Detroit Tigers trade rumors: a philosophical debate

So far, the Detroit Tigers have yet to pull the trigger on an apparently inevitable trade deadline move to shore up their bullpen. They have inquired on guys such as Joakim Soria, Joaquin Benoit, Neal Cotts, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, and surely many others that we don’t know about.

If you’re following things closely then chances are you sit on one side of the fence when it comes to such moves. Either you want the Tigers to preserve their minor league assets, make subtle moves at the deadline, and hope things come together just right in the playoffs or you urge management to do what needs to be done and acquire a “put them over the top’ type of player.

One guy’s opinion matters more than all of ours though, and that’s GM Dave Dombrowski. Which side of the debate do you think his tendencies favor?

Avisail Garcia

Avisail Garcia

The Tigers’ GM has traded away the likes of Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Jair Jurrjens, Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly, Charlie Furbush, Avisail Garcia, Brayan Villarreal, and lesser known names like Chance Ruffin, Brian Flynn, Ryan Perry, and Curt Casali (a rule 5 draft move from two offseasons ago).

This theory is a simple one: proven major league commodities trump minor league prospects every single time. (Cue the Doug Fister trade jokes here.)

Just think if Dombrowski thought that Maybin, one of the game’s top prospects at the time, and Miller, who was earning comps to the elite young lefties in the game before he came up, were ‘untouchable’. They almost certainly wouldn’t have Miguel Cabrera. And keeping the oft-injured Maybin, who has never reached his promise, means that they wouldn’t have needed Austin Jackson so the Max Scherzer deal might’ve never happened. The snowball effect can gain mass very quickly. Imagine that, two MVP’s and a Cy Young winner left to other team’s devices all because some guy who never proved it at the Major League level was considered to be a sure thing.

If the Tigers’ minor league system has produced one known commodity over the years it’s that absolutely nothing is a safe bet. Maybe Nick Castellanos will disprove that. He has had a very strong rookie season and was a player the Tigers never dreamed of trading, a true building block.

Joel Zumaya

Joel Zumaya

This theory of trusting proven big league commodities is well founded and applies almost universally to bullpen arms. Remember Joel Zumaya? How about Matt Anderson? Will Bruce Rondon fall into this category someday?

Some Tigers fans shudder at the thought of trading away 2013 draftee Corey Knebel who has dominated the minors in his two seasons there but has yet to find his sea legs with the Tigers. Will he ever? When is the last time the Tigers produced a reliever from their farm system who stuck with the team and made significant contributions? Let me know when you figure that one out. In the meantime I’d be trading Knebel.

[Related: Is Torii Hunter Hall of Fame worthy?]

Consider that there are multiple levels to minor league baseball. Short season ball, rookie league, two levels of A-ball, AA, and AAA. Most of these guys never make it. It’s a numbers game, and a battle of attrition. Stay healthy long enough, produce at a level that gets you noticed, and then maybe you get a shot. And once you do you have to put up numbers against the best players on the planet, those same guys who might be available in a trade for your unknowns.

I think you know where I stand on this issue.

[Tigers trade rumors: Jonathan Papelbon edition]

If Detroit has to overpay to get Soria or Benoit, then so be it. Will the Tigers suddenly be mortgaging their future if James McCann, Devon Travis, and a few other guys vacate the system? What is overpaying anyhow? The Tigers finally have some nice starting pitching depth brewing in their system as well as a pack of middle infielders who tend to always be enticing to teams looking to build from the center of the diamond on out.

In other words, if Detroit wants to make a deal (and they do) then they will. And we all know how badly this organization wants a ring.

Some teams operate with the end goal of staying competitive year after year, just good enough to appease the fan base and to keep the turnstiles rolling. Others go for the gold when the timing is right. The Tigers have enough depth and star-level talent at the major league level – still operating in their prime years – that they have the luxury of doing a little bit of both.

To receive an email each time a new Tigers article is published, fill out the Email Notification Form

[Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe]

Check out our Detroit Tigers team page for more news, rumor, and opinion and follow us on Twitter

  • English Patrol

    Good article, but I was distracted by the misuse of the word “shutter”. It should be “shudder”.

    • Joe White

      Good catch. Thanks.

  • Matt

    This team is the definition of “win now mode” with Max almost a certainty to be pitching in an other city next year and many of their stars (JV, Hunter, VMart, etc.) not getting any younger. I don’t think there is anyone in this system that should be deemed untouchable, and as long as it makes the team stronger RIGHT NOW, I think any and all prospects are on the table.

  • Jim Rohlman

    not many of the “Top prsopects” that DD traded have made major contributions at the major lesgue level…..Trade em ! Been 28 years since a World Series victory..

  • jeff s

    Nice article Joe. You make a solid argument for production over potential. If you have to go all the way back to John Smoltz to name a trade that had tragic long term results, Detroit has been well served by this system. I think we Tiger fans have become very spoiled under DD and he has earned some benefit of the doubt. I can’t think of another GM in baseball that I would rather have at this point.