Dave Cameron of FanGraphs sorted through all of the transactions around baseball this past offseason and came up with what were, in his opinion, the ten worst moves for the team who made them. Topping the list was the Detroit Tigers trading Doug Fister for Robbie Ray, Ian Krol, and Steve Lombardozzi.
1. Everyone is wrong about Robbie Ray. The Tigers actually just acquired one of the best young left-handed pitching prospects in the game, the kind of guy who could step into their rotation in 2015 and provide years of quality innings before he ever makes any kind of real money.
2. Dave Dombrowski screwed up. Because if Robbie Ray isn’t a quality, high-end pitching prospect, the Tigers sold a pitcher as good or better than Masahiro Tanaka, who will make less than $20 million over the next two years, for the kind of return that a team should expect when trading a decent role player.
Cameron concedes that this deal could very well work out in the end if Robbie Ray turns into a useful big league starter, but I think the main point here is that the Tigers didn’t get enough in return to more or less guarantee a positive future return.
And this is especially true when we consider the types of returns other teams have received for similarly valuable pitchers (James Shields and Matt Garza), or what type of contract Fister would have commanded if he were available on the free agent market. Not many fans of the Tigers seem to love this move either.
But just to make sure we don’t start screaming that “National Writer X is biased against my favorite team” – always a silly argument – Cameron did love one move the Tigers made when he analyzed the Top 10 offseason moves. Getting out from Prince Fielder’s contract was his #3 move of the offseason.
There’s a pretty good case to be made that Kinsler is likely to be more valuable over the next four years than Fielder is, and the Tigers managed to drop $70 million in committed salary while getting a player that isn’t a demonstrable downgrade, and allows them to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base.
These two moves are similar in that they’re mostly moves for 2016 and beyond. Hopefully they’ll both work out so the team has young talent and financial flexibility down the road. And hopefully neither move ends up preventing them from making another deep run in the postseason.