What the heck is going on (re: trade rumors)?

I don’t remember the general manager meetings being this interesting in past years. Most of the action seems to usually take place at the winter meetings that take place in December. This year the GM meetings have served Tigers fans up with a disconcerting set of rumors with the Tigers making most of the team available for trade. But does this qualify as a fire sale?

It all started Tuesday night when the news hit that Edwin Jackson could be available along with Gerald Laird. Things got more interesting Wednesday afternoon when a New York Post story cited a National League executive who said the Tigers were listening to offers on Curtis Granderson. Olney later tweeted the same information. With two All Stars potentially on the block, a depressed economic region, and a payroll that leaves little flexibility the phrases “financial difficulty” and “fire sale” began working their way into columns. By evening Jon Heyman added Brandon Inge (h/t MLBTR) to the list of those the Tigers could be looking to trade. Are the Tigers slashing payroll?

Dave Dombrowski denied that the Tigers were in fire sale mode. He also iterated that the Tigers don’t have a set payroll yet from Mike Ilitch. So if the Tigers aren’t cutting and slashing the payroll, what is behind all the rumor and speculation?

When the Jackson rumor hit we went through a number of factors and possible scenarios. With Granderson and Inge added to the list it clears up a lot of the possibilities but I don’t think it points to payroll slashing. What I do think it confirms – and this isn’t a surprise – is that the team likely has limited flexibility with their payroll.

What we’re seeing now is every player on the roster with potential value being floated. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Miguel Cabrera’s name or Justin Verlander’s names pop up in the coming weeks. The Tigers have holes to fill and limited means to fill them. They also have a number of contracts coming off the books after 2010. If the Tigers trade a player or two to fill a couple holes and get younger or cheaper at the same time, it’s a win – especially going into a season where playoff aspirations are likely limited.

Granderson, Laird, Jackson, and Inge all make some money, but the 4 are a relatively small part of the overall payroll. Moving one or two of them isn’t going to have a significant financial impact. It’s more a matter of improving the team in the long run.

With Granderson and Jackson in particular the Tigers would be able to net a significant package. These players aren’t going to be given away which means that it is unlikely they are going anywhere, and if they do the team stands to be better for it.*

*The above paragraph is my best attempt at taking a cold and analytical look at the situation. The fan in me is sick about the thought of Curtis Granderson playing for another team. So maybe on second thought the paragraph is an attempt at rationalizing the minimal likelihood of a Granderson trade to make me feel better.

49 thoughts on “What the heck is going on (re: trade rumors)?”

  1. As final decision trades are made get ready to see the next world series champions, the Detroit Tigers I know for sure that people will rushing stores for memorabilia as the tigers take the reigns.

  2. A weak free agent market in conjunction with a bunch of teams seeking payroll relief has caused a lot of what is most likely idle trade chatter amongst GMs this week. The sports media, whose job it is to make mountains out of mole hills, has done so. Of the 1200 players on 40-man rosters, I bet at least 1100 are now for sale. The Yankees and Red Sox are really gonna clean up and the Tigers will be manned by a bunch of peanut vendors at the start of the 2010 season.

  3. Although all the “listening to offers” talk is likely ‘just talk’, i think it is a great idea to let the Tiger roster know (especially those who have had sub-par performances over the past year or two) that “there are no sacred cows”… now someone just needs to convey that message to the manager (JL) so that maybe he’ll curtail his starting lineup pronouncements 6 months before the season even starts (i.e. Guillen will be my starting LF).

    I’d like to think because of a depressed economy the days of entitlement and expectations by players and owners are over, but as long as a team can put sell around 2 million tix, they’ll continue to take the fans for granted.

    Plus, most of the owners and GMs are sheep and once the Yankees and Red Sox start serving up some huge piles of money on the few gems in the free agent market, the rest will scramble to make some feeble or insignificant moves in an attempt to appear to keep up.

    Despite all the economy blues being sung by management, there will be some huge dollars thrown at some free agents again this year – and once again by usual suspects (yankees, red sox, angels…). The rich will get richer and the poor will always have ‘next year’.

