By Jeff Moss
January 26, 2014
I really thought the disastrous Doug Fister trade was a settled issue; everyone in the baseball world bombed Dave Dombrowski’s decision to swap one of the top twenty starting pitchers in MLB for 30 cents on the dollar, and I was ready — for the time being — to put this horrid deal behind me.
And it’s not like anything has happened since the Tigers acquired Italian Ramon Santiago, Young Phil Coke and Poor Man’s Andrew Miller to make the Detroit end of this bargain look more inviting.
If anything, the outrageous contacts that borderline pitchers have received since the Fister deal have shown just how desperate most teams are for viable starting pitching.
The Twins gave Ricky Nolasco $48 million over four years. Ricky. Nolasco. They followed that up by giving career washout Phil Hughes $24 million over three seasons. Phil. Hughes. The Brewers are on the verge of providing Matt Garza $52 million over four. Yes, the injury-plagued Matt Garza who has averaged just 21 starts over the last two seasons.
Hell, the Yankees just committed $175 million (between contract and posting fees) to an unknown quantity in Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka. And I am guessing the Steinbrenner Brothers would be thrilled with Doug Fister-like production from Tanaka based on their dad’s experience with Hideki Irabu.
It’s not like I have to tell you that starting pitching is at a premium; it’s only been that way for the last 120 years. And Dombrowski gave up Fister for the booby prize behind Door #3 on “Let’s Make a Deal.”
I was finished commenting on Dombrowki’s horrid trade until Saturday afternoon, when news started trickling in from the Tigers Caravan, TigerFest or whatever dog-and-pony show that was occurring over the weekend.
First, I received word that the Tigers radio voice, Dan Dickerson, was blasting me (unnamed, of course) on 97.1 for having the unmitigated gall to ask Detroit’s GM if he did his “due diligence” when deciding on a deal for White Doug.
And then, the DSR’s favorite foil, Lynn Henning, decided to write yet ANOTHER column defending the indefensible trade. Just when you thought this naive, aging moron couldn’t fall any deeper into the depths of shilldom, Mr. Imperfect did it again.
(Get it? Curt Hennig was Mr. Perfect. So Lynn is Mr. Imperfect. I can’t believe I didn’t craft this awful joke years ago. Has Royal Rumble started yet?)
It seems that Dombrowski informed the assembled media at Slappy Festival 2014 that the Nationals initially turned down the Fister deal. Here is how Henning put it in his propaganda piece…..
Dombrowski might have mentioned when the trade was announced that Washington had two weeks earlier said no to parting with Ray. It would have softened some of the artillery rounds fired by fans irked that Fister was leaving in a deal for three no-names.
First of all, does anyone actually believe this? There is nothing to substantiate his claim, and you know that Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo isn’t going to contradict it. But Henning just takes an executive’s word that this occurred and runs with it.
And then there was this …..
Dombrowski had a wry line when asked Saturday why he kept the trade chronology quiet. He said he “wanted to get beat up a bit” before he spilled the beans.
Dombrowski withheld this information because he wanted to “get beat up a bit”? When I asked Divot-Chinned Cary Grant at the Joe Nathan press conference why rival GMs were claiming that they didn’t even know Fister was on the market — and definitely not for the Big Lots price DD got in return — the GM went into a five-minute soliloquy defending the transaction.
Not only did Dombrowski pull a piece of paper out of his sport coat with prospect names written all over it to show his new closer, he attacked Keith Law of ESPN.com for reporting that other baseball execs thought DD got fleeced.
Dombrowski was so irate at my line of questioning and at the general consensus around the league about the trade that Detroit News baseball writer Tony Paul said it was the most upset he had ever seen the Tigers President.
@mgibbons2402 Most irritated I’ve ever seen him.
— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) December 4, 2013
But Dombrowski wanted to get beat up a little bit? Uh huh. And Henning actually believes this line of garbage that his boyfriend is selling him?
Thankfully, these gullible dolts like Henning, Matthew B. Mowery and John Lowe are merely covering trivial matters like baseball and not city government. If M.L. Elrick and Jim Schaefer had been replaced by Chris Iott and Jason Beck, Kwame Kilpatrick would still be banging Christine Beatty in the Manoogian Mansion and Bobby Ferguson would be breaking ground on the Red Wings’ new arena.
Hey Lynn, President Francois Hollande just told me that his country originally said no to the United States’ offer of three cents an acre for The Louisiana Purchase.
France just wanted to get “beat up a little” on that deal, so they waited 211 years to divulge that nugget, you childlike fool.
Nelson Cruz Makes No Sense
There has been both local and national speculation over the last few days that the Tigers might be interested in free-agent power-hitting outfielder Nelson Cruz.
The combination of Cruz still being on the market and the Tigers’ past penchant for making late, out-of-nowhere free-agent acquisitions after the organization had declared they were done with their winter spending has led to this conjecture.
