As soon as the offseason started, there was one common theme that everyone believed the Tigers needed to add, from the President and CEO, to the team's manager, all the way down to the fans who still had yet to recover from the World Series collapse.
And that was a big bat in the middle of the order.
On Friday afternoon, after passing a physical, Gary Sheffield was announced as that big bat.
Yes, the same Gary Sheffield that has 455 career home runs. The same Gary Sheffield with the flailing bat; the same bat that seconds later regularly deposits the ball 400 feet away in the bleachers. The same Gary Sheffield that helped lead the 1997 Florida Marlins to a World Series victory.
With Sheffield about to turn 38, he was looking for the opportunity to continue to compete at a high level, along with one final contract that would give him some financial security in the twilight of his career. The Tigers offered both, along with a manager he enjoyed playing for.
The Tigers meanwhile got the bat they needed, and did so without having to pick from the scrap heaps or the guys viewed as risks, as has often been the case in previous years.
But make no mistake about it; the Tigers paid a steep price. The Tigers gave up two of their top ten prospects, along with a third arm who was virtually unhittable in his first full professional season.
But giving up pitchers like Humberto Sanchez and Kevin Whelan was a luxury the Tigers had (and one they've never had before). Sanchez can be a dominant starter when he's healthy, while Whelan has the stuff and the mentality of a future closer.
But the Tigers already have a young fireballer as their ace in the making (two, actually), as well as arguably the most impressive young reliever in baseball. Plus, Andrew Miller, Jordan Tata, Jair Jurrjens, and Eulogio de la Cruz could be ready for big league ball in '07 (with Miller and Tata already making their debuts).
The truth is, the fruits of Dombrowski's hard work at the base is beginning to pay off. The Tigers were able to use that surplus of young pitching that they now possess and make a big addition that everyone agreed that they needed. They were able to add that big bat without dipping into their core nucleus, which they hope to build around for many years to come.
In the meantime, Tigers fan can rejoice over the fact that the team was able to add the one piece everyone agreed they needed, even months before their playoff run.
Now, if only Dombrowski can find a world class coach to teach his pitchers how to throw to first . . .