Let’s Make A Deal: Trade Deadline Looms for Detroit Tigers

With another dramatic win over the White Sox, Tigers fans have been worked up into a greater frenzy as the team approaches the final two months of the season atop the AL Central.

While the “buyers or sellers” question comes up frequently for teams hovering around .500, many Tigers followers often cower at the question when they think back to the Doyle Alexander-John Smoltz trade of 1987.  The result at the time was incredible for the Tigers as they rode Alexander’s hot arm into the playoffs, but Smoltz’s lengthy career (and World dombrowski_featureSeries ring) makes some wonder what if he had been in a Tigers uniform during that mostly difficult final decade at Tiger Stadium.

Trades can be that shot in the arm that teams are looking for towards a playoff push or that shot in the leg that can cripple a franchise for years.  For the Detroit Tigers, this is good and bad news during the 2009 trade deadline.

The Good News –Detroit Tigers President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski has been hailed for his impressive work in building both a major league team and developing a farm system capable of providing dividends down the road.  When given the proper resources and time, Dombrowski is capable of making some incredible moves that have greatly benefitted the ball club:

2002 – In Dombrowski’s first year in 2002, he traded Jeff Weaver in a three-team deal and acquired Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena and Franklyn German in the process. All three players saw significant big league time with the Tigers and Bonderman is expected back within weeks from the DL. Pena ended up being a huge star for the Rays.

2005 – Chase Utley was set to be the next Phillies second baseman and that meant no room for Placido Polanco. In a span of three weeks, Detroit went from two closers to none as Ugueth Urbina (Farnsworth the other) became a member of the Phillies. Urbina had a decent effort to close out the season and has not thrown another major league pitch since. Venezuelan legal troubles has meant that his time is now spent out of a jail cell.

2006 – Detroit acquired two different lefty bats down the stretch with the biggest being Sean Casey who came from the Pirates for pitcher Brian Rogers. Casey hit over .500 in the World Series and Rogers is hoping that his ERA won’t hit double digits. Matt Stairs later came to the Tigers in a two week rental off the waiver wire, providing some pop on the bench down the stretch.

The Bad News – There’s one trade that I feel will haunt the Tigers well into the next decade. While it did not come at the trade deadline, the Edgar Renteria trade comes off as Dombrowski’s worst deal. It did not help that Renteria hit an uninspiring .270 last season while commiting countless errors in the field. Worse still, Jair Jurrjens seems like he’ll be in the discussion of top Braves pitchers for a long time. Jurrjens finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year vote last year and his 3.24 combined ERA as a Brave is not too shabby. Gorkys Hernandez, the second player in the deal, was recently traded to the Pirates where it looks like his ticket out of AA may have finally arrived.

No matter what happens for the Tigers over the next few days, radio talk shows will undoubtedly be filled with fans clamoring the pros and cons of either deal. Magglio’s struggles and Guillen’s surge from the DL have placed the Tigers in an interesting situation where they need to deal with what they have to take in account their current assets.

Whatever deals, if any, happen over the next few days, one thing is certain: pennant fever is beginning to hit the Tiger faithful.