Yes, the Tigers have jumped in and for real for 2008. The deal for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis is, while slightly dangerous, definitely intriguing and picture changing for Detroit. It is dangerous because of Willis’ ballooning ERA, and because of Cabrera is…well just ballooning. It is picture changing because of what these players have done previously. Cabrera is one of the top 5 hitters in the game. Willis is a work horse who was great in his first few years.
All of that said, the Tigers are taking a different view from most of the teams in the game today. If you look at most of the actions of this off-season, everyone is desperately trying to protect their future. Prospects are the new currency, and the trade market is the new free agency. Few teams seem willing to move top prospects for high priced players who may leave in a year or two. Just ask the Minnesota Twins about the diffieculty in separating trade partners from their top prospects, and multiple numbers of them at that. When moving top players demands that you give AT LEAST three of your top farm system players, or those newly in the big leagues, you are asking teams to sacrifice the cream of the crop in their system, potential impact players who could be around for six to ten years, and payroll flexibility. Most teams are backing away from the table and saying “No thank you”! The Tigers asked for second helpings.
The Tigers play in the highly competitive American League Central. I can make an argument that every team in the division with the exception of the K.C. Royals has a chance to win it. After representing the A.L. in the World Series two years ago, the Tigers took a step back last season. This propels them back to the forefront of the division along with the Cleveland Indians and perhaps the Minnesota Twins. But for how long?
Yes, the Tigers do have young talent. Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson, the injured Joel Zumaya and now Willis and Cabrera are all young players who would represent the core of the team. Around them however, is an abundance of veterans with a lot of mileage. Gary Sheffield, while still productive, is not far away from ending his career. Ivan Rodriguez is in the twilight of his Hall of Fame catching career. Todd Jones is old. Shortstop Edgar Renteria and Magglio Ordonez are in the middle of their careers. Turnover is certain to come in the next couple of seasons. The formula in the 21st century is to plug in your young talented players to replace the veteran free agent players. The Tigers gave those players up last night.
Maybin and Miller are clearly the jewels of the six players that were sent to Florida, but there is talent among the rest. Moving six young players that could be your future is a steep price. Make no mistake, to compete with the Red Sox, the Angels, the Indians, and the Yankees, not only do you have to be able compete with them on the field, but you have to be willing to wheel and deal with them off the field. Each of these teams does it a different way, but the results are undeniable. The Tigers have built a winning team through the draft, and by willing to take chances in free agency that other teams have turned away from. Magglio Ordonez was recovering from a major knee injury when he recieved a big contract from the Tigers. I-Rod wanted a big contract that no one other than the Detroit wanted to give him, already in his thirties. These move paid off. They need to hope this one will.
Whether it does or not, one thing is for sure. The Tigers have shortened this current teams life span. They have beefed up for the short term. It better be enough, because if they don’t win now, they might not win for a long time.