to win the World Series.

Think what you will about the injury to Victor Martinez, the Tigers are going to be relevant in Major League Baseball. Get used to it.