Detroit Tigers: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Yoenis Cespedes (52) slides into second against the Orioles.

Yoenis Cespedes (52) slides into second against the Orioles.

I love initial reactions. They’re the best. When a buddy asked if I’d heard about trading for Yoenis Cespedes, my initial thought went something like, “Who’d the Tiger ship out? No way Dombrowski was dumb enough to trade Porcello.” Well. There you have it. Porcello is packing his Louis Vuitton signature luggage for Boston in what I imagine will be the first all matchup specific rotation in baseball history. The O’s are right heavy? Give ‘em Porcello. We’ll save Wade Miley for the Yanks on Tuesday.

I don’t even consider this a bad trade. The Tigers have to pay/play someone in the outfield, and they decided not to keep Torii Hunter and his Shrinky Dink-esque range from a homecoming and in right another season. Boston did extremely well to trade from a position of excess for a needed commodity, and Detroit traded a 25-year old pitcher that in all likelihood topped out with a career season for an older player who has the better arm—especially when you see Cespedes make throws like this:

Both will be free agents after next season. In the abstract, seen only through this trade, I like the deal. Cespedes immediately becomes the Tigers best outfielder unless J.D. Martinez’s ascent is for keeps. I’ll wait another year to see if the 23-year old can maintain his current level of pretty freaking good.

Big picture, though, what are the Tigers going to do about arms? Believe it or not, pitching was a strength for the team in 2014 with the Tigers ranking fourth in the AL in FIP and second in fWAR, even with Justin Verlander’s annual descent into average and Anibal Sanchez making 21 starts. Is Max Scherzer returning? If so, the Tigers are going to need to break out the hefty moneybags to keep all other bidders away. With the Yankees deciding to do, well, nothing this offseason to address their pitching, are they targeting Scherzer? Hiroki Kuroda hasn’t decided on retirement or a return . . . somewhere, and Brandon McCarthy is now in LA. What will the Tigers do with David Price who’s a free agent next season? Teams in the Central are loading up, not settling for the scraps the Tigers leave behind.

This deal addresses an immediate need (a healthy body to roam around the outfield) while opening up all sorts of leverage for Scott Boras. I like Scherzer the most in this free agent class, and I’m sure other executives feel the same. It’s not rocket science. The guy is really, really good, and was the Tigers best pitcher. If they plan on keeping him around, expect that 134 million dollar payroll to shoot way up. If they plan on keeping Price around after this season, hello luxury tax.

I assume Dombrowski has other plans in the works. If Scott Baker and Josh Johnson are the answer in Detroit, we’ll know that it just sort of happened after an all-nighter and someone forgot that Tolbert is a practical joker.

Yoenis Cespedes photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

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