A Closer Look: DD's Deals, Part 1

In the midst of his fourth season with the Detroit Tigers, it is time to start taking a look at some of the wheeling and dealing Dave Dombrowski has done since arriving on the Detroit sports scene by starting out with Dombrowski's deals on the big league side of things.

For the purposes of breaking down the trades during Dave's Tiger tenure, I have separated them out into four categories: 1) Major League player for Major League player, 2) Major League player for minor league player, 3) Minor league player for minor league player, and 4) Minor league player for Major League player. In the event of multiple players being involved, I've chosen to base the category on the primary components of the trade. Since it is still a bit premature to completely evaluate many of the trades, some of this discussion will center on the philosophy involved, while also incorporating the some of the results to date.

In my estimation, Dombrowski has completed 16 trades without the assistance of former general manager Randy Smith. Let's start with those trades often given the most press, big leaguers for big leaguers. One of Dombrowski's first trades here in Detroit was the acquisition of Dmitri Young from the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Juan Encarnacion and pitcher Luis Pineda. Do I really need to discuss this one any further? I think it is pretty obvious that this deal has proven to be outstanding from the Tigers' perspective.

The second deal of this type is a bit of a stretch to fit under this category. After that abysmal 2003 season, DD went out and acquired oft-injured shortstop Carlos Guillen from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for youngster Ramon Santiago and prospect Juan Gonzalez. Yet another very good trade at the Major League level for the organization. Guillen has since posted phenomenal numbers in his time in Detroit, while neither Santiago nor Gonzalez have done much out west. This looks like two convincing victories for Dombrowski.

Moving on, Dombrowski's most active vehicle for making trades has been to deal Major League veterans for minor league prospects. Four separate trades have provided the Tigers with several of their most highly touted young players.

Dave first dealt starting pitcher Brian Moehler and a minor leaguer for former first round pick David Espinosa, and minor league reliever Jorge Cordova. Moehler has since acquired the injury bug, bouncing from team to team in the process, while Espinosa has vaulted himself into the upper echelon of Tiger prospects. Dombrowski also traded starting pitcher Mark Redman (acquired from Minnesota for Todd Jones) to his former team, the Florida Marlins, in exchange for three high upside minor league pitchers; Rob Henkel, Gary Knotts, and Nate Robertson.

While Redman has gone on to experience success in Florida, Oakland, and now Pittsburgh, I would have to say the Tigers got the better end of the deal here as well. Nate Robertson has since begun to establish himself as a key cog in the Detroit rotation, and Gary Knotts has even provided many innings of league average production in the long relief/spot starter role. The wild card in this deal has to be left-hander Rob Henkel. Henkel was the centerpiece of the deal, only to encounter more injuries than anyone can remember. He appears to finally be healthy this season, and his production has not disappointed thus far. With the Tigers having already received production from Robertson and Knotts, anything Henkel provides would be considered insurance runs at this point.

Two of Dombrowski's better known trades involved ace starter Jeff Weaver and first baseman Randall Simon.

Simon was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to arbitration for minor league pitchers Adrian Burnside and Roberto Novoa, in addition to a player to be named later. That player turned out to be third baseman Kody Kirkland. Simon went on to post some uninspired numbers, smack a sausage with a bat, and has since been relegated to playing with the Tijuana Colts of the Mexican League. Getting anything in return for Simon at that juncture should be considered a coup, and Dombrowski's bounty is slowly proving to be quite valuable.

Novoa was part of the package used to acquire Kyle Farnsworth last offseason, and Kirkland is currently re-establishing his prospect status with Lakeland.

By far his most famous move, as one prong in a three-way deal with the Yankees and A's, Dombrowski shipped the team's one marketable piece, Jeff Weaver, to the Yankees. In return, the A's sent Detroit AAA prospects Carlos Pena and Franklyn German, and young starter Jeremy Bonderman. While Weaver was busy imploding under the Yankee spotlight, Detroit was drooling over the three prospects they had received. Pena and German have both contributed in flashes over the last two years, and both still have the potential to be major contributors at the big league level. The steal of the deal was Bonderman, the Tigers' new ace of the present and future. At the outset of the 2003 season, Jeremy made the jump from A-ball to the big leagues, and has since begun to cement himself as one of the premier young pitchers in all of baseball. For once, you can hear the rumbles that Oakland general manager Billy Beane actually got swindled in a deal.

The final major-for-minor trade on DD's docket thus far was sending middling swingman Adam Bernero to the Colorado Rockies for catcher Ben Petrick. Petrick was out of baseball within a year, while Bernero has gone on to experience minimal success since the trade. All-in-all, when Dombrowski trades his Major League players for prospects, he seems to have come out on the high end more times than not.

Mark completes his look at Dombrowski's activity thus far on Tuesday with the minor league players he has moved out.


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