The Detroit Tigers haven't been in this position for a long time, so one could forgive president and general manager Dave Dombrowski for being a little rusty. Fortunately for the Tigers, Dombrowski's first move prior to the MLB trade deadline was a home run.
Sellers at the deadline for the first time since 2008, the Tigers dealt ace lefthander David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt, three lefties that provide the exact mix of high upside, MLB-readiness, and salary that the Tigers were looking for.
With two months left on Price's contract prior to free agency, netting Norris alone would have been a coup. The 22-year-old bearded wonder was Baseball America's No. 18 overall prospect heading into the 2015 season, and jumped to No. 15 in Keith Law's midseason rankings despite a subpar season at Triple-A. A mid-90s fastball and biting slider give him mid-rotation upside (if not higher), making his formative years quite the valuable commodity.
That wasn't all for the Tigers, though. Dombrowski was also able to land 24-year-old Matt Boyd, a former sixth round pick, and Jairo Labourt, a massive Dominican with an even bigger fastball. Boyd doesn't have the same upside of Norris, but has put together a very impressive 2015 season, with a 4.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112 2/3 innings at Double and Triple-A. Labourt is still a very raw product with iffy command, but he too could be a rotation stalwart if the Tigers can hone his skills.
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At best, that's three-fifths of a starting rotation under club control for a combined 18 seasons. A more realistic expectation puts one or two of them in the bullpen, but for what the Tigers gave up -- two relatively meaningless months of an ace-caliber pitcher and a sandwich-round draft pick -- this is a steal.
Let's back up a bit, though. Think back to last July, when the Tigers gave up Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly, and Willy Adames for Price. Adames has turned into quite the prospect, but you could argue that the Tigers just got a better value for two months of Price than they paid for a year and two months of his services. Norris has a better arsenal than Smyly, and one of the other two lefties could feasibly equal Drew's production going forward. Plus, the Tigers got a year of David Price out of it -- or 5.7 fWAR, if you will. The Tigers don't make the playoffs in 2014 without Price, and we could be looking at a very different form of "rebooting" right now if that deal doesn't happen.
Dombrowski deserves credit for the timing of this year's move. By waiting out the market yet again, he watched the starting pitching dominoes fall until only Price remained. With as many as five teams lining up for his star lefthander, Dombrowski was able to leverage the best deal possible, putting the Tigers in a position to compete again in 2016. If one or two of the players he acquires sticks in the rotation, the so-called "window" could remain open longer than we expected.
And best of all? He's not done yet.