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 Tigers, Dave Dombrowski still stand behind trade

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Number of posts : 57424
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PostSubject: Tigers, Dave Dombrowski still stand behind trade   Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:13 pm

Last Updated: January 23. 2010 9:02PM
Tigers: Notebook
Tigers, Dave Dombrowski still stand behind trade
Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

Detroit -- Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers president and general manager, likes to talk about the 1984 offseason when he worked for White Sox general manager Roland Hemond. The White Sox traded their staff ace, LaMarr Hoyt, the man who had helped pitch them into the playoffs in 1983.

White Sox fans went nuts in much the way most Tigers fans had apoplexy last month when the Tigers traded Curtis Granderson.

The man the White Sox got in that trade?

Ozzie Guillen, a 24-year-old rookie shortstop who went on to play 13 seasons for the White Sox, and three times was an All-Star.

"Roland told me, 'If you trade a known for an unknown, it's not gonna be popular,' " Dombrowski related. "But we were in a position where we had to come up with players who can win now and set us up for the future."

In other words, the Tigers remain happy they got Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth -- relative unknowns -- in that three-team trade for Granderson and pitcher Edwin Jackson.

2011 starter?

Gustavo Nunez isn't exactly a secret. He was tied for 14th (with fellow shortstop prospect Audy Ciriaco ) in the Detroit News list of Top 20 prospects published in November.

Dombrowski might have him higher. Nunez, who turns 22 on Feb. 8, has a Winchester for an arm and batted .315 in 112 games last season at Single A West Michigan.

The Tigers see in Nunez perhaps their best bet as Adam Everett's successor.

"I think he's really good," Dombrowski said Nunez, who impressed more than Dombrowski during last fall's instructional camp at Lakeland, Fla.

Braves manager Bobby Cox and former big-league manager Jim Fregosi watched with Dombrowski as Nunez made a terrific stop on a ground ball hit up the middle, pirouetting and getting the runner at first.

"Jim Fregosi said it might have been the best play he had ever seen a shortstop make," said Dombrowski, all the more impressed because Fregosi isn't known for excess praise.

Trader's remorse

Dombrowski has conceded his 2007 trade that sent pitcher Jair Jurrjens to the Braves (along with outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez) and brought shortstop Edgar Renteria to Detroit was the most regrettable deal he has ever made.

He said much the same thing Saturday.

"When people get on me, which happens from time to time," Dombrowski said, drawing chuckles, "I need them to know I'm my own severest critic. And if something doesn't work out, I want to know why."

Dombrowski isn't saying what the autopsy on his Renteria trade revealed, but clearly the Tigers expected Renteria to be in better shape and to have greater defensive range than he displayed during his 2008 cameo in Detroit.

They also thought he would hit ahead of the All-Star break for a number at least as big as his then-considerable weight.

And they greatly underestimated the physical durability of Jurrjens, who has been one of the best right-handers in baseball since moving to the Braves.

Other than that, the intelligence reports were spot-on.

Afterthoughts (continued)

Contracts, specifically bad contracts, can also spur Dombrowski to reach for the Tums.

"We were too liberal in giving long-term contracts to some players," he said. "If I had to go back and re-assess, we'd probably do a couple of things different."

Dombrowski's reflections probably stretch beyond those 2008 contract extensions he gave to pitchers Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson .

The four-year extension granted to Carlos Guillen in March of 2007 was worth $40 million, with $26 million due him this season and through 2011. Guillen was only 31 years old at the time and considered an indispensable talent.

But his knees soon eroded, pushing him out of his starting shortstop role and setting in motion some tough years ahead -- for Guillen and for the Tigers.

New (old?) strategy

"We've built through young players," Dombrowski said, speaking of a rebuilding project that he began after arriving in Detroit in November of 2001. "We kind of got away from that, 'cause we were trying to win right now.

"All of those things went into this (off-season's deals)."

Looking at expiring contracts to Willis, Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman , etc., Dombrowski added: "After this year, we change dramatically.

"Yes, we want to sign Justin Verlander . If you put Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer at the top of our rotation for years to come, we'll match up with anybody.

"Then you start filling in with the (Casey ) Crosby s, the (Andy ) Oliver s, and the (Jacob ) Turner s," he said, referring to the Tigers' three top minor-league pitching prospects.

