Busy Off-Day for Detroit

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The Chicago White Sox found a way to win at home against Kansas City last night.  In the process, they picked up a half game on the idle division leaders from Detroit.  With no scheduled games yesterday for the Tigers, they watched their lead shrink back to two games over Chicago.  In the meantime, the Tigers took care of improving the club this season, and for years to come.

The news started fairly early in the afternoon, just about the time I had decided to step away from the computer for a few hours.  By the time I had checked in, I found that I had missed some pretty big news.  The Tigers finally added the left handed bat they had been seeking for most of the season when they completed a trade with the Baltimore Orioles.

Detroit send minor league right hander Brett Jacobson to Baltimore in exchange for two months of Aubrey Huff.  Huff has played first base this year, also seeing time at designated hitter, in years past however, he has seen extensive time at third base and both corner outfield spots.

Though he has not played in the outfield since 2006, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski referred to Huff as an infielder/outfielder during his conference call to announce the move.  Huff projects as a Type-A free agent after the season, but I would find it doubtful that the Tigers would offer him arbitration, a necessary step to getting compensation draft picks should he sign elsewhere.

For now, no announcement has been made as to the corresponding roster move to clear a spot for Huff.  Dombrowski did state that this move will not involve Magglio Ordonez or Brandon Inge.  Ordonez appears headed toward locking in his $18 million option for next season, and the Tigers don’t appear worried about limiting his at bats to avoid such a scenario.  Inge has been battling a sore knee for the past month, but apparently, no disabled list trip is on the horizon.

Assuming the Tigers don’t make another trade involving a major league player, there are two obvious candidates to leave the roster.  Clete Thomas has been back and forth from Toledo a couple times already this year and could be moved out again.  Thomas does give the Tigers excellent outfield defense, something that would be sorely missed in the late innings.  Even if Huff takes away some at bats from Thomas, I’d hate to see Huff and Ordonez flanking Curtis Granderson with a one run lead.

Ryan Raburn is probably the most likely player to be demoted.  The versatile Raburn has struggled both with the bat and the glove at several points this season.  He has played mostly left field for Detroit, but also has filled in for Inge at third, and Miguel Cabrera at first.  The way it sounds, the Tigers look at Huff as being able to provide depth at all of those same positions.  My guess is that Raburn will take I-75 south to Toledo until September 1, when the rosters expand.

The big news of the day was supposed to be the deadline for signing draft picks.  Entering the day, the Tigers still had failed to sign either of their top two picks, along with shortstop Daniel Fields, a sixth round pick with first round talent.  As the clock crept closer to midnight, there was still no news of any of these players.

Then a flurry of stories began coming out.  First MLB.com’s Jason Beck reported that Fields had signed a “seven figure” deal to lure him away from the University of Michigan.  Fields’ father Bruce, a former Tigers coach and manager of the Toledo Mudhens, had been saying that he wanted Daniel to go to school if he could not secure a large contract and be assured of the possibility of staying at shortstop.  Evidently those requests have been met.

Shortly thereafter, second round pick Andrew Oliver was signed to a near two million dollar bonus.  Oliver is a hard throwing left handed pitcher, but lacks command and his secondary pitches need improvement.  Most have him rated as a potential number three starter.

The biggest name left to sign was that of first round pick Jacob Turner.  Turner is a high school right hander that projects as a future number one starter in the big leagues.  He had been seeking “Rick Porcello money”, and he got it.  Turner signed a major league contract with a total salary of $7.5 million.

All in all, it was successful day for Dave Dombrowski.  The addition of Huff makes the Tigers a better team for this season.  the addition of those three draft picks in particular make the club more formidable in the future.

I especially like the signing of Fields, as the dearth of position players in the Tigers’ system has been evident.  Fields instantly improves that situation, and could push prospect Cale Iorg to either improve or risk being overtaken as the shortstop of the future in Detroit.