December 9th, 2009
No fire-sale terminology, no direct reference to the economy. But in explaining the trade that sent Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson out of Detroit and brought in four young players, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski conveyed the idea that this was a move that had to be made.
“The reality is, no matter what, we needed to make some adjustments,” Dombrowski said. “In almost any scenario, it’s a necessity. But it’s also one of those where we’re in a very good situation with a quality owner that projects to have a really solid payroll as we go forward. But at some point, adjustments needed to be made, and this was the time to do it for us.”
Part of the necessity, while the Tigers won’t talk about it, comes from the Michigan economy. But the other impetus, which Dombrowski admits, came from a huge payroll over the last two years and contracts that have weighed down the organization.
They were very revealing remarks, and they set up this move as the counterbalance to the trade for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis that came out of the Winter Meetings two years ago in Nashville.
“We made a lot of trades over the recent years where we traded a lot of young players for guys to help our big league club,” Dombrowski said. “The Cabrera deal, we traded six young guys. [For] Sheffield, we traded some. …
“When you come on board, you try to turn a franchise’s philosophies around. The Tigers lost for a lot of years. I don’t think people sometimes realize how difficult that can be to do. When you’re losing, there’s usually reasons behind it. One of the things is that you need to upgrade your talent, and our scouts have done a tremendous job at that. But while you’re upgrading, you don’t have the flow of free agents to help your big league club, so you sign some free agents. We made some trades.
“I know myself the last few years, I think what we’ve done well through our time is bring in young players and develop them and bring them up. We kind of got away from it, because we were just in a position where [we asked] what can we do to get this final piece. And I think that this gives us an opportunity to go back to building like we would like and set the foundation.”
He’s ready to take the criticism for trading the known quantity for the unknown, as he put it. But he’s also ready to take the criticism for some of the contracts they made to try to win now.
“Hey, we made some signings that haven’t worked out for us,” Dombrowski said. “And we’re almost through it. But at the time, people thought they were good signings. And sometimes, when you’re making adjustments, unfortunately, they affect you in a different way. Everybody has bad signings on their books, but we’re in a position where some of it’s due to injury.
“I’ve seen it written: Jeremy Bonderman — bad signing. Jeremy Bonderman was one of the best young pitchers in baseball at the time. Now, there’s others that haven’t worked out as well. But really, what ends up happening is, we’re working through that, too, but we’re one year away from working through it real well. And this sets us up to do it.”
Can’t say what Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera — or Carlos Guillen, for that matter — think of the Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson trade, but got a sampling from a couple current Tigers.
Why does this matter, you ask? Because it matters to manager Jim Leyland.
“I think one of the big keys is how well our veteran players react to this,” Leyland said Wednesday. “If they react the proper way, with a positive attitude and the proper approach, I think this is gonna work out great. I really do.”
Catcher Gerald Laird, himself the subject of trade rumors this offseason, tried to put a good face on it. He talked with his younger brother Brandon, a Yankees prospect, about the talent coming over from New York.
“It’s tough to lose two guys like that, to lose one of your top of the rotation pitchers and your starting center fielder which was a big part of our success and a big face-of-the-franchise type guy with the community and the team,” Laird said. Obviously, it’s a tough trade because they’re two really good guys. But I’m sure Dave [Dombrowski] and the organization have their mind set on a direction they want to go, and I’m sure they’re making decisions they feel is best for the team.”
It’s a direction change Laird wasn’t completely foreseeing when the Tigers lost their AL Central tiebreaker two months ago.
“You look at it and, yeah, we didn’t get to where we wanted, but we felt like we had a really good year,” Laird said. “We felt like we had a really good core of guys. To lose those two guys, that’s when you think, ‘Wow.’ [Granderson] is a big time player, and he’s definitely going to help New York out. He’s a tough player to lose. The guy is a remarkable talent and a remarkable person. But I feel we have a good group of core guys that I think can help us win.
“It’s one of those things where guys are going to step up now. I’m sure Nate’s ready to bounce back and Bondo. I think we’re still going to be a solid rotation, but to lose a guy like [Jackson], it’s definitely tough.”
With the shift towards youth, Laird said, comes some added responsibility.
“It’s going to be up to the veterans to welcome these guys and help them out as much as we can. The better they fit, the better they’re going to be.”
Laird was playing golf when he heard the news.
“I kind of just shook my head and said wow,” he said.
Reliever Zach Miner, now potentially an elder statemen in a young Tigers bullpen, took a pragmatic look at it.
“I think all of us understand the way the business of baseball works,” Miner wrote in an email. “It would be
naive of any of us players to think we would have the same teammates all of our
career, and if management and the coaching staff feel this was necessary to keep our
team moving in the right direction, then we have to trust their judgment.
being said, it will be hard to replace Curtis and Edwin’s production for our
team, and in my opinion impossible to replace Curtis’ leadership in the
clubhouse, on the field, and in the community.”
It's a done deal: the Tigers have sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke. The three GMs are scheduled to have a news conference at 4:30 pm. Look for that on MLB.com if you're not by a TV.