"And now we also have some young position players."

Nunez is included in that group along with outfield prospects Ryan Strieby and Brennan Boesch , as well as second baseman Scott Sizemore and catcher Alex Avila .

Forgotten man

Armando Galarraga might have had a sour 2009 season after his 2008 Tigers breakthrough. But expectations within the Tigers front office are that Galarraga will bounce back nicely now that he doesn't have to contend with the World Baseball Classic, which is being blamed for his rocky 2009. It's because in the Tigers' view Galarraga never was able to properly prepare for '09.

"You can't believe the number of phone calls I've received about trading him," Dombrowski said of other clubs and their zeal for Galarraga. "We've received them in abundance."

Galarraga pitched winter ball during the past offseason and the Tigers liked what they saw -- and then some, according to Dombrowski.

"Our scouts said he was throwing the ball the way he did a couple years ago," Dombrowski said.

Avila's fate?

Because he's still learning the intricacies of catching, it has been anticipated Alex Avila will log time at Triple A Toledo in 2009 rather than being installed immediately as Gerald Laird's partner at catcher.

"What date is the last Monday in spring training?" Dombrowski asked, rhetorically. "We'll be asking that same question then.

"How much playing time will he get (in Detroit)? Will he benefit by going to Toledo?

"The answer on April 5 may not be the same as May 15," Dombrowski said, reflecting the fact April and early May generally provide off-days not available as teams approach Memorial Day.

Asked the same question about Avila, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said "we need to look at that real close."

Leyland's opinion: If the Tigers believe they need Avila's bat, some potential refinements in Avila's defensive game might be placed on hold as they opt for a boost to the batting order.

Parrish's opinion

Larry Parrish , the Toledo Mud Hens manager, saw plenty of Austin Jackson when Jackson played last season for the Yankees' Triple A team at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Parrish told Dombrowski that he believes Jackson will hit 15-20 home runs a year "in a couple of years."

Jackson turns 23 next month.

"He'll be a solid player," Dombrowski said.

Sizemore's skills

The knock on
Scott Sizemore , whom the Tigers have dubbed as their new starter at second base, is that he has less-than polished defensive skills. In fact, he made 21 errors last season between his stints at Double A Erie and Toledo.

"We ask those questions in our meetings, too," Dombrowski said, acknowledging the defensive debate. "He's gonna be compared all the time to a guy (ex-Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco) who never missed a ground ball."

Tom Brookens , who managed Sizemore at Erie, told Dombrowski that Erie's notoriously rough infield didn't help Sizemore. Other errors, Dombrowski said, "happened because he tries to do too much.

"But his arm is fine. He's not gonna have great range.

"I do think he'll contribute offensively."

Going with Guillen

The Tigers appear unflinching that Guillen will be their everyday left-fielder.

"He's a good athlete," Dombrowski said. "We look at him as being our left-fielder. He's a really skilled player."

Leyland doesn't disagree. He sees Guillen's principal challenger, up and coming Ryan Raburn , "as the perfect guy to swing (deploy at different positions)."

Guillen, too, strikes Leyland as being the likely starter in left, even after the more fleet Raburn had 16 home runs and batted .291 in only 256 at-bats in 2009.

"I think that with that flexibility," Leyland said of Raburn, "we'll get him enough at-bats."

Clete's call

Leyland properly noted that Clete Thomas has suffered from no over-exposure this offseason. In fact, he is rarely mentioned.

But an outfielder with Thomas' speed, glove, and potential to hit, could be one of those players who jells during spring camp, as happens with various players throughout baseball.

"I think one of the keys for us this spring is Clete Thomas," Leyland said. "We need to find about about Clete Thomas.

"Will the real Clete Thomas please stand up?"

Adding bats?

Don't expect the Tigers to make any moves, or inquire seriously, about a free-agent hitters such as Jim Thome . Dombrowski didn't mention names when asked about adding a left-hand hitter to a heavily right-hand lineup. But he didn't need to.

"So when you ask about bringing on another DH-type," Dombrowski said, "we're trying to get away from that. We're trying to get more athletic.

"To me, we're trying to play defense, to execute, and to be a little more athletic and to be younger."

From The Detroit News:

“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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