Within days of Dave Dombrowski stating that the Tigers may just take their time and let things settle down a bit before making changes to the roster, rumors are swirling at the GM meetings in Milwaukee with the Tigers being mentioned in a couple of interesting trade scenarios that could significantly impact two areas of need, team speed and defense. The club has been rumored to be in serious discussion with the Braves regarding a potential swap of Delmon Young for Martin Prado. It is also being reported by Fox Sports that the Mariners are shopping Chone Figgins and see the Tigers as a potential trade partner. If both come to fruition, (and that’s a BIG if) it would appear that the Tigers would then have their 2nd & 3rd base problems resolved. They would also fill the top two spots in the everyday lineup with speedy, high career OPB guys who both are coming off sub-par seasons. The FOX Sports article also cites that the Mariners may be willing to eat up to $5 of the $17 million owed to Figgins over the next two seasons in an effort to move their underperforming 3rd sacker. Depending on how much of his salary the Tigers are willing to take on, they may not have to give up anything more than a couple of low level prospects to secure Figgins services.
Bounce back seasons by Figgins & Prado could represent a huge upgrade over the likes of the Inge/Betemit/Kelly/Rhymes/Worth/Santiago group, which is how the Tigers looked at 2nd & 3rd at end of their 2011 playoff run. To make this fantasy even better, Dombrowski wouldn’t have to break the bank to get these deals done. Prado will be relatively cheap at around $3 million for next year, and in regards to Figgins, a fairly spendy $6 million each for the next two seasons could become a bargain if he can reclaim his lost hitting prowess and play a decent 3rd base. By the end of the 2013 season, the Tigers should know if Nick Castellanos is the long term answer at the hot corner and essentially make Figgins a two year rental.
Of course, trading Young leaves an empty spot in the outfield that could then be filled by a faster, cheaper, more defensive minded left fielder. There are three free agent possibilities in Grady Sizemore, Coco Crisp or David DeJesus who would be an instant upgrade in team defense as well as speed. None of these three will cost the approximately $6.5 million that Young will command in 2012, and with the likes of Sizemore or Crisp to go along with Austin Jackson, the Tigers would have two centerfielders to handle Left/Center field chores while also allowing a somewhat fragile Brennan Boesch less ground to have to cover in Right.
While it is unlikely that this is how things will eventually work out, it is one scenario where the Tigers could address both their team speed & defense issues, without sacrificing any of their power game. With a combination of Sizemore, Jackson, Figgins & Prado in the 8-9-1-2 spots in the order, coupled with returning stars like Boesch, Cabrera, Martinez, Avila & Peralta filling out the 3-7 RBI spots in the lineup, they could have a deadly combination of speed and power that will put the rest of the American League on notice. Finally, all of this could be done without having to give up any of their minor league depth, thus allowing one of the clubs young pitchers to either assume the 5th starter role, or be packaged in a trade to bring back a more established starter in return.
They say speed kills. Or in the case of the 2011 Tigers, the lack of speed contributed to killing their chances to hoist the World Series trophy for the first time since 1984. Could Dave Dombrowski be in the process of bringing speed & defense back to the Motor City? If he wants to give Mr. Illich what he craves most, he’d better.