Perusing Lynn Henning’s Burning Questions today I came across the following:
Q . Are the Tigers any more inclined today to make a trade ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline?
A . Probably not.
It’s not as though they wouldn’t seek one more arm for their bullpen, or another hitter or catcher, but the asking price is going to be so steep that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend heavily on additional players that might or might not help a well-constructed team make the playoffs.
The Tigers have to be careful. They’ve added significant pitching help to their bullpen and stand to add more in the coming weeks as Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya heal. Trading young talent they will need to compete in coming seasons is a price that should not be paid unless there is a serious need and reasonable guarantee that you’ll get better.
This pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter. I fully understand that the team has to “win it all this year” because “you never know when you’ll get another opportunity.” But even taking the best team into the playoffs doesn’t mean that you win it all.
Now of course you have to question whether the team is good enough to make the playoffs. It’s a fair question and as tempting as it is to say they aren’t, especially after a debacle like last night, look at the record this team has compiled even with their bullpen. Of course this team is capable of making the playoffs the way they are currently constructed. And no matter how demoralizing the loss was last night, it doesn’t change the Tigers negotiating position. One game should never do that. If you’ve thought for the other 98 games the Tigers needed help, it shouldn’t change your mind. Similarly if felt the Tigers pen was good enough, you arrived at that conclusion despite the bullpen struggles and that one game shouldn’t dissuade you.
As much as the Tigers want to win this year, they plan on winning for the next several years. In 2008 they’ve already committed $78 million (assuming they pick up the Pudge option, $68 million otherwise). And that money is spread out over only 11 players. It’s the same story in 2009 with $68 million going to 8 players, and other guys who are cheap now (Granderson, Zumaya) getting hefty raises with that money.
The reason the Tigers felt they could give out extensions to Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen was because a)they felt that was the most efficient way to secure that production and b)they’re counting on filling open positions with cheap home grown talent. If you make the system bereft of that talent then you’re looking on the free agent market or settling for replacement level production. And the Tigers system just isn’t loaded with guys who project to start at the Major League level, there isn’t an endless supply. It’s why you go above slot money and invest early on in top talent in the draft so that you save the money while players are under club control.
Dave Dombrowski isn’t building a team for 2007. He’s trying to put together an organization that can compete year in and year out. You’ve got a GM with well earned job security who isn’t under the gun to win it now or he’s gone. You aren’t going to see moves made out of desperation and instead you’re going to see moves that are in the best long term interests of the team. Isn’t that really what you want?
The Tigers are looking to add a bullpen arm, but they aren’t going to overpay for it and risk the future. It’s why the Tigers have scouts in every city that might be looking to trade quality relievers. Not only as due diligence but as a means to bring the price down. If it appears that the Tigers are casting a wider net it does give them at least a smidgen of leverage. It’s why you get reports that Fernando Rodney is about to rejoin the team and Joel Zumaya throws off a mound way ahead of schedule. It’s all about trying to muster the leverage available. The Tigers will deal if the price is right, but trading a Maybin for a rental or an aging pitcher just isn’t the right price.