Detroit Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski has developed a reputation for making a big splash around the time of baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. Whether it’s a free agent signing or a blockbuster trade, the Tigers tend to be one of the more active teams at the annual December gathering.
Following is a brief history of the Tigers’ doings and dealings in December during Dombrowski’s tenure with Detroit.
2003: Following the worst season in franchise history -- and one of the worst in major league history -- the Tigers signed outfielder Rondell White as a free agent after the Winter Meetings. They also signed third baseman Dean Palmer as a non-roster invitee. White hit a respectable .290/.342/.470 with 31 homers in two seasons with Detroit. Palmer, who had spent the previous five seasons with the team, did not make the roster and retired.
2004: Detroit non-tendered former first round pick Eric Munson, making him a free agent.
2005: The Tigers signed pitcher Kenny Rogers to a two year contract and brought back closer Todd Jones on a two year deal. The two pitchers would feature prominently in the team’s run to the World Series the following season. The club also outrighted Ryan Raburn to the minors. Reports of Raburn’s demise would turn out to be exaggerated.
2006: Detroit acquired three relief pitchers. They traded cash to Milwaukee for Eduardo Campusano, signed former Indians’ closer Jose Mesa as a free agent to a one year contract, and signed Bobby Seay as a non-roster invitee (NRI). Campusano never made it, Mesa flamed out by Mother’s Day, and Seay made the team and stuck around for a few more seasons as an effective lefty specialist. Bobby Seay is one of the few NRIs to actually make a major contribution in recent years with the team.
2007: In the biggest blockbuster of all, the Tigers traded six prospects, including former first round selections Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, to the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. No need to elaborate here.
In other moves that were completely over shadowed by the blockbuster trade, the Tigers traded erratic, hard-throwing relief pitcher Jose Capellan to Colorado for more erratic, harder-throwing reliever Denny Bautista. They also signed reliever Francis Beltran as an NRI, and non tendered pitcher Chad Durbin.
The team collapsed the following season under the weight of expectations. Willis was signed to a three year extension and never regained effectiveness. Cabrera has been arguably the best player in the game. Bautista and Beltran combined for 27 relief appearances with a WHIP of 1.50, in a bullpen that challenged records for brutality. Durbin joined the Phillies and won a World Series ring.
2008: After a disappointing last place finish, the Tigers traded outfielder Matt Joyce to Tampa for pitcher Edwin Jackson. They acquired catcher Gerald Laird from Texas for minor league pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo. The club also declined an option on shortstop Edgar Renteria and signed Adam Everett to a one year contract. Finally, the Tigers drafted pitcher Kyle Bloom in the Rule 5 draft.
Jackson had a brilliant first half of the 2009 season, but was terrible in the second half. Laird was a solid backup catcher for a few seasons with Detroit. Everett played solid defense, but couldn’t hit a lick. Bloom never made the team, and was returned to Pittsburgh.
2009: In another blockbuster trade aimed at making a long term payroll adjustment and bringing in younger, cost-controlled players, the Tigers sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees and Edwin Jackson to Arizona in a three-way trade. Detroit acquired former first round selections Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona, and Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from New York. The trade paid dividends for the Tigers through the 2014 season.
In other moves, the Tigers extended Adam Everett for another season, and signed relief pitchers Brad Thomas as a free agent and Enrique Gonzalez as an NRI. They also lost relievers Freddy Dolsi on waivers and Clay Rapada in a trade to Texas. Everett would not last the year with the team and was released in June after hitting .185. Thomas worked 69 innings as a lefty specialist, but was mostly ineffective. Gonzalez was up and down over the next two seasons, making 26 appearances in relief with an ERA of 5.41.
2010: After another disappointing season in which the team finished .500, the things were relatively quiet in December. After declining a $15 million option on Magglio Ordonez, the Tigers signed him to a one year, $10 million contract. It would be his last season in the major leagues. They had earlier signed Victor Martinez, Joaquin Benoit and Al Alburquerque as free agents.
2011: After making a run to the American League Championship Series, the Tigers had a relatively quiet December, signing free agent releiver Octavio Dotel. Things would remain quiet until January, when Victor Martinez was lost for the season, and the club signed Prince Fielder to a nine year contract.
2012: Coming off a run to the World Series, the Tigers focused on resigning starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to a five year, $80 million contract. They also signed reserve catcher Brayan Pena and outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo as free agents. The team also made a pair of Rule 5 selections in Kyle Lobstein and Jeff Kobernus. Neither player made the team in Spring Training, but the club was able to work a trade for Lobstein. Kobernus was returned to Washington.
2013: In the least-loved trade of his tenure in Detroit, Dombrowski sent starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Robbie Ray, utility man Steve Lombardozzi, and relief pitcher Ian Krol. The club spent the savings on closer Joe Nathan and outfielder Rajai Davis. Enough said about that one. They also signed outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to a minor league contract. Detroit added reliever Joba Chamberlain shortly after the meetings, signing him to a one year, $2.5 million contract, plus $500,000 in incentives, all of which were earned, bringing the total to $3 million.
2014: So far, the Tigers have acquired starting pitcher Shane Greene from the Yankees in a three-way trade, sending two prospects to Arizona. The club enters the meetings with needs in the bullpen and the outfield. The financial climate resembles that of 2009, when the Granderson trade was made. History is to be written shortly.