Much Ado about Smoltz, and other trade thoughts

The hot topic on this site and in talk radio has been about the possibility of the Tigers acquiring John Smoltz for Joel Zumaya. Apparently the idea was floated on Baseball Tonight and heartily endorsed by John Kruk. This is all just silly.

Let’s pretend for a moment that there is truth to the rumor. While there would be a nice symmetry in terms of reaching back to 1987, that is about at the only level the deal looks good. The Tigers are still six weeks away from the trade deadline. They don’t know what the race will look like by then. Will they need help to push them over the top, or will they be well on their way, or will they be out of it all together? They don’t know how much help they will need.

Even assuming that the Tigers need another arm to get them into the playoffs will John Smoltz provide that much of a lift? As Nick points out in the comments to this post, the trade only makes sense if the Tigers minus Zumaya and plus Smoltz are significantly better to make a difference.

Now notice I said that there could be a scenario construed where trading Zumaya could be prudent. I’m working off of my own personal tenants which are:

  • If you have a chance to make a deal that you think will put you in the playoffs you do it. If that means sacrificing the future to a certain extent, that’s acceptable. Of course you make a trade that’s equitable, but don’t shy away from going for it.
  • I’m not differentiating between a playoff team and a world series team. If the Tigers make the playoffs it is because they were one of the best teams in baseball. They will have either beaten out the White Sox or the Red Sox/Yankees. If they are good enough to get there, they are good enough to win it 4 of 7.
  • I don’t want to see Joel Zumaya go anywhere. I wouldn’t trade him for Smoltz. He is very talented with lots of upside and all that stuff. Also, he’s entertaining and seems like a good guy. I’m thrilled to have him as a Tiger. That said, if the Tigers are committed to keeping him in the bullpen in the future they should absolutely trade him. I say this only because I think there are other teams that will give him a shot to start and the Tigers will probably be able to get more value in return. And that value should be comparably talented, comparably young players.

Now moving beyond the assumption that the rumors are real, there are strong indications that the Braves will never trade Smoltz. They’re having a bad year, but far from being ready to blow everything up and start over. This trade isn’t going to happen.

In Detroit we’re accustomed to trade rumors, but it is more other teams looking to add for their playoff runs. Now the reports are coming out that Dave Dombrowski is asking about Carl Crawford, Aubrey Huff, Livan Hernandez, Alfonso Soriano, Geoff Jenkins, and a whole host of other players. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a general manager. I’m just not expecting a trade anytime soon.

I guess trade rumors can be fun for some, and I even enjoy it during the hot stove league. I enjoy discussing possible trade targets and looking for players who could upgrade the team. But discussing specific trades that will never come to fruitition can make you crazy.


  1. Scott

    June 20, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    Mags, baby!! That’s what I’m talkin’ about!!…….. 🙂

  2. Rob

    June 20, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    What exactly would Smoltz add to the Tigers? He’s old. And he’d likely be the #5 starter at best based on stats this year. The only starter on the Tigs roster that he has a lower ERA than (3.78) is Jeremy Bonderman’s 3.82. When you factor in Bonderman’s much better secondary pitching stats and the fact that pitching in the NL is worth about a 1/2 run drop in ERA, Smoltz adds nothing.

    Yes, he’s experienced. And you can’t expect all our pitchers to keep it up. But Smoltz is older than everyone on our staff except Rogers and has just as good a chance as tailing off.

  3. Chris

    June 20, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    heartily endorsed by John Kruk

    ’nuff said

  4. Nate

    June 21, 2006 at 12:11 am

    I still don’t see them picking up anyone but a lefty bat, probably in the outfield. Preferably good contact hitters(we’ve got enough free swingers) with some speed. Power is much less of a priority.

    Looking into who’s available with those qualifications, the Rockies currently have 3 young lefty bats(Brad Hawpe, Cory Sullivan, and Jorge Piedra; athough Sullivan is dealing with a day-to-day injury), all with some speed and decent numbers through their pro careers. Being first or second year rookies, their salaries will not be an issue.

    But of course the questions: are the Tigers interrested in any of these young and relatively untested players, will Colorado be willing to deal any of them, and who would it take to make it happen?

    Endy Chavez of the Mets is a similar possibility. But is he worth replacing Monroe/Thames in left?

    Next best bets would be Dave Roberts(tho he’s on a contending team), Corey Patterson, or maybe Juan Pierre, but those names get more pricey, and options are pretty much non-existant beyond them in the outfield.

    All this talk of big names like Smoltz, Bonds, Soriano, etc. is merely blathering by the media trying to fill air time and provoke reactions. But at this point, I think I’d be just as happy with what we’ve got for a lineup, with minor league bullpen callups as needed. We’ve done ok thus far.

