Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson Brought Highlights, Youth to Detroit

The Tigers, hurting from the Game 163 loss to the Twins, swung a deal that would extend their contention window

Dave Dombrowski is never afraid to make a bold trade; regardless of the player. He flaunted that fact in November 2009, when he traded Edwin Jackson and fan-favorite Curtis Granderson away in a deal that landed them Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth–all in an effort to give the team payroll relief while still maintaining their competitive aspirations.

Detroit and Arizona were not able to match up talent themselves, so they got the Yankees and Brian Cashman involved to fill in Arizona’s criteria needed to make the trade. Namely, the Diamondbacks felt they needed two starters that were ready to insert into their rotation if they were going to give up a young Max Scherzer, who was coming off his first full season in the major leagues.

The three would come to an agreement; the Yankees would send Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks to pair with Tigers’ Edwin Jackson, whom Detroit had acquired just a year earlier in a trade which sent Matt Joyce to Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Yankees would receive Curtis Granderson, who was just a season into a five-year, $30.25 million contract extension he had signed and was coming off a 30 home run all-star season with Detroit.

Detroit was the obvious winner here in terms of value. Austin Jackson would get immediately inserted into the Tigers starting line up to make is debut as a 23 year-old; where he would place second in the Rookie of the Year voting and supply 5.1 bWAR in 2010. He would play 4.5 seasons for the Tigers and supply north of 20 bWAR before being part of the deal with landed David Price in 2014.

Scherzer was even more impressive during his five seasons with Detroit. Scherzer would make 30 starts each season with the club while producing an ERA+ over 100 four of the five years. The right-handed starter would also supply 21.5 bWAR over his tenure with the club and win the Cy Young Award in 2013. Part of Arizona’s willingness to deal Scherzer was his violent delivery and awkward arm slot. Ironically, Mad Max has been the poster child for consistency and health; never making less than 27 starts in any of his 11 full seasons in the MLB.

BALTIMORE, MD – OCTOBER 02: Max Scherzer #37 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during Game One of the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on October 2, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles defeated the Tigers 12-3. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The idea the Tigers received an once more than these two in this deal speaks to severity of the robbery that occurred. Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth were both somewhat afterthoughts in the trade, but both would contribute on the big league club. Schlereth would produce replacement level results with the club across three part-time seasons with the Tigers. Coke would find more time with the club; pitching five seasons with the Tigers mostly in the bullpen and becoming an icon for his glove spike in the 2012 ALCS after getting the final out to propel Detroit to the World Series.

The Yankees did well themselves to receive value in the trade, but they also paid a price to do it. Jackson was young and performed well for Detroit; Kennedy was a steady, cheap arm for Arizona before he went to San Diego. All in all, the Yankees would give up north of 25 bWAR, receive nearly 15 bWAR back, and pay Granderson most of that money on his contract as they watched two former players give other teams quality play on league minimum contracts.

Arizona struggled in the trade; not only did they have to watch Max Scherzer develop into one of the game’s greats–they did not receive much back. Kennedy pitched well enough to give about 5 WAR over 3.5 seasons with the Diamondbacks; meanwhile, they only tolerated 21 starts from Edwin Jackson until he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox; although they did get a 149-pitch no-hitter out of the deal. Yikes.

Once again, Dave Dombrowski came out way on top in this deal. With what we know today about pitching mechanics and player value, it would be tough to envision this trade happening in today’s analytics-focused game. The Tigers unfortunately would not win a World Series with Scherzer or Jackson. While Jackson was traded, Scherzer walked in free agency to sign with the Washington Nationals; where he would win a championship. The Tigers received a first round compensatory pick in the 2015 draft where they would select Christin Stewart, who was the club’s Opening Day left fielder in 2019.

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