If you've been living under a rock since last night's three way trade involving the Tigers, Whitesox, and Redsox, here are the details: Jake Peavy and Brayan Villarreal to Boston, Jose Iglesias to Detroit, Avisail Garcia, J.B, Wendelkin, Francellis Montas, and Cleuluis Rondon to the Whitesox. A lot of moving parts in this deal, but for our purposes, let's focus on what Detroit gave away, and what Detroit is getting back.
Avisail Garcia is the main piece that Detroit parted with in this trade. Garcia was the consensus number two prospect in the system, and in the back end of the top 100 in baseball. I, along with plenty of others, became intrigued by Garcia's tools and upside. He had the potential to be an average hitter long term, with plus power, plus on defense, plus arm, and a tick above solid average run. The question, however, is whether or not his strike zone judgment and hit tool would play long term. If they do, Garcia will have no problem becoming an every day regular, and a very good one at that. If not, he's more likely relegated to a 4th OF role, probably a lefty masher handling some of the PA vs. right handers, and coming in to play defense. Regardless, Garcia should prove to be a valuable piece for the Whitesox, because they have the ability to let him play every day.
In a vacuum, losing a talent like Garcia could be devastating to an organization. However, not all organizations have a LF prospect like Castellanos, who it appears the Tigers are counting on to be the LF of the future. This move unequivocally states that Nick will have every opportunity to play every day in left for the foreseeable future. Along with the Vasquez move, the Tigers are dealing from depth. Garcia did not have a clear path to getting every day reps, and if the organization viewed Castellanos as the answer, instead of Garcia, trading Garcia for an upgrade at another position makes a whole lot of sense. Still, I am sure that the Tigers are not exactly excited about the prospect of facing Garcia for the next few seasons on a division rival, especially if he hits his potential.
If you missed it, this is a link to the top 5 prospects, where I go further in depth on Avisail Garcia at number 2.
Brayan Villarreal is the second piece that was traded away in this deal. Everyone knows the story with Brayan. He's got an electric arm, but hasn't been able to put it all together. Make up concerns aside, I don't think Brayan has the temperament to handle late inning relief situations. The Tigers have a lot of hard throwing right handed relievers, so I don't view this as much of a loss. I can completely understand a team like Boston taking a chance on Villarreal, however. Their bullpen has been decimated by injury, and a change of scenery could absolutely help here. If nothing else, it's important to realize that the Tigers have been scouring for bullpen help themselves, and the fact that they gave away Villarreal speaks to how they must have felt about his future prospects.
Now for the return. Jose Iglesias. If you haven't watched Iglesias on defense before, you're in for a treat. While a comparison to Ozzie Smith may be a bit of an exaggeration, the guy can really, really play defense. Here is his highlight package. This takes a huge burden off Cabrera at 3B, who has limited range. Up the middle, the Tigers now feature plus defenders at catcher in Avila, at SS in Iglesias, and in CF in Jackson. Omar Infante is a solid average defender at 2B.
Soxprospects.com does an outstanding job of scouting Iglesias here and here. I would highly recommend reading through those reports. In summary, Jose Iglesias is an elite defender. I won't go cite defensive metrics here, because he hasn't accrued enough of a sample for them to stabilize, but metrics, along with scouting reports, generally agree that Iglesias is a wizard on defense. While I am not sure if he's a true "80" on the scouting scale, he's pretty damn close. He has good bat speed and a short, quick swing, but still has work to do in the areas of pitch recognition and overall approach. Iglesias can also run a bit, evidenced by the 13 infield hits and 6 bunt hits that he has already accumulated this season.
When this trade was first announced, it took me a little while to get over the initial shock of losing a prospect like Garcia. However, it's important to put a bunch of context around a move like this. Here are a few things to understand:
1) There are only so many reps in LF for the coming years. You can't worry about the other corner OF spot. Hunter is going to play there for the duration of his contract. If the organization feels like Castellanos is the answer in LF, Garcia becomes a superfluous.
2) It seems like Peralta is definitely getting suspended. If not, I highly doubt the Tigers make this move. There's no reason to trade for a utility guy at this point. Even if Peralta, by some miracle, doesn't get suspended, Iglesias is slated to take over the SS position in 2014 and beyond.
3) You can't have 15MM guys all over the field. In order to ensure a competitive team for years to come, the Tigers need to have a few cheap guys, especially at premium positions. Remember, not only will Scherzer be a free agent after next year, but Jackson, Fister, and even Avila are only going to be free agents after the 2015 season. To keep some of those guys, the Tigers have to employ a few cheaper pieces.
4) There wasn't exactly a long list of options to play SS in 2014 and beyond available in trade, or even on the FA market. Assuming the organization has soured on Peralta, there are only so many ways they could go, without giving up an arm and a leg for an every day SS.
6) The Tigers are in a unique position this offseason to re stock the farm if they so choose. Between Scherzer, Porcello, and Fister, they have the luxury of being able to trade for prospects, major league ready or not, and add Drew Smyly to the rotation. I have been of the thought that Smyly will be in the 2014 starting rotation.
The good news is that Dave Dombrowski has had plenty of success when it comes to "big" deals. It's unfair to assume that Garcia or Vasquez will continue the track record of prospects who Dombrowski has traded that don't pan out. At the same time, he hasn't traded anyone away that has really come back to bite the Tigers. The organization continues to use their prospects as trading chips to acquire big league talent that can help the team now, and for years to come. Remember, in the words of a wise man named Jason Parks, prospects are currency. They can be used to help your big league club via trade, or by themselves. If you have a bunch of outfielders, or pitchers, or even first baseman, it makes sense to trade from strength, and add accordingly. The Tigers took a similar stance with this year's pitcher heavy draft. If some of those arms pan out, they can trade them for other positions of need.
Iglesias is under control through the 2018 season, meaning that the Tigers have an answer at SS for the near and long term future. The overwhelming question with Iglesias is obviously not his defense, but, will he hit enough at the major league level in order to let his defense shine? His true talent level is not his .330/.376/.409 line from this season, aided by a .376 BABIP, but probably closer to his .280/.333/.356 career line. I think he'll probably hit for slightly less average than that, with a smidge more power as he matures, and will probably walk 1-2% more often as he develops his approach. Remember, Iglesias is predominantly a ground ball and line drive hitter (56.8% and 17.9% respectively), and when you couple that with good speed, his BABIP is going to be a little higher than average. In his 98 game and 317 PA major league career thus far, Iglesias has 14 infield hits and 6 bunt hits. While it's unreasonable to expect those types of numbers to continue, he will still put the ball in play often and use his legs.
Ultimately, the Tigers wouldn't have made this move if they didn't think that Iglesias' bat would play. They had plenty of in house options that could at least fake it at SS defensively for the time being (Worth, Santiago, Perez, Suarez, or even... Diaz I guess). The Tigers could have also traded for a cheap utility guy like Omar Quintanilla or Brendan Ryan, and not given up a top prospect, as well.
Taking everything into account, I'm going to give Dombrowski the benefit of the doubt here, because frankly, he's earned it. If he truly thinks that Iglesias is going to hit enough, even in the 9 hole, to be a positive addition to the Tigers, it's hard for me to dispute that. Like I said before, if all the Tigers were looking for was a really good defender for the time being, they could have acquired one without using Garcia. Iglesias gives the Tigers payroll flexibility, a long term solution at an extremely important position, and can fill in adequately in case Peralta is suspended. With all of that in mind, this trade makes sense for the Tigers not only now, but for the long term future of the franchise.