    1. Absolute truth with that post. I was just taking my dog for a walk and thinking the same thing. I know a couple who just moved from my hometown in Michigan to New Jersey. She says you would never know there was a recession there. I reminded her that Michigan isn’t in a rececession. We’re in a depression. Some people with money think it will last forever and it’s a rude awakening to find out it doesn’t. The Yankees will probably never experience that feeling but other MLB teams sure are.

    2. Well done! Good post and agreed.
      Regarding your last thought, it continues to be the “problem” with MLB. The only way artificial “parity” is maintained is due to the division system (and loooong playoff schedule)…otherwise we’d have had NYY or BOS representing the AL nearly every season.
      While I understand that the East Coast is the big market and NY and Bos fans are generally more enthused about baseball than the rest of the country, its a trend that may be getting worse and can ultimately kill the golden goose or turn it into a more regional sport like NHL hockey.
      The Green Bay Packer or Pittsburgh Steelers could never exist, much less succeed, in MLB and there’s a reason the NFL has become more popular than baseball over the past four decades despite the same work stoppages and bad championship matchups that every major sport has suffered…its because every team (save the Lions) have a realistic and relatively equal shot to succeed, instead of rotating slim windows of opportunity against the same goliaths that have an unfair advantage year in and year out.

  4. THIS JUST IN: Toronto trades Halladay and Vernon Wells for Granderson and Gallaraga…. Tigers payroll to jump to $150M in 2010

    the Jays never thought it was possible to unload Vernon Wells and his bloated (what the heck were they thinking) contract.

    JUST KIDDING – but my guess is the Jays might be trying to package Wells’ toxic contract with a Halladay deal… the main problem with that is there are maybe only 3 teams that could take on the Wells and Halladay (new) contracts… and if the Yankees part ways with Damon, they might do it.

  5. I personally don’t think they are thinking fire sale I think Dom has something big up his sleeve and is trying to make some cap space for a big transaction! I really think there going to make a push at Halladay!

    1. don’t hold your breath. if you want to dream on halladay, dream about how after the 2010 season all that money comes off our books and halladay becomes a free agent, then we can sign him. until then, he’s not coming.

  6. No reason to not listen to offers for any player on the roster. I just don’t know if I trust DD to get a proper return for a Jackson or a Granderson.

  7. I would personally take the Jackson and Granderson for halladay and wells, they also would need to throw in a prospect! this trade would automatically put Detroit in contention again!

    1. i personally like the Gallaraga/Granderson package better, but realistically the Jackson/Granderson for Halladay/Wells deal might be do-able (and justifiable to their fan base) for both teams… though the Tigers would be biting off a big payroll increase for the next few years: Halladay due $15.75M in 2010 and Wells due $21M in 2010, $23M in 2011, $21M in 2013, and $21M in 2014 YIKES!!!… and Halladay would want 4-5 years at least $17M+ per year… the more i think about this deal (and the Wells contract), the Tigers might be better served to pass and let the Yankees take on another $40M per year for the next 4 years… after all, what’s another $40M increase to the Yankees?

  8. If this is true, there is something I need help understanding.

    If we’ve found ourselves in cost cutting mode to the extent that we are willing to part with a front line pitcher when we only have two others we can count on for 2010, why did we keep Ordonez again?

    1. I agree with that line of thinking…if the team was okay letting Ordonez’ option vest, why would they all of the sudden 2 months later have to dump payroll?

      Grandy had a tough year, particularly versus lefties, but there’s something to be said for the “hidden” value of being a fan favorite. People are coming to the park just to see him.

      In my opinion: Of course Verlander and Porcello are and will continue selling tickets, that takes care of 2/5ths of the games. Guillen, Polonco, Rodney? I don’t believe they are major draws by themselves. Maggs? Maybe. Cabrera? I don’t believe he has endeared himself the way Granderson has.

      Drawing power is my #1 reason I don’t believe Curtis is going anywhere. Well, that and blind hope as he is my Tiger!

      P.S. I’m sending all my good thoughts DD’s way…the fanbase (we) could use a good heist after the way the season ended.

  9. I’m glad that management has acknowledged that the current setup isn’t working. I don’t understand shopping Jackson, unless there’s another #3 somewhere in the minors that we don’t know about.

