Time to Shine

Shortly after Dave Dombrowski took over for departed GM Randy Smith, he recognized household changes needed to be made. Dombrowski orchestrated a 3-team deal that sent ace Jeff Weaver to the Yankees while the Tigers retrieved a trio of prospects in return. A season and a half after the deal, we take a look at this trio.

At the time, the star of the deal appeared to be 1B Carlos Pena. Pena had been one of the top prospects in all of baseball at the start of the 2002 season, when he was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Oakland A's. The A's hoped Pena could replace the departed Jason Giambi, however Pena struggled and was returned to the minors. The Tigers have now had Pena for a year and a half, and are slowly growing impatient with him. If his struggles continue again this season, Pena could find himself out of the lineup.

Forever cheerful and hopeful, Pena has few enemies. Unfortunately, his happy-go-lucky attitude hasn't helped him lay off off-speed pitches that he constantly succumbs to. Pena possesses an excellent batting eye, but for whatever reason he has struggled to keep his strikeout totals down. Defense isn't a problem with Pena, but for a First Baseman he'll need to do better than the 18 HR's and 50 RBI he recorded in 2003. If he doesn't, the Tigers could potentially shift Dmitri Young to First out of his current DH role and move current 4th Outfielder Craig Monroe into the lineup as the Designated Hitter.

The second of the three prospects was projected future closer Franklyn German. German has demonstrated a fastball with good zip and an excellent split finger - and the inconsistency that drives managers crazy. German had a late season call up in 2002 and showed everything the Tigers hoped. But in 2003, German did anything but reassure the Tigers that he'd be their closer of the future. He walked more than he struck out, and often couldn't hold a lead in the late innings. German was sent back to Toledo, and will stay in Toledo until he can improve his location where he can consistently hit the strike zone. As for that future closer role - the Tigers appear set on handing that job to fellow youngster Fernando Rodney, who has thusfar shown more promise than production, but nonetheless has an excellent arm that the Tigers think can make him a mainstay at the back end of their bullpen for years to come.

The final piece of the deal came in the form of a Player to be Named Later; that player turned out to be stud starter Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman was drafted by the A's, and spent his first full season with their high-A ballclub - a rarity for a pitcher one year removed from his junior season of high school. Bonderman had taken the GED and entered the draft after his junior year of high school. So, despite his youth, at the ripe age of 20 Bonderman made the jump from high-A to the majors, as he was with the Tigers all season long. He wasn't dominating, but he held his own as a rookie and made many believe that once his change-up develops more and he ages and gains experience he'll become a force at the top of the Tigers rotation.

Now, some might view this as a big hit on Dombrowski - except for the fact that Weaver has apparently self-destructed after leaving the Tigers. Joe Torre and the Yankees grew tired of him and moved him to the Dodgers this past offseason, happy to be rid of him.

The jury is still out on Dombrowski's first big move. The three acquired players haven't yet hit stardom - and two of the three are already frustrating coaches and management - but Weaver has yet to prove he would have been the future ace of the staff. A year and a half later and the verdict has yet to be reached - but at least it hasn't proven to be a major failure like so many of Smith's trades were a year later.


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