To no one’s surprise, Dave Dombrowski has owned Major League Baseball’s July trade market this year. He has made three different trades in the past two weeks, acquiring win-now pieces like reliever Brad Ziegler, infielder Aaron Hill, and most recently, starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz. Unfortunately for the Detroit Tigers, Dombrowski is now doing so as team president of the Boston Red Sox. There are still two weeks before the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline, but Al Avila and company have not even hinted at making a move yet.
The Pomeranz deal, in particular, has drawn a lot of attention for Boston. The Red Sox sent young pitcher Anderson Espinoza, an 18-year-old righthander already considered among the top 20-25 prospects in baseball, to San Diego in exchange for Pomeranz, who appears to be finally approaching the lofty ceiling that has made him such a desirable asset in previous deals (this is the fourth time he has been traded in his career). Espinoza is young, but some believe he has legitimate ace upside due to a rare combination of plus stuff and makeup.
We can debate who won or lost this trade all day long — I like it for both sides, but am leaning towards San Diego — but this trade is relevant for the Tigers as well. Unfortunately, it’s relevant in all the wrong ways.
It takes a potential trade target off the market
The starting pitching trade market is currently thinner than Dixon Machado, and the Red Sox may have just landed the best pitcher available. Teams in both the AL and NL will be looking to upgrade their rosters, and nearly every contender out there needs pitching of some sort. Pomeranz, Rich Hill, and Jeremy Hellickson have been the only obvious trade targets so far, with some other teams like the Rays and Yankees reluctant to jump into the seller’s fray.
Even if more teams decide to sell off spare parts, there aren’t many quality starting pitchers available. Tampa’s Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly