Dave Dombrowski is the master of the trade. Moneyball made Billy Bean out to be the best GM in baseball, with the ability to consistently find gems that are other teams cast-offs. However, it is Dave Dombrowski’s ability to extract MLB ready players for prospects that rarely seem to work out for the trading partners that makes him one of baseball best.
Since firing Randy Smith 6 games into the 2002 season, Dombrowski has acted as the GM in addition to his duties as President of the Tigers. During that time, he has made countless moves to take the Tigers from perennial doormat to perennial World Series contender. A lot of the moves he has made to improve the Tigers have been Free Agent signings: Pudge Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers, Magglio Ordonez, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter for example.
But, what makes Dombrowski so great is that he has been able to deal with many other teams to fill in gaps and help improve this team and help them contend. Here are the top 5 trades Dave Dombrowski has made as Tigers GM:
5) July 23, 2012: Tigers trade top prospect, P Jacob Turner, C Rob Brantly and P Brian Flynn for PAnibal Sanchez, 2B Omar Infante and a swap of compensatory picks in the 2013 MLB Draft.
The Tigers needed an additional arm for the stretch run in 2012 and Jacob Turner was not ready to join a pennant race pitching rotation, so Dombrowski went out and got a guy that was able to put this rotation over the top. Sanchez started 12 games in 2012 plus 3 playoff games and outside of 2 rough outings was solid and worth the top prospect.
But, not only did Dombrowski improve the rotation with Sanchez for 2012, he was able to resign him and Sanchez had provided even more value in 2013. Dombrowski also avoided Ryan Dempster, the other marquee pitcher on the market at the 2012 trade deadline who provided .3 WAR for the Texas Rangers (compared to Sanchez’s 1.2 WAR) and then bolted this off season to the Red Sox.
Added to all that value was the addition of Omar Infante, who solidified 2nd base for the Tigers for the remainder of 2012 and most of 2013 (before missing a month with a sprained ankle) which had been a question mark with this organization since Placido Polanco moved on after the 2009 season.
This trade is still pretty fresh, but the players that went to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Sanchez and Infante haven’t provided much value, Jacob Turner has been slightly above average for them this year, but as a pitcher that was so highly touted and seemingly so Major League ready, only averaging a little above 6 K/9 and over 3 BB/9 are not encouraging numbers going forward.
And this starts the trend you’ll see on this list, of Dombrowski trading “Top Prospects” that don’t ever amount to much…
4) July 30, 2011: Tigers Trade P Charlie Furbush, OF(sometimes Pitcher) Casper Wells, P Chance Ruffin and Player To Be Named Later (Francisco Martinez) to the Seattle Mariners for Doug Fister and David Pauly.
In 2011 Dombrowski pulled off an amazing heist: Getting underrated (at the time) Doug Fister from the Mariners for spare parts. Doug Fister provided 2.5 WAR in just 11 starts down the stretch for the Tigers (almost and 8 WAR pace across an entire season, which is considered MVP level value) and has been continuing to be a staple in the rotation ever since, not being eligible for free agency until 2016.
Before acquiring Fister, the rumors were abound that the Tigers were the front runners for the Colorado Rockies prize pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. Instead, the Cleveland Indians, who for some reason thought they were in a pennant race, went out and got Jimenez and he became a train wreck for them ever since.
Doug Fister has become a solid, borderline All Star starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers since this trade was made and should continue to be for at least the next 3 seasons. In exchange, Dombrowski gave up: Charlie Furbush, who has become a serviceable, situational lefty out of the bullpen; Chance Ruffin who has 17 IP in 2011 and 0 since (in the Majors): Casper Wells, who’s biggest claim to fame now is that he pitched in relief nicely for the White Sox 2013, despite being an outfielder and has been a part of 5 different MLB organizations THIS SEASON (Mariners, Blue Jays, A’s, White Sox, Phillies) and Francisco Martinez, who as an almost 23 year old has yet to surpass AA level baseball.
Those are some nice magic beans Dombrowski traded…
2b) December 9, 2009: Tigers trade OF Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees and P Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for OF Austin Jackson, P Max Scherzer, P Phil Coke and P Daniel Schlereth.
The Tigers received 4 players who all at least contributed at the MLB level. Daniel Schlereth never became the effective reliever he was expeted to become and Phil Coke has regressed of late, but has been a valuable piece of the bull pen for the past 3 years.
Then there is Austin Jackson, who plays Gold Glove level defense in center field, has developed nice power and has been able to get on base regularly in front of the Tigers big hitters to score a lot of runs since his career started in 2010. Expect Jackson to continue to improve and provide more value than Granderson is able to offer at this stage in his career.
And the icing on the cake of this trade is the development of Max Scherzer. He was expected to be able to provide the same value that Edwin Jackson had provided in 2009 and grow from there. He has. He has grown so well he is the front runner for the AL Cy Young this year.
To sum this one up: Tigers traded 19.4 Wins Above Replacement for 33.1 Wins Above Replacement so far. This was and still is a very good trade as both Jackson and Scherzer are still under team control and Edwin Jackson has hit free agency and Curtis Granderson is about to.
2a) June 8, 2005: Tigers trade P Ugueth Urbina for 2B Placido Polanco
How bad were the Tigers in 2005 when Dombrowski made this trade? It was mid June when Polanco started playing for the Tigers and he won Tiger of the Year that season. Polanco was also a key member of the Tiger revival and Dombrowski traded a man who the following offseason was convicted of attempted murder in Venezuala for him.
1) December 4, 2007: Tigers trade OF Cameron Maybin, P Andrew Miller, P Burke Bradenhop, P Dallas Trahern, C Mike Rabelo, P Eulogio de la Cruz for 3B Miguel Cabrera and P Dontrelle Willis.
The quick version here is that Miguel Cabrera is the best right handed hitter in baseball. Miguel Cabrera is going to the Hall of Fame as a Tiger and they gave up peanuts to get him. Cameron Maybin never developed into the next Ken Griffy, Jr like he was supposed to and Andrew Miller never got control enough of his Fastball and Slider to be an effective starting pitcher. Everyone else was just a throw in.
I can’t state it enough, but Miguel Cabrera would have been worth more, but the master that Dombrowski was, he took on an inflated pending contract in Dontrelle Willis who proved to be useless, but it didn’t matter, because the Tigers got Miguel Cabrera.
January 8, 2004 Tigers trade Ramon Santiago for Carlos Guillen. Guillen developed into a quality hitting short stop and was key to the 2006 team. Santiago became a utility infielder for the Tigers after failing for the Mariners.
July 31, 2006: Tigers trade Brian Rogers for Sean Casey. Casey provided enough offense from 1st base down the stretch for the Tigers that they made the playoffs for the first time since 1987.
July 5, 2002: Tigers trade Jeff Weaver for Carlos Pena, Franklyn German and Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman became a solid pitcher during the revival years of 2006-10 and has since made a come back in 2013 out of the bull pen. Pena was a solid player during the down years.