How Tigers pulled off a stunning deadline deal
The Tigers didn’t have the prospects to beat out teams like the Pirates, Cardinals or even the Dodgers for David Price. If another team decided it was willing to go all-out to get him from Tampa Bay, the Tigers didn’t stand much of a chance. Teams like Pittsburgh could give up too many prospects for Tampa Bay to turn down and still have a rich system.
That didn’t happen. And while teams in desperate need of starting help either hesitated or moved on to other options, the Tigers added to their star-studded rotation by getting creative.
If they couldn’t match other teams on prospects, they could offer young, cost-controlled talent. Drew Smyly is eligible for arbitration this winter, but he has four more seasons before he hits free agency. Austin Jackson isn’t cost-controlled with free agency looming after next season, but his trade to Seattle drew the Rays a young infielder in Nick Franklin, who fits the profile.
The one prospect the Tigers dealt from their system, shortstop Willy Adames, is a high-riser at age 18, but comes from a position of relative strength in the system, the middle infield.
“The way we looked at it,” president/GM Dave Dombrowski said, “the question that we asked ourselves is, ‘What gives us the best chance of winning a World Championship this year?’ We have to get there. We know that. It’s getting there but also trying to win a World Championship. We felt that adding him to our rotation gives us the best chance of getting that. We think with the addition of Joakim and David Price, that that really does help our ballclub.
“We traded two players from the big-league level that we like a great deal. We just thought that it would give us a better chance to win with David Price taking the ball the rest of the season.”
That part, giving up not only big-league players but key ones, was a twist in the deadline deals, one which Pirates general manager Neal Huntington noted.
“It was interesting, in that the majority of impact players went for Major League talent instead of teams trying to grab the best prospects they can, as has been the case in recent years,” Huntington told MLB.com’s Tom Singer and reporters in Arizona for the Pirates series against the Diamondbacks. “We engaged teams for the top guys on a lot of fronts, and didn’t find the right situation for us.”
For Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, the focus was always on the prospects.
“Winning and developing at the same time is not always easy to do,” Colletti told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other Dodgers writers. “We’re trying to do both. This is the first time in maybe eight or nine years we think we have the prospects that can be everyday or even star players.”
The flip side of that, of course, is filling the holes left by the players traded. The A’s traded Yoenis Cespedes, but received outfielder Jonny Gomes as part of the return. The Tigers received nothing to fill the void in center field left by Jackson’s trade.
“It’s difficult, but I think you have to weigh it,” Dombrowski said. “We don’t make that deal unless Austin’s involved. We think Rajai [Davis] and [Ezequiel] Carrera will do a solid job for us out there. Correra’s done a real nice job for us in Triple-A. We’ve actually struggled on how to get him up to the big-league club at times. We’ve said this guy could help us now, he’s hitting .300, he’s a base stealer, he’s a very good defensive outfielder. He’s a left-handed hitter. Even if we brought him up, we didn’t really have a place to play him.
“We like Correra and we think Rajai, between the two of them, will give us solid work out there in center field. We’ll still get some offense out there.”