Last year I was caught up in Dave Dombrowski-mania. He made a series of huge deals before the offseason really even kicked into high gear. He took on huge players with even bigger salaries. He got me excited for the 2008 season while the calendar still read 2007. Then the 2008 season happened and reality came into focus.
Miguel Cabrera showed up out of shape. It also turned out that Cabrera could no longer be trusted with playing third base. Dontrelle Willis was awful for the entire season and contributed nothing but head-shaking performances. Edgar Renteria flopped in the American League once again. Meanwhile, Gorkys Hernandez played very well in the minors for the Atlanta Braves while Jair Jurrjens emerged as one of the best rookie pitchers in the game. Reality was grim. The Tigers took on all of this talent and it got them a last place finish. Suddenly Dombrowski didn’t look like the genius I pegged him as in December of 2007.
Fast forward to the present. The Tigers were missing some pieces. The Tigers were some expensive options available to the club. They could have signed Francisco Rodriguez to close games. They could have gotten in on the bidding for the likes of AJ Burnett and Derek Lowe to help beef up their starting rotation. They could have thrown the a bucket of cash at free agent SS Rafael Furcal. They could have even gone off free agent catcher Jason Varitek. They could have done all of those things and spent well over $100M and been set up pretty nicely for 2009. Dombrowski passed on every option.
The closer market for Rodriguez and Kerry Wood proved to be too expensive for the club. They will look elsewhere for a closer as the winter progresses. They passed on Lowe and Burnett and instead swung a trade to pick up Edwin Jackson, formerly of the Rays, who costs pennies compared to his free agent rivals. Instead of bidding on the speedy Furcal, Dombrowki looked at players like Jack Wilsonuntil he determined the price was just too steep. Instead he offered $1M to defensive wiz, Adam Everett. Finally, he shored of the catcher position for the next couple of seasons by trading for Gerald Lairdwho is also relatively cheap for a starting catcher. Dombrowki made all of this happen for less than $10M.
Not only did Dombrowski curb the spending this offseason, he didn’t trade off any top prospects. Last year the Tigers top 10 prospect list was almost entirely gutted to compete in 2008. That plan failed. This year, the Tigers made the moves to fill their holes and still kept the likes of Rick Porcello, Casper Wells, Wilkin Ramirez, and Ryan Perry. Not bad.
We got word to day from Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press that a trade for JJ Putz would have cost the Tigers Matt Joyce, Wilkin Ramirez, and Casper Wells. While Putz would have been a nice addition to the Tigers pen, he is not worth giving up the organizations top three outfield prospects. Nice restraint there by DD.
There’s still a chance that Dombrowski has one big move left in him. The club has not spent much money this offseason and they conceivably have a lot left with which to play. Closer Brian Fuentesis still available and given the deal that K-Rod and Kerry Wood got, he could come at a cheaper price than first predicted. Dombrowski has said that he doesn’t think paying a closer more than $10M a year would be a good investment. That’s the kind of thinking I can get behind.
If you were looking for the glamorous splash at the Winter Meetings again from the Tigers, you were probably disappointed. If you were looking forward to a Tigers organization who looked at things realistically and in a fiscally responsible way, you came away from this past week pretty excited at the direction the club is heading. I know I am.