Sizemore Trade Shows Tigers Aim to Win Now

There has been some outcry and even some head-scratching over the recent trade of Scott Sizemore to the Oakland A’s for relief pitcher David Purcey. But the move isn’t really surprising when you consider that Tiger General Manager Dave Dombrowski is focused on one thing – winning now.

Since arriving in Detroit, Dombrowski has helped guide the Tigers out of one of their most dismal stretches in team history. He and his own managerial handpicked choice Jim Leyland, brought an exciting and completely unexpected American League pennant in 2006. But the team has also failed to capitalize on several opportunities to win an AL Central Division title, something Dombrowski has yet to deliver. Infamously, in 2009 the Tigers became the first team in baseball history to squander a three-game lead with four games to play. The sting of that collapse is still fresh with Tiger fans, and in part that’s one of the reasons Dombrowski had to make this trade.

In baseball, as in all sports, the goal is to win championships. The window to win a title is small and it’s usually a shrinking one. The Tigers have several young players, especially on their pitching staff, but they can’t be sure that this group will be in a position to win next year or the year after that or the year after that. There just aren’t those type of guarntees in sports.

So, Dombrowski had no choice but to trade Sizemore, one of the few position players in his organization that are of any interest to other clubs. The A’s were willing to give up Purcey, a former #1 draft pick. The Tigers will be Purcey’s third team in 2011, but the tall lefty has great stuff: a mid-90s fastball and good command of his curveball. Purcey helps address the primary problem the Tigers have had so far this season: the bullpen. Other than Jose Valverde, the rest of the pen has struggled to keep Detroit in close games. And so far there have been a lot of close games.

At 26, Sizemore is at that age where he’s expected to stop being a prospect and start being a major league hitter. His AAA resume suggests he should be a productive big league hitter, but other than a decent stretch last season in the second half, Sizemore has failed to live up to his promise. Some outside the Detroit organization have been skeptical of his pedigree, while Dombrowski and Leyland have supported him. That all ended last Friday when the Tigers finally grew impatient with their young second baseman. Other than his first game in a Tiger uniform this season, Sizemore has fauled to show any pop in his bat in 2011 for Detroit. As a result, and given the Tigers need for bullpen help, Dombrowski pulled the trigger.

In the past, Dombrowski has been proven correct more often than not when he’s dealt young players: witness his dealing of Humberto Sanchez, Anthony Claggett, Cameron Maybin, and Andrew Miller, to name a few. Only on a few occasions has it turned sour, as when he traded pitcher Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Matt Joyce.

Leyland has given the second base job to Ryan Raburn, which can;t excite Tiger fans too much. Rayburn plays defense like he’s in an iron lung, and at the plate he’s striking out far too frequently. He’ll likely only keep the position warm until Carlos Guillen returns from his latest trip on the disabled list.

The trade says more about what the present than it does about Sizemore’s future. For Dombrowski, whose contract expires at the end of this season, there is no tomorrow. He realizes the Tigers must win in 2011.