The first day of the baseball winter meetings at the Indianapolis Marriott (stayed there many times, in case you're wondering) was rather quiet. The second day featured a lot of hot stove talk, highlighted by a major three-team trade involving one of the Twins' AL Central Division rivals.
The Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Arizona Diamondbacks hooked up for a three-team deal in which OF Curtis Granderson ended up in New York, pitchers Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson landed in Arizona, and OF Austin Jackson, and pitchers Max Scherzer, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth were picked up by Detroit. The trade was agreed in principle on Tuesday and was finalized Wednesday.
On paper at least, this trade looks to be a winner for Detroit. Giving up Granderson was somewhat of a risk, given his popularity, but Granderson has $25.75M and three years left on his contract. He was miscast as a leadoff hitter for a while in Detroit, but struck out far too much to warrant a place at the top of the order. However, his speed and power made him a solid hitter at the bottom of the rotation. In 2009, he hit .249/.327/.453 with 23 doubles, eight triples, 30 HR, and 91 RBI, and played replacement-level defense in center field (+1.6 UZR/150). In New York, he'll supplant Melky Cabrera in center or move to left should the team decide to let Johnny Damon and/or Hideki Matsui walk. As for Edwin Jackson, he started off well in 2009, but faded down the stretch, including two disastrous late-season starts against the Chicago White Sox in his final two appearances (12.0 IP, 14 H, 13 ER). He finished with a 13-9 record in 33 starts spanning 214.0 innings. He recorded a 3.62 ERA, struck out 161 hitters, and walked 70 men. The 26-year-old will hit the free agent market in two years.
In return, the Tigers get one of the Yankees' top outfield prospects (Austin Jackson, who was one name bandied-about when the Twins were shopping Johan Santana at the 2008 winter meetings), along with three pitchers. The one with the most experience is Coke, who was 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 73 appearances out of the Yankee bullpen last season. He'll provide another lefty setup option to Detroit along with holdover Bobby Seay. Right-hander Scherzer and the hard-throwing lefty Schlereth are very intriguing. Scherzer, one of the National League's best young power arms, was 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA in 30 starts for the D-Backs last season spanning 170.1 innings. He struck out 174 men, but also walked 63. His 2009 numbers, wildness and all, compare to Edwin Jackson's, but Scherzer is younger (25) and cheaper (free agency is five years away) than Jackson, and has a much higher ceiling. Schlereth projects to be a future closer. He got a taste of big league life last season with a bad Arizona team and posted a 5.89 ERA in 18.1 innings. He struck out more than one per inning (22) but also walked nearly one batter per inning (15) in his brief big league tenure. He hits free agency in six years.
The cash-strapped Tigers saved themselves a considerable amount of money in moving Granderson but will need to replace him in center field. They replaced Edwin Jackson with a younger and cheaper option, acquired a fireballing bullpen guy six years from free agency, along with a serviceable left-hander.
Give GM Dave Dombrowski credit. He made a good deal to acquire Jackson last winter (sending OF Matt Joyce to Tampa, who spent most of last year in the minors) and then sold him before losing him to free agency to a team desperate for pitching. Yes, Scherzer has some control issues, but the Tigers have a starting rotation top-three of Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Scherzer which shape up to be one of the better young rotations in the league. All three are young, inexpensive, and have great upside.
Although this trade will not make the Tigers better in 2010, per se, it sets them up nicely for the future.