Obviously the Tigers paid a lot for David Price. Drew Smyly is a really good pitcher who is either ignored or underrated outside of Detroit. Austin Jackson is having a down year, but he’s a legit starting center fielder who can hit in an age where such things are valuable commodities. Finally, the prospect they threw in — 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames — is supposed to be a good one and is already the youngest player at his level in the minors.
Some people in Tiger Land are a tad worried about all of this. One of them is Lynn Henning:
For that boost in a rotation’s firepower, the Tigers lost an effective, back-end starter in Drew Smyly, as well as center fielder Austin Jackson, who in past weeks has been playing the brand of baseball he has often delivered and all but promised to make a permanent part of his daily routine.
Most costly, the Tigers lost 18-year-old shortstop Willy Adames, who was destined to be their top prospect in 2015 and who represents a potential coup for the Rays.
He is particularly concerned about Adames. And yes, it may hurt to see him blossom one day.
But who cares?
The Tigers are the ultimate win-now team. By the time Adames is ready to contribute to the Tigers — assuming he can get past either Eugenio Suarez or Jose Iglesias on the depth chart — the Tigers core will be lining up for the early bird special at some family restaurant in Florida. Brad Ausmus will be transforming from baseball’s most handsome manager to a dashing-but-graying Cary Grant figure. The owner, Mike Illitch, may be in the great pizza place in the sky. You don’t worry too much about tomorrow when everything that matters is today.
While Henning doesn’t play the “John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander” card, you have to assume it’s on his mind. And on the mind of Tigers fans. It has been for 27 years. But what everyone conveniently forgets about the Smoltz-Alexander trade was that it actually worked for the Tigers.
The Tigers wanted one thing and one thing only from that trade back in 1987: they wanted to win the AL East. And, despite trailing the Blue Jays by a game and a half on the day of that deal, they beat ‘em out thanks to Alexander, who went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA after coming over, including a must-win game against the Jays in game 160. The Tigers wanted to make the playoffs. They traded off the promise of a prospect (though a not particularly well thought of prospect) in order to do it. Sure, they would have been better off with Smoltz for the next 20 years, but they were trading for 1987, and to a team like the 1987 Tigers — veteran-laden, in win-now mode — 1987 was all that mattered.
The same goes for the Cabrera-Scherzer-Verlander Tigers of 2014. David Price gives them what they think they need to win the World Series. If they do it, well, awesome. But even if they don’t, they are making a move that gives them a better chance to do so than keeping Willy Adames on the West Michigan Whitecaps does.