Johnny Damon didn’t sign on the dotted line to play in Detroit until February 21, 2010, when he suddenly realized that he was a huge Red Wings fan. Either that, or he was jobless while pitchers and catchers were reporting.
Magglio Ordonez and his surgically-repaired knee via Austria didn’t enter into an agreement with the Tigers until February 7, 2005.
Pudge Rodriguez didn’t agree to “slum it” in Detroit until February 4, 2004, when his only other viable option was Tanaka’s homeland.
And it was about two years ago to the day when Prince Fielder decided to return to his hometown when nobody else in baseball would meet Scott Boras’ contractual demands except Mike Ilitch.
So there is a history of last-minute signings with this front office, but I can’t see Cruz signing here for a few reasons:
1) It doesn’t appear that Mike Ilitch is calling the shots any longer, and his son, Chris, is by all accounts less impulsive than his old man. Or more likely, he just doesn’t care about winning the World Series as much as Mr. I does.
2) Dombrowski spent the entire offseason attempting to get the team payroll under control. Why would anyone think he would blow all of that up for an aging, slow, PED-using outfielder who would cost his team a first-round pick in the 2014 draft?
3) If the team hadn’t committed to a $10 million deal over two seasons with Rajai Davis this would seem more plausible. But unfortunately, they did.
So while I think acquiring Cruz is a huge longshot at best, there is another free-agent still looking for a gig at whom I would like to see the Tigers make a run. Keep in mind, I don’t believe there is any chance this will occur either.
Go get Fernando Rodney. Remember him, Tigers fans? The last time Rodney was seen in a Tigers uniform, Jim Leyland was foolishly sending his closer out for a third inning of work in Game 163 versus the Twins. It would appear that the 48(!!!!!!) pitches Rodney threw back in 2009 didn’t irreparably harm his right arm.
Since leaving Detroit, Fernando has turned into a pretty reliable relief pitcher. And while he wasn’t nearly as effective in 2013 as he was the previous year — when he finished fifth in CY YOUNG voting — Rodney still has the ability to strike batters out. He had a K/9 of 11.07 last season.
And if he were coming off his 2012 career year, he would have signed a Rafael Soriano-like offer and wouldn’t still be available as the Super Bowl approaches. But Rodney reverted back to his habit of walking people at an alarming rate, so he is debating whether or not to sign with the hot mess known as the New York Mets.
Anyway, with all of the changes the Tigers have made since they were eliminated from the postseason by the Red Sox, it is clear that they are going to try to win with pitching and improved defense.
Which is fine, I guess, but if you are going to attempt to win a World Series that way, you probably are going to need a superb bullpen. And there is absolutely ZERO evidence that the team has improved its stable of relief pitchers since the two Grand Slam debacles at Fenway Park last fall.
The Tigers have removed their best ‘pen arm in 2013 (Drew Smyly) and placed him in the starting rotation. What are the odds that Ian Krol can duplicate Smyly’s 2013 success?
Joe Nathan MIGHT be a slight upgrade over Joaquin Benoit, but even that is debatable. And Nathan is no spring chicken. If he were, Monty Hall would have included him in the Fister deal. (Nobody under 40 is getting that reset.)
Bruce Rondon’s health is going to be a constant question, as the sequel to Joel Zumaya, “The Elbow Strikes Back” will always be one pitch away from Tommy John surgery.
And is anyone confident in the triumvirate of Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain? The Joba signing was so baffling that even HENNING questioned what the hell Dombrowski was thinking, which is like a member of Justin Bieber’s posse telling the kid no. To anything.
Look, if the thought process is that the 2014 Tigers are going to be in a lot more close games because they won’t have as many ten-run highs and shutout lows since they won’t be relying on three-run bombs, then they need more bullpen help.
So I suggest that the team make a one-year offer to Rodney and his crooked hat since his former team has already scooped up Grant Balfour for the bargain-basement price of $12 million over two years.
Nathan and Rodney can alternate in the 8th and 9th innings, or they can just make Fernando the full-time set-up man. And hope that the combination of Krol, Alburquerque, Rondon and maybe someone like Corey Knebel can solidify the earlier innings.
At the very worst, Rondon stays healthy, Alburquerque learns to throw his fastball more often and Krol and Coke can somehow get lefties out, leaving an overabundance of relief arms at new manager Brad Ausmus’ disposal, which makes Rodney a trade chip at the deadline.
Can someone explain the downside to this — other than a little less money for the Ilitches to split up in the will?
While you are providing me with that answer, I will just be conversing with Henning over here. He is attempting to convince me that Roy Raymond’s jump off the Golden Gate Bridge wasn’t due to his his selling his company, Victoria’s Secret, to the Limited for only $1 million.
Lynn thinks the star-crossed lingerie entrepreneur just wanted to go for a swim.