    Granderson is as good a guy as there is out there, but sub .500 OPS 1/3 of the time just won’t cut it in the big leagues. Though he may just need a better hitting coach.

    Why anyone would want to trade for Inge is beyond me, but then again we traded for Washburn and Huff.

  10. While I truly hope Grandy and Jackson are not on the trading block, I find it hard to believe they are not for sale. Look at it this way; Mr. I let us spend freely and try to win two years ago. Did not happen. Spent a little less last year, and look what happened. Maybe we should pay attention to the model the Twins use and go from there? That being said, I do not see us competing in 2011 even with all the money coming off the books without our young studs in Grandy and Jackson. Want to make trades? Fine…make some sign and trade deals like you see in the NBA all the time…..otherwise…bite the bullet this year, and come out swinging in 2011

  11. EVERYONE in baseball has a price tag. I get that nobody really wants to trade granderson – I love granderson, told my wife she could have granderson’s baby and I’d raise it as my own – but if trading him makes the tigers a better team, you do it. Thing is, dombrowski can’t know if that deal is out there unless he asks around.

    It’s not about money, people. If illitch was concerned with 2010 payroll, he would have dumped maggs last year. The money thing is just a negotiating ploy dombrowski’s using: if teams think DD is unloading granderson because he’s peaked and will never hit lefties and has lost a step or two, he gets less; if teams think DD loves granderson but can’t keep him because detroit’s unemployment is 25%, he gets more.

    1. dwinning – well stated!

      The AL Central, albeit one of the weakest divisions in MLB, will be more competitive next year – the Twinkies added JJ Hardy at SS, they’ve got a new stadium, new add’l revenue and they’re spending it (picked up an $11M option on Cudyer, currently negotiating long term deal with Mauer, want to re-sign Cabrera to play 2B instead of SS) and the White Sox, with already a solid pitching staff have added some offensive and defensive pieces…

      If the Tiger’s stand pat and HOPE:
      1) a #4 and #5 starter magically emerges out of the mess that is: Bondo, Robertson, Gallaraga, Willis, etc
      2) guys like Inge, Everett (if he re-signs), Laird, etc magically become .260+ hitters
      3) Maggs, Grandy and Guillen return to past hitting glory
      Tiger fans will be disappointed much earlier in 2010 than they were in 2009. Face it, finishing 8 games over .500 is not going to win the AL Central in 2010 – and the strategy of ‘getting significantly better production out of our existing roster’ works maybe once every 10 years, and usually only when there is a dramatic change in management and attitude.

    2. I don’t think it’s a ploy. Other GMs have access to all the same stats us fans do, plus additional stats and scouting information. They know what they’re getting with Granderson no matter what Dombrowski says is the motivation. That form of gamesmanship won’t get DD anywhere.

      1. I dunno, billfer, GMs are human and they’re subject to all the normal judgement and decision-making biases that everyone else has. Human decisionmaking is very much driven by the stories people tell themselves, rather than by cold, hard logic, even (especially) at the big league front office level. Two GMs could very well look at granderson and think (1) he’s a gold glove caliber CF that’s good for a few more 30 homer-20 sb seasons and is golden in the clubhouse – close to a superstar or (2) he’s a guy who strikes out too much, has lost a step, will never hit LHP and is overrated because he’s a great person and an exciting player. Both would be true. But Dombrowski telling the I-love-him-but-we-can’t-afford-him card helps GMs who think more (1) than (2) justify a decision to give up a better package for him.

        It’s like if I’m selling a vintage camaro or something. yeah, anyone can go on blue book and see what it’s “worth”, but it’s going to be worth more to the single dude than it will be to the mother of 4, just because of the stories those two people are telling themselves.

        You see this all the time, when normal logic can’t really explain what a GM does. $50m to gary matthews jr? WTF? Every GM in baseball had access to the same scouting reports and stats, but only the angels thought he was worth that, because they told themselves a story: this is an elite fielding OF that hits for average and power! really he was just a journeyman coming off a career year. stories are powerful, and DD is playing into that, imho.

