In early July of 2011 the Tigers were in second place, about a game out of first. On July 20 they traded Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez to the Royals for Wilson Betemit. They claimed sole possession of first place with a Justin Verlander win over the Twins on July 21.
Brandon Inge had faithfully manned third base in 2011, but was slashing .197 / .265 / .283. Wilson Betemit was the anti-Inge, good bat but bad glove. In 40 games with Detroit he slashed .292 / .346 / .525. The performance at third base went from replacement level to league-average. Problem solved.
Betemit did not return in 2012, but signed with Baltimore where he helped the Orioles make the playoffs. Antonio Cruz is only 21 but in his fifth minor league season, being used as a reliever in Advanced-A ball with mediocre results. The odds are long on him making the big leagues. Had the Tigers kept him in 2011, they would not have been able to keep him until he matured. Julio Rodriguez is now a 22 year old catcher in Double-A. In his sixth year he is slashing only .234 / .276 / .294.
But Dave Dombrowski was not done. On July 30 he traded Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, and Chance Ruffin to Seattle for Doug Fister and David Pauley. Fister had a record of eight wins and one loss down the stretch with an ERA of 1.79 and a WHIP of 0.84. David Pauley pitched poorly and was soon released. Casper Wells provided 124 games of nearly league-average performance, worth almost $10 million by some measures, but was designated for assignment this year starting a journey where he was designated by four teams. Francisco Martinez is back in the Tigers' farm system. Charlie Furbush was converted to a reliever in 2012 and has eased a little of the pain of trading Fister. He has thrived in the bullpen with a WHIP below 1.10 and over 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Chance Ruffin is becoming another reminder that drafting a relief pitcher rarely pans out. Since 13 appearances in 2011 for Seattle, he has been stuck in the minor leagues.
Delmon Young was acquired on August 15, 2011. This is after the trade deadline, but he cleared waivers. Delmon went on to set the Tigers' record for most career postseason home runs, besides being painful to watch in left field and an embarrassment off the field. The Tigers gave up Cole Nelson and Lester Oliveros. I sat next to Cole Nelson's dad at a Twins' game in 2010. His dad was proud that Cole had recently been part of a team no-hitter for Lakeland. That was the pinnacle of his career as he was released in 2012. Lester Oliveros is 24 years old and in his seventh minor league season. He is pitching well in Triple-A with nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings and a WHIP below 1.1. I would not be surprised to see him pitching for Minnesota this year.
The Tigers made it to the American League Championship Series in 2011. These deals all contributed to that success. The Tigers were quiet at the trade deadline in 2010 and finished in third place. So far it looks like we should be hoping that some general manager is willing to pick up the phone when Dombrowski calls.