The Tigers needed bullpen help in a big way, and they just landed one of the better relievers on the market in Joakim Soria. The former Ranger put up excellent numbers as a member of the Kansas City Royals from 2007 to 2011, and has 17 saves and a 2.70 ERA as the Rangers' closer in 2014.
However, they paid through the nose to get him. In one of the most blatant "win now" moves of Dave Dombrowski's tenure, the Tigers parted with two of the top prospects in their system for Soria, who has a $7 million team option for the 2015 season.
Corey Knebel was touted as the Tigers' closer of the future when he was selected in the supplemental round of the 2013 amateur draft. After posting some gaudy numbers at Single-A West Michigan last year, Knebel allowed just two earned runs in 15 innings at Double-A Erie to open the 2014 season. He made a quick stop in Triple A before receiving his first call-up, where he gave up five runs in 6 2/3 innings. Knebel returned to the minors, where he held opponents to a .336 OPS with 16 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. However, he has struggled with his command -- particularly with his fastball -- walking 20 batters in a combined 42 innings across all levels.
Jake Thompson was the Tigers' second round pick in the 2012 draft, but the 20 year old Texan turned some heads with a solid first half at High-A Lakeland. He allowed a 3.14 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 16 starts for the Flying Tigers, striking out 79 hitters in 83 innings of work. Thompson made one start at Double-A Erie before being traded, allowing two runs in six innings. While he was never seen as a high ceiling type of player -- most have pegged him as a back-end starter at best -- his numbers are impressive for someone that young.
Dave Dombrowski has an impressive track record when trading from the Tigers' shallow prospect pool, and many of his supporters will likely point out any (or all) of the names that have not amounted to anything once they left the Tigers' organization. However, those pieces were all part of something bigger, landing the Tigers key players like Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister (at the time). At best, Soria will take Joe Nathan's role as the team's closer, where he will likely only pitch 20-30 innings the rest of the year. Can he have an impact? Absolutely. But he will be judged entirely on the team's success, not his own.
Simply put: "winning" this trade hinges entirely on whether the Tigers win the World Series.
Yes, Dombrowski was in a bind. The Los Angeles Angels essentially set the market price when they sent three of their best prospects to the San Diego Padres for closer Huston Street. The Tigers' bullpen is basically Joba Chamberlain and his beard amid a smoldering pile of wreckage. Dombrowski needed to make a deal, and he did. But had he acted earlier -- six to eight months earlier, to be more precise -- the Tigers would not have been in this position in the first place. Now, they are without a pair of potentially impactful prospects in hopes of bringing a title to Detroit within the next couple seasons.