I haven’t posted in quite a while, but since my last post was an article regarding Edwin Jackson then it may be fitting that my new article also concerns him. I wanted to take a minute to put out my viewpoint on the Tigers trade of Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson that has created major waves here in Detroit. Numerous arguments have been thrown around as to why this deal is bad for the Tigers or how the excuses given for the deal don’t make sense. It’s clear that the prevailing opinion around town is that the Tigers made a desperate move that is ultimately bad for the team. I believe this deal makes quite a bit of sense for Detroit and was a solid move by Tiger GM Dave Dombrowski.
It’s very much true that the seeds that put the Tigers in their current situation were sown by Dombrowski. However, setting blame for past trades and some troublesome contracts aside, this trade has put the Tiger organization in a better position in 2010 and beyond. The Tigers were not able to make the postseason with their current team and the farm system is not in good shape – relief was not on the way.
Below are the key reasons why I believe this deal is a good thing for Detroit now and sets them up to be even better in the future.
- Curtis Granderson is not going to rebound back to his 2007 productivity levels
It may be dangerous to start with Curtis, but most of the discussion has surrounded him with this trade. Many opinions have been very emotionally driven due to Curtis’s character. I’m a large Curtis fan as well and attended a few of his charity events during his tenure here. However, he posed numerous challenges to the team and has been on a steady decline in productivity.
While I do believe that 2009 was a down year for Curtis, it’s likely that his long term productivity is going to fall far short of what was once believed. He has failed at becoming the lead off hitter that it was hoped he would be. His walk rate has gotten much better over the years and he has cut his strikeout rate (though regressed in 2009), but the corresponding dip in batting average has negated those improvements. Additionally, his inability to improve against left handed pitchers has posed a serious liability for Detroit. This has almost reached the point where a center field platoon needed to be, and was, discussed as an option. While his contract isn’t extravagantly expensive, it is far to high for a platoon player.
To fill the hole left by Curtis, the Tigers acquired Austin Jackson from the NY Yankees. Austin was the 2008 Baseball America #1 rated prospect for the Yankees and rated #2 by John Sickels. From all accounts he’s ready to compete for the starting role immediately and is ready for duty defensively. The major question left for Austin is whether he can develop his projected power, something that has eluded him.
Dave Dombrowski was taking a risk whether he kept Curtis Granderson as a Tiger or not. He chose to take the risk that has a higher ceiling by gathering a number of high-quality relievers (Daniel Schlereth, Phil Coke) and an extremely solid center field prospect in return. It also happens that this is the cheaper route, but that is only an additional positive.
- Edwin Jackson is due for serious regression
I was a big fan of the trade for Edwin Jackson and I still am. He’s the largest and most critical player that the Tigers lost in this trade and I believe this has been overshadowed by the town’s love of Curtis Granderson. Solid starting pitching is very hard to find and valued extremely high around the league, so to let him go is a huge risk. That said, Edwin threw up some serious red flags throughout the 2009 season that led many, myself included, to believe that his first half production isn’t here to stay.
His 2009 season was impressive and a welcome surprise, particularly the first 3-4 months of service. However, throughout the year his stats across the board were in major decline. This doesn’t include only his ERA, but also his home run rate, K/BB rate and WHIP. This wasn’t the case of a front-line starter running into problems but a back of the rotation starter regressing back to his career stats. Statistics Projections, such as Chone, also see a setback on the horizon from his 2009 campaign.
In return the Tigers have received young mid-rotation starter in Max Scherzer. A former first-round draft pick from 2006, he has a higher potential long-term ceiling than Edwin Jackson, not to mention projected statistics better than those of Jackson in 2010 (Chone – 4.27 ERA, 189K/62BB). He has already proved he can take the rigors of an entire season and pitched admirably. The Tigers, again, are taking a risk but one that has a higher potential payoff and is cheaper.
- Tigers were not going to extend Edwin into Free Agency years
Taking talent levels between players out of the discussion for a moment, Detroit wouldn’t, or couldn’t, pay what the market was going to demand for Edwin Jackson to be in Detroit long-term. They’ve gotten burned on signing long-term deals immediately following breakout years (Nate Robertson) and decided to “sell high” on Jackson. Keep in mind that the primary signing on their mind is Justin Verlander, so could Detroit have afforded him? Likely, but why risk it when you can get a solid mid-rotation starter in Scherzer with many years of team control?
- Potentially solved closer problem with Daniel Schlereth
A hole the Tigers do have is at the Closer position. They lost Brandon Lyon for certain and Fernando Rodney is still up-in-the-air. Joel Zumaya, with all his injuries, is a completely unknown quantity and has not been the Zumaya of 2006 when he has been healthy. This leaves a major question mark for Detroit going into 2010.
Daniel Schlereth was a 2008 first round draft pick and has shown some real talent in Double-A during 2009. He was Baseball America’s #3 Prospect for the Arizona Diamonbacks in 2009 and ranked #2 for John Sickels. He is a very hard thrower with a good fastball and has a power curveball; a combo that Dave Dombrowski and Tigers management love.
My bet is the Tigers will not feel he needs any more seasoning in the minor league levels. Similarly to how they felt about Ryan Perry, a move that paid off. Would they trust him to come in and close out games in 2009? Doubtful, but longer term he presents a very strong option.
This deal isn’t a no-brainer and has huge risks for the Tigers. However, it is far from a “fire sale” and looking at the deal person for person, I believe the Tigers made a decision based on talent and needs, both short term and long term; not from the need to pare back salary. Dave Dombrowski saw an opportunity to drop salary and shore up talent weaknesses with a single deal and took that risk. It will take more than one year to determine whether this trade was net positive for Detroit, but one thing was clear – change was needed and Dombrowski isn’t afraid to change when it’s due.