Acquiring a player to strengthen your team is one thing, but when you weaken a rival in the process it’s a different kind of plus. On the other hand, if a rival team moved on from a player and you bring that player in from a different team, all it does is show your rivals what could have been—all the while making your team better.
Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers are exceptionally good at this.
Maybe the team’s brass thinks a player with extensive experience within the division will be a boost in terms of helping the Tigers win. Or maybe it’s just a huge coincidence, but Detroit has become a landing spot for former-division rivals.
An ever-present checklist item during Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit, at least after he acquired Miguel Cabrera, has been to surround the former Marlin with sufficient protection and fire power. Cabrera has generally had an elite hitter placed near him in the middle of the order. Magglio Ordonez (who was acquired from a rival team, Chicago) was the first while the likes of Victor Martinez (another former rival) and Prince Fielder have followed. Because of the middle-of-the-order stability, Dombrowski has combed the market in search of hitters to fill out the rest of the order—or, in other terms, to add more fire power and length. Jhonny Peralta was one of those hitters, Delmon Young was another and Torii Hunter was another still. The underlying theme with all three is that they had experience in the AL Central. And in the case of Peralta and Young, both were directly acquired from rivals.
In Hunter’s case, as in Martinez’, the player was acquired after a stint away from the AL Central. The former Twin, Hunter, was signed via free agency after a stint in Anaheim while Martinez made a stop in Boston before also heading to Motown in free agency.
It isn’t just hitters; the Tigers have picked up relievers with extensive AL Central experience. Three of Brad Ausmus top options out the bullpen, Joakim Soria, Blaine Hardy and closer Joe Nathan, have been employed by rival teams. Soria and Hardy (although he never made the Major League roster) are former Royals while Joe Nathan made his name as Minnesota’s closer.
It may be coincidental, or purposeful, but the Tigers have a knack for acquiring rival team’s talent. Who needs advanced scouting when you can scout a player by seeing them play against your team 15-20 times a year?