Feb 14, 2014; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski watches during the Tiger
Sometimes Miguel Cabrera strikes out with the bases loaded.
But he eventually gets another rip at it.
The same opportunity extends itself to the Detroit Tigers’ general manager, Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski is widely acknowledged as one of baseball’s finest general managers. He has a World Series title on his resume (Florida Marlins, 1997), and since joining the Detroit Tigers in 2002 has orchestrated the comings and goings of players who have vaulted the franchise into contention on an annual basis.
A sterling record, indeed, and as Casey Stengel used to say, “you could look it up.”
But every thoroughbred catches a pebble in the hoof on occasion, and “Daring Dave” is no exception.
Let’s evaluate Dombrowski’s three biggest trades since the end of the 2013 season, and whether he hit or missed with each transaction.
This transaction was largely characterized as an unforced error at the time, and nothing that has transpired since suggests otherwise.
The principal talent in the trade, Fister, was coming off two and a half solid seasons as a Tiger. Fister was acquired in 2011, along with reliever David Pauley from the Seattle Mariners for outfielder Casper Wells, lefty reliever Charlie Furbush, righty reliever Chance Ruffin, and third baseman Francisco Martinez.
The tall right hander quickly established himself as a stalwart in the Tiger rotation., and his career totals as as a Tiger were sterling.
Although Furbush has become a valued member of the Seattle relief corps, Dombrowski clearly “won” the trade, though Pauley quickly washed out.
Which led to the offseason trade of Fister, in which Dombrowski taketh away from Tiger fans what he had originally giveth.
This will probably go down as Dombrowski’s most inexplicable trade of his tenure, and for good reason.
With two years of club control and a reasonable salary, Fister was a valuable commodity. Though pitching out of the number four slot in the Tigers’ stacked rotation in 2013, he met both the “eye test” and the sabermetrician’s measure of a solid number three rotation guy, if not a two.
Checked the market lately?
Those guys are both hard to find and expensive.
Yet Dombrowski jumped at the National’s package of young left handers Ray and Krol, and utility man Lombardozzi.
Ray has had an up and down year, mostly spent at Triple A Toledo.
He also made three starts for the Tigers earlier in the year, but was returned to the minors for further refinement. The process continues.
To make the Fister deal work, Ray has to develop as a “can’t miss” number two or three starter. Though he’s only 22, he’s clearly been a disappointment to the organization this year.
He has youth on his side, but remains as much a prospect now as he was at the time of the trade.
Likewise, Krol has been underwhelming. He’s had trouble retiring righties, and lately has been getting banged up from every angle.
He was sent to Toledo on Thursday in the wake of the Price trade. Again, not a propitious development for a reliever supposed to nail down a key spot in the bullpen.
Clearly not what the club was seeking.
Lombardozzi, the utility guy throw-in in the deal, never made it out of spring training, having been dealt to Baltimore in the ill-fated Alex Gonzales deal.
Assessment of the deal?
One big swing and miss.
Last week’s acquisition of reliever Joakim Soria from Texas excited most Tiger fans.
I was not among them.
Knebel was the second member of the 2013 draft class to dent the big leagues and possesses gnarly stuff. In another year or so he could be well on his way to a strong major league career.
Likewise Thompson has arrived on the scene with considerable promise, and projects as a durable mid-rotation starter down the road.
If the accomplished Soria stabilizes the Tiger pen and the team wins the World Series this year or next, the trade will have borne fruit.
Whether or not that happens, though, the Tigers’ chances of being a perennial contender throughout the next decade have taken a serious hit with the loss of Knebel and Thompson.
Which brings us to yesterday’s trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price.
Though not without its risks,this was vintage Dombrowski and should serve the team well this year and next.
It obviously gets even better if Price signs with the Tigers for the long term, essentially replacing Max Scherzer, who spurned the Tigers’ contract extension offer in the spring.
With the loss of Austin Jackson, there’ll be moments when Rajai Davis‘s lack of defensive instincts in center field will be painful. But Ezequiel Carrera, called up yesterday from Toledo, reportedly plays solid “D”, which should soften the impact of Austin Jackson‘s departure.
Offensively, the combination of Davis and Carrera should largely replace the contributions of the streaky Jackson, particularly with the speed each possesses.
As for Smyly, he’ll also be missed. Promising lefties with “team controllable” years are hard to find, and he’ll fit comfortably into the Rays’ business model.
But Smyly’s ceiling appears to be modest, and you have to give to get-so today he’s a former Tiger.
The key to the deal in the long-term may well be the little known Willy Adames, the 18 year-old shortstop who has turned heads at low A West Michigan. Tampa Bay was wise to include him in the deal.
The Bottom Line
Aside from the curious Fister deal, the Tigers crafted two late July trades with one solitary thought in mind.
A significant portion of the Tigers’ future has been shipped elsewhere to accomplish the task.
Is it enough?
Along with Daring Dave Dombrowski , we’re about to find out.