Now that the Big Deal is all but official, the Tigers are going to be faced with a slew of questions as to what their next course of action will be. There is an impending roster crunch as two player will have to be removed from the 40-man to get under the limit. The Tigers are said to still be in the market for a veteran reliever, as well.
As for the trade, I ran through a brief analysis yesterday, but I wanted to mention one more thing. Yes, this trade was made with cost-cutting in mind. But no, it was not made because it had to be.
Dave Dombrowski, Jim Leyland, and everyone involved with the Tigers have been telling everyone that this is not a fire sale and I believe them. Yes, they did pare close to $10 million off of next seasons payroll, but the players they traded are mid-level as far as salary is concerned. Edwin Jackson is due a nice raise from the $2.7 million he made in 2009, but he should come in at around $5 million next year. Curtis Granderson is due to make $5.5 million in 2010. The players Detroit brought back are all at or very near the major league minimum, so the value here is high for Detroit. But these aren’t players that are three years away from helping the Tigers, they can help right now.
In addition to the trade, Dombrowski also inked catcher Robinzon Diaz. Diaz spent last season with the Pirates and Detroit was rumored to be pursuing him this past July. Diaz will give the Tigers four catchers with big league service time, and word is that Dusty Ryan is now available via trade. If a deal isn’t reached quickly, Ryan could be DFA’d to make room on the roster for one of the players brought in.
Another option would be to trade Gerald Laird. The Tigers love Laird’s defense, but with Alex Avila seemingly ready to take on a larger role behind the plate, perhaps Laird’s $3 million or so in salary could be better used elsewhere.
Then there are the LOOGYs. Detroit will have five left handed reliever once this trade goes official. Fu-Te Ni and Bobby Seay are the incumbents, with Brad Thomas, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth recently added. Schlereth will likely start the year in the minors but Dombrowski has said that Thomas is expected to be a part of the big club. Coke and Ni have proven their effectiveness enough that you would expect them to be big leaguers as well. Does that make Bobby Seay expendable? My gut feeling is that Seay will be gone soon, as he is arbitration eligible and while he has performed beautifully for the Tigers over the past few years, Coke and Ni can do his job at a fraction of the cost. He will be just one more domino to fall in the wake of this trade.
The thing to remember as a fan is that neither Justin Verlander nor Miguel Cabrera are being shopped, no matter what overzealous writer would like to think. Rumors of Cabrera’s departure have been grossly overstated while Veralnder’s name hasn’t even really been mentioned. If you were having a fire sale, you would probably deal your most sought after commodities. Those two aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So while the Big Deal is somewhat about the money, its more about maximizing on an opportunity to get younger and better. For Edwin Jackson, a pitcher with one good half season in his career, a pitcher who came crashing back to Earth after his rise to all-star status, the Tigers got Max Scherzer, who is better and cheaper right now, and has more upside.
They turned Granderson, who has regressed as a hitter no matter how much we all love him, into two cost-controlled left handers, both with great arms, and a centerfielder that is five years younger than Grandy with the potential for the greatness Granderson wasn’t quite able to reach in Detroit.
This trade not only makes fiscal sense, it makes baseball sense, too. And that’s why the decision was made to deal away the players they did. Yes, the move saves the team money in 2010 and beyond, but this isn’t a fire sale. The moves that follow, and there will be many, will help to transform an aging roster into a younger one. The high-priced veteran talent on this team will likely remain intact, augmented by the youth of Austin Jackson, Scott Sizemore, Avila, and Scherzer.
Remember folks, almost $60 million in salary comes off the books following this season. And the Tigers will have a roster full of talented, young players to build around for 2011.