  5. Kevin

    June 21, 2006 at 7:21 am

    The way I see it..The Tigers haven’t made a trade under the Dombrowski watch that hasn’t worked out somewhat for the Tigers. I don’t think a dumb trade will be made.

    I think the decade of Randy Smith has left scars on the entire fanbase when any trade is mentioned.

  6. Nick

    June 21, 2006 at 7:23 am

    DH/LF is the obvious position to improve in the lineup. I’d be hesitant to do much with Inge and Polonco unless it’s a large upgrade, only because such a large part of the teams improvement is due to improved defense, and Polonco and Inge are part of that equation. I don’t see Shelton going anywhere.

    They could use another top line reliever, and I wouldn’t mind another starter with a longer track record (the fact that he’d be the “#5 starter”) doesn’t matter much, since whoever we got would be insurance in case Bonderman or Robertson reverts to their previous form, or Rogers suddenly realises he’s 40 or Verlander’s struggles in the 2nd half. I’m not saying any of those things are individually likely, but I do think there is a decent chance at least one of them occurs, and having a 5th starter to pick up the slack isn’t a bad idea. Then again, Minor’s been plenty good enough so far, and a 3rd arm in the bullpen might be a bigger priority (moving Zumaya for that arm makes absolutely no sense though).

  7. Andrew

    June 21, 2006 at 7:57 am

    I think the decade of Randy Smith has left scars on the entire fanbase when any trade is mentioned.

    I agree with you, Kevin. When Randy Smith was making all of those trades with Houston (how many times did he trade Brad Ausmus?) and every other miserable move he made, it definitely left a lasting impression. It makes you very apprehensive when any rumor of a trade is mentioned.

    The other thing that makes me apprehensive is that our chemistry (I believe Ernie Harwell once said there is no bad chemistry on a winning team or something like that) as a team is great and I am hesitant to do anything that might throw it out of balance.

    Pitching wins games and we have grown a good crop in our farm system. I would hate to see any of it traded away unless it was a no-brainer deal that immediately makes us better for the present and future.

    Remember, the Smoltz trade of ’87 made us better (Doyle Alexander went 9-0 with 3 shutouts and a 1.53 ERA in his two months with the Tigers) only in 1987 and helped us make the playoffs. Unfortunately that was our last sniff at the playoffs and we all know what John Smoltz helped the Braves do since then. I don’t want another moment like that in Tigers history.

  8. Nick

    June 21, 2006 at 8:14 am

    The Smoltz trade made us better in 1988 as well. If we hadn’t let Gibson go to the Dodgers we probably would have won the division in ’88 and Alexander was a part of that.

    I still remember going to Tiger Stadium for the playoffs in ’87, and I’d be absolutely estatic if we could have another moment like that in Tigers history (even if we did lose in the first round). I’d prefer to have a bunch of moments like that, but after 19 years, I’ll be happy with just one for now.

  9. Dave T.

    June 21, 2006 at 11:09 am

    If we traded good prospects for Smoltz, it would idiocy coming full circle. We only made the playoffs in ’87 due to a Blue Jays collapse, yes Alexander won some games and did his part of the bargain, but the orginization needs to think long term. We should not sacrifice the future for a few more wins this year. The tigers are currently squeezed between having a young starting pitching staff and veteran everyday players. Maggs and Pudge may be ready to win now, but I think we would be best served making minor tweaks and waiting to add the missing piece when our pitching is ready to win. The tigers should save their prospects (the first decent crop they have had in years) instead of wanting to parlay them immeadiately into risky ventures.

  10. Nick

    June 21, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Of course, considering how far away our offensive prospects are, when the pitching is ready to win our hitting might not be if wait long. This year and next look like our window of opportunity with the Pudge, Mags, Guillen, Inge veteran core of the team, those guys aren’t going to get much better over the next few years. And finding equivalent replacements isn’t going to be easy either (except maybe Inge). We need to avoid falling into the trap the Twins fell into by keeping tons of prospects (especially corner prospects) and never actually filling the holes they had in the middle of their infield when they were in a position to control the division.

  11. Jeff

    June 21, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Don’t trade Zumaya. Don’t trade Zumaya. Don’t think about trading Zumaya.

    Do you think Dombrowski believes in subliminal messages?

    To be serious for a moment, we have been so far from talking about potential playoff spots in the past that when we seriously have to deal with it now, we get a little woozy. Zumaya Verlander, Humberto Sanchez, Bonderman, Andrew Miller and maybe Kyle Sleeth represent the future of the franchise. You don’t trade one of the most exciting players in the league for a 40 yr. old starter, even if it is Smoltz. When Zumaya enters a game there is a palpable feeling of electricity in the air as everyone watches the radar gun. Don’t trade Zumaya.

    Unless it’s for Carl Crawford.

  12. Nick

    June 22, 2006 at 7:22 am

    I don’t get the excitement about Carl Crawford. He’s good, don’t get me wrong, and he’s very young. But he’s not great and his offensive production for a corner OF isn’t anything special. Is it just that he’s young and left handed?