        1. I just don’t think that other GM’s are going to be swayed based on what DD says his motivations are. They’ll draw their own conclusions.

  12. I think trading players who aren’t likely to increase in value is a shrewd move. Its impossible not to like Granderson, but if it makes the team better for the next 5 years, move him.

    I agree with it not being entirely based on money, but money needs to be considered given how many holes the roster has. There’s too much salary invested in starting pitching and the outfield. They need to roll the dice and hope some of the expensive disappointments produce, otherwise start ramping up for 2011.

    Granderson/Inge/Jackson are all players who have probably already peaked and are locked into fairly reasonable contracts. They’ll never be worth more in the trade market than they are now. You can trade them for younger talent, unlike Guillen, Ordonez, Willis, etc.

    Trading Verlander or Cabrera is different: thats a firesale. That would be disappointing, even if understandable.

    1. I don’t disagree with the premise, but there is usually a cost to replacing their production as well. Trading them at their highest value is fine, but there are other things in play.

      1. There certainly is a cost to giving those guys up, but you gotta do something right? I don’t think many people will be too happy if they bring back the same roster, minus the best two relievers and the 2B. If you assume they can’t sign significant free agents to upgrade the roster, trading is the only action. There are few quality youngsters to deal and most of the veterans are overpaid. So… Granderson and Jackson are the guys who are marketable that don’t gut the team. We can call them “all-stars” but there are only 2 true “all-AL” players on the roster.

        1. But…I shouldn’t ignore the fact that Granderson and (inexplicably to me, but apparently to some people) Inge are popular. Losing them might hurt ticket sales.

  13. Dave Dombrowski:
    I think that trading Curtis is the worst thing you can do, not only is he a great ball player, but he is an individual that kids in Metro Detroit can look up to and idolize, I can’t say that about to many players on the Detroit Tigers, there are many moms and wives who watch Tigers games just to see Curtis, he can be a hero here in Detroit for many years to come if you and Mr. Illitch keep him in Detroit where he belongs.

  14. I honestly don’t see any way anybody trades for Inge–guy just had surgery on both knees, and nobody is going to want to take on his 6.5 mil contract before they see how he comes back from that, much less give up anything for him. Inge’s value peaked in June unfortunately.

    1. You don’t think there’s any teams out there clamoring to fork over $6.5M for 3B whose a .230 career hitter that strikes out a lot?

      No, for better or worse, the Tigers are stuck with Mr. Inge for one more season.

      Guys like Robertson, Bonderman, Willis, Guillen and Inge because of their contracts, health issues and performance (or lack thereof) over the past two years have absolutely no trade value.

      If Maggs option doesn’t vest next year, the Tigers will have about $60M coming off the books at the end of the 2010 season.

  15. The human highlight reel, Brandon Inge who just made the All-Star team. There’s teams out there who might want him.

    1. He might garner some attention, but like Coleman said, nobody is going to take a flyer on a guy that just had surgery on both his knees. He’d never pass the physical right now.

  16. We hold these truths to be self evident:
    1. The Tigers have four holes to fill for the 2010 season, at 2B, SS, closer and set up, due to expiring contracts.
    2. The Tigers will have holes to fill after the 2010 season at 3B, RF, DH, 2 starting pitchers, and catcher.
    3. There is $ 72 million in BAD immovable contracts on the books for 2010. $ 65 million comes off after the 2010 season, although it leaves all those holes to fill.
    4. The Tigers need to fill these holes, either now or later, but there is no money available, and no way to trade any of that $ 72 million, save maybe for Inge, and he wouldn’t get much in return.
    5. The NEXT highest contracts, other than Cabrera and Verlander (their trade rumors are coming soon to a blog near you), are Granderson’s 5.5 mil, Jacksons expected 4- 5 mil, and Laird’s 3.5 mil. Others are not worth talking about.
    6. The Tiger farm system has little to offer. DD can sell the farm only so often.
    It’s not about shedding those relatively modest salaries. It’s about having holes to plug, but finding a tradeable commodity to get a return that would fill multiple vacancies. Enter Granderson and Jackson.

