A big reason why the Detroit Tigers "under-performed" in the playoffs a year ago was the instability of it's bullpen. Tigers President, CEO & General Manager Dave Dombrowski took brave steps toward fixing that problem in the off-season. He signed Joe Nathan as a free agent closer, acquired Joba Chamberlain as a set-up man and traded for left-handed reliever Ian Krol.
Only one of those moves has worked out, so Dombrowski made the move that HAD to be made on Wednesday night. He traded two top 10, but unproven, prospects for the best available arm on the market: Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers.
You know Soria's resume that includes 177 career saves, 17 for 19 in save conversions this year, and two All-Star appearances. In addition to his career numbers, look closely at what he's done this year and you'll conclude it's exactly what the Tigers need.
Right-handed hitters are batting .089 against him. The overall batting average against is just .198. He has struck out 42 batters, allowed just four walks and hasn't allowed a home run, even though he pitches primarily in a hitter-friendly ballpark.
There are some who worry that the Tigers surrendered too much to get the commodity they desired. Dombrowski gave up 20-year-old starter Jake Thompson and 22-year-old reliever Corey Knebel.
Thompson was 7-4 with an ERA over 3.00 in the minors, but he has to develop a solid third pitch in order to be considered a back-end-of-the-rotation guy. We've seen Knebel eight times this year, with mixed results, but he could be a future closer.
The key is both young pitchers have potential, which would be something you'd want to hold on to if this were 2002. It's not. This team is in "win now" mode.
They've just acquired the best arm available on the trade market, who is proven, still in his prime (30-years-old) and could be here next year for a reasonable cost (team has a club option for $7 million).
You have to give up something to get something. It's a cliche, but it's appropriate here. Remember names like Chance Ruffin (recently retired) and Casper Wells? They were sent to the Seattle Mariners for Doug Fister. Jacob Turner and Rob Brantley? They were dealt for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller went to the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera. Humberto Sanchez and Anthony Claggett were packaged for Gary Sheffield.
Do you miss them?
Don't get me wrong, I think prospects are important, but part of their significance is linked to their ability to bring in qualified and proven veterans to help a team win, or contend immediately.
That is what's being taken place here for the Tigers. It was needed, because this franchise is on the cusp of winning it all.
And if it fulfills that goal, we won't care how good Thompson or Knebel will be.