  13. Chris

    June 22, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    I wouldn’t trade Zumaya for Crawford, but I think trading Maybin and some lesser pitching prospects would be a good deal.

    So far this year Crawford is leading AL LF with a .317 BA, 24 SB and fewest strikeouts. His OPS has been improving every year (currently .853) and he is only 24.;ageMax=51

  14. Mark

    June 23, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    I haven’t owned a television set since 2000. Maybe John Kruk’s the reason why.

    Kruk was a gamer in the bigs, a fine hitter and decent first baseman. Broke in with the Padres, the physical opposite of Tony Gwynn in those days (not now), but, like Gwynn, Kruk knew how to swing the bat.

    Power wasn’t his game. Kruk drove the ball into the gaps. Doubles and singles, they were his calling card.

    Kruk later made his name, and probably his ESPN career, on the opposite coast with the Lenny Dykstra-like Philadelphia Phillies. Kruk and Darren Daulton led that club. Kruk was the conversationalist, the everyman with the big gut, two-pack-a-day habit, and off-the-cuff remarks for the scribes, the fans, and, most important, the cameras.

    All that noted, I haven’t seen Kruk’s game out of Bristol. He’s working with Peter Gammons, the best baseball writer in the business. A Hall of Famer and deservedly so. Kruk can’t be any worse that Rob Dibble. Or so I thought.

    But Kruk’s actually behind swapping Joel Zumaya?

    Zumaya is a 21-year-old flamethrower who, as of June 23, led all American League relievers in Holds (somewhere, Jim Murray and Don Drysdale are cursing) with 17. Overall, Zumaya is 3-1 with one save and a Francisco Liriano-in-the-pen-like ERA of 2.52. Opponents are batting just .163 against Zumaya.

    Even more telling, Zumaya’s punched out 45 in 35.2 innings (11.36 whiffs per nine innings), and allowed just 20 hits (5.05 hits per nine frames). Even with 18 free passes, the kid’s WHIP is only 1.07. That’s excellent.

    And Kruk wants to trade this 21-year-old cannon for John Smoltz.

    No disrespect to Smoltz. He belongs in the Hall of Fame. Maybe not first ballot, but there’s not a better big game pitcher around. Smoltz won 24 and a Cy Young as a starter in 1996. Smoltz saved 55 in 2002, 45 in 2003, and 44 in 2004. Overall, Smoltz has a record of 181-133 with 154 saves.

    But Smoltz is 38. Toss aside the fact a sore groin forced Smoltz out of his start against Tampa Bay June 22. Forget that Smoltz is a Michigan native.

    You do not trade a 21-year-old cannon who can pitch for a 38-year-old starter. Ever. Not ever.

    Anyone remember the Twins’ A.J. to Frisco deal a few years back? Minnesota landed Joe Nathan, who developed into one of the best closers in the game; Boof Bonser, who’s now one of their top pitching prospects and getting to know AL hitters as a starter; and one other pitcher.

    The aforementioned Francisco Liriano.

    A.J. for Nathan, Bonser, and Liriano will go down as one of the dumbest trades in the history of baseball.

    Almost as bad as another trade, one made in August 1987.

    An American League club, in the midst of a pennant race, dealt a talented young arm to a National League club for a proven veteran pitcher.

    The veteran hurler did a superb job in his new home. Went 9-0 in 11 starts, with three shutouts and a sparkling 1.53 ERA. The American League club won the division title, but lost, 4-1, in the League Championship Series.

    The veteran arm stayed with the American League club for two more seasons, posting records of 14-11 with a 4.32 ERA in 1988 and 6-18 with a 4.44 ERA in 1989, before his career came to a close. Overall, in two-plus years, a record of 29-29.

    The veteran, his name was Doyle Alexander.

    The team who dealt for him: the Detroit Tigers.

    Oh, that young arm the Tigers pedaled to get Alexander: Some kid.

    John Smoltz

    Kruk and Tigers fans, you do not repeat the sin of 19 years ago by reacquiring the pitcher, John Smoltz, that you dealt for Doyle Alexander and, this time, using another talented young gun like Joel Zumaya to get him.

    Joel Zumaya may never become another John Smoltz. Being Joel Zumaya, with a little luck, a lot of health, and a fair amount of hard work, ought to be enough.

    John Kruk should know better.

    John Smoltz remains a fine pitcher, but he’s 38 and now battling groin issues. (Insert pun as you see fit.)

    Joel Zumaya possesses the two things the finest manager in the game cannot teach.

    A rocket for an arm.


    Keep Zumaya.

    Can Kruk.

  15. tem

    June 27, 2006 at 9:53 am

    ok, polanco is easily the best player in the whole mlb. so we wont trade him.