    I’d trade Inge for an Eddie Brinkman bobble head doll if I could put his 6.6 million toward signing Chone Figgins. I’d let any of those players that comprise the $ 72 million in bad contracts go if anyone would take them. Just say please, and they’re all yours. But nobody wants those contracts, even for nothing. So maybe Jackson or Inge can be spun into a young starting pitcher and a closer, or a young shortstop and a closer.

    But any way you slice it, DD has screwed up. He’s backed the team into a corner. Into a position where he can’t even resign his own players, at a reasonable cost, to fill the vital needs of the club. I don’t buy the notion that the team can’t contend in 2010. There is no insurmountable power in the AL Central, and the Tigers still have a solid nucleus of a rotation. They have half a dozen veterans returning who could hardly play much worse than what they provided last year. Management needs to suck it up, pay the freight, and put a winner on the field. If they start selling off players just so some rich club will take on a bad contract, they should be boycotted- just like they were in the first half of this decade. If you build a winner, people will come. If you build a loser, people won’t!

    1. Well stated.
      The Wild Card here is Ilitch, however. He’s in his 80’s now and wants to WIN, regardless of making money and perhaps at the cost of the future. While there’s limits, of course, we really don’t know what’s truly going on. Fact is, we have a bloated payroll this year, but is only a year away from being reasonable and healthy.
      I’d find it tough to believe they’re going to “rebuild” by trading away their most marketable & valuable guys (Granderson/Jackson) “for the future” when they are likely at or entering their prime and the team plays in a very winnable division. Their contracts are very reasonable at today’s rates – and a bargain in the case of Jackson.
      If nothing else, this may be a wake up call – that no one is “untouchable” – to a team that, quite frankly, underachieved this past season given the turnaround in our starting pitching.

  17. You know, I remember that exact logic being used in 2002 when the Tigers traded away 25-year-old Jeff Weaver. We wound up getting Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena, and Franklyn German. Weaver was regarded about equal to Jackson today. So yes, trading away good, young players before there prime “for the future” does happen.

    1. Except in ’02, the cupboard was bare and we were truly tearing down to rebuild…witness the AAAA team we fielded in ’03. That is not the case now…we’re 3 years removed from a W.S. appearance, 2 years removed from everyone’s preseason pick, and one year from a historical collapse to make the playoffs again. Despite problems and needs, the cupboard is not bare.
      I’d question whether there’s time for a complete rebuild again, in Ilitch’s eyes, that’s all.

  18. I am not opposed to hearing what kind of offers we could get for Grandy. I don’t care much about Jackson as I was P.O.’ed when we traded Joyce for him. I am sure many of you felt the same way as I did less than a year ago.

    There are 10 teams rumored to have serious interest in Grandy. I am glad DD is shopping around to see what he could score on a deal like this. I’m guessing that the bidding price will escalate as teams bid against each other.

    Hopefully Dombrowski knows his limit and doesn’t pull a Jim Bowden-esque move like Bowden did with Soriano when he asked for the sun, moon, stars, and Jesus’ penthouse. In any event, buckle your seatbelts, it’s shaping up to be a crazy offseason.

  19. Fans are determined to pull the plug, but why? Nate the Great showed us that he could still pitch. Willis threw a great game in his 1st start back, but his mental problems kept holding him back. Magglio had a great 2nd half, so there is no question about him anymore. Guillen showed that he can still hit when he’s healthy. Bonderman got his velocity back and should be ready to contribute next season. Professional athletes bounce back all the time, so don’t count the Tigers out yet!

  20. I’m going to go out on a limb here….

    Just guessing, but if the Tigers trade Granderson for anything less than control of The Solar System, I won’t be the only one jumping ship. Thirty-five years of mostly torture be damned.

    The Weaver comparison of null and void. Weaver had already demonstrated himself incapable of being a big-game pitcher or a front-line starter. And, the Tigers didn’t see much in return from that trade other than Bonderman (if Pena was still a Tiger, there may be an argument). Further, the Tigers weren’t even in the discussion to hit .500, much less contend in the near future in 2002.

    If you are going to move a franchise player (i.e. Granderson or Verlander) off this team, you better make sure you have something both immediate and stunning to show for it.

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