End of Max Scherzer era and other fallout from Detroit Tigers trades

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You know by now that the Detroit Tigers made two trades on the final day of the MLB Winter Meetings on Thursday.

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Rick Porcello was sent to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes. This move had been rumored for a number of weeks and was made reality when Boston threw in some other parts: RHP Alex Wilson and 19-year old LHP Gabe Speier.

An hour or so later the Tigers replaced Porcello with Alfredo Simon, sending Eugenio Suarez and minor leaguer Jonathan Crawford to the Cincinnati Reds.

So what’s does this mean for the Tigers?

First off, it likely signals the end of the Max Scherzer era in Detroit — or DOES IT?!?! Tigers fans are likely getting tired of the eternal question of is he gone or is there a chance he might be back. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted shortly after the two deals were announced that Tigers are no longer pursing Scherzer, paraphrasing Dave Dombrowski. But what did DD actually say?

"“Our situation with him has not changed whatsoever. Again, I’m not sure how many times we have to talk about this situation, but it keeps coming up. We love Max. He did a great job for us. We tried to sign him last spring. We really made an effort in that regard. I guess anything can happen, but we’re not in active pursuit of that situation at this time. We’re happy with our starting pitchers.”"

And there it is. In typical Dombrowski speak, “anything can happen.” I think it is a safe bet, however, that Max is gone. The Tigers don’t want to pay the $200 million that he wants nor should they. If he is unsigned near the end of February or later (as sometimes happens when a Scott Boras client asks for the moon and stars) perhaps it will be revisited.

That is not to say that Simon will be guaranteed a rotation spot. The Tigers were figuring on having one of their minor league spot starters from 2014 take the fifth spot if no moves were made and Scherzer left. That could still happen and Simon will go to the ‘pen since he has done both during his career.

Simon was an All-Star last year for the Reds and seemed to follow a very similar pattern to that of Porcello–a very solid start to the year and then a dumpster fire down the stretch. Perhaps playing in a bigger park will help Simon, who finished with 15 wins, a 3.44 ERA and 1.207 WHIP for a team that never contended last year.

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  • Shipped out was Suarez. The shortstop broke in big with the Tigers last June, hitting homers in his first few games, but the offense tapered off and his defensive skills were lackluster. Ideally I would have liked to see them get more for young Suarez but it is what it is. He wasn’t even on the radar before having a good Spring Training last year and was supplanted by Andrew Romine at shortstop in the second half, so take that for what it’s worth. Suarez was expendable with the imminent return of Jose Iglesias.

    Crawford was the 11th ranked Tigers’ prospect and was fairly inconsistent in his two years in the Detroit organization.

    Now on to the Cespedes move. Fans seem split on whether Cespedes is a good player or just average. I have always coveted Cespedes. Dombrowski mentioned today that their pursuit of him when coming out of Cuba in 2012 was only derailed by the Prince Fielder signing. Cespedes swings at a lot, but he has power–usually the definition of a power hitter. Perhaps more importantly for this team, he plays sparkling defense and runs well. These are two building blocks that Detroit has stressed when making moves over the past couple off-seasons.

    He will play in left, which shifts J.D. Martinez to right field and allows a platoon in center of Anthony Gose and Rajai Davis.

    The Tigers get a very solid add-on with Wilson, who will likely make the Opening Day roster as a reliever. He was very solid in a limited role last year with Boston, posting a 1.91 ERA with a 0.882 WHIP over 28 innings. Speier is an exciting young minor leaguer but no one really knows what kind of player he will be. Speier is interesting because he is the throw-in piece usually the Tigers part with in a big trade. In other words, Detroit was receiving extra parts in return for once.

    We know that Cespedes is a free agent next offseason, as was Rick Porcello. But the Tigers were able to pick up a couple pieces for an expiring contract. Cespedes will probably be seeking a big contract next year and it is way too early to tell if there will be mutual interest in keeping the relationship going after 2015. With Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and other Hispanic Tiger leaders in the clubhouse, perhaps Cespedes will want to stay after all.

    Only time will tell but with him in the lineup, but it is pretty clear that the Tigers are a more balanced offensive team and a better defensively than they were 24 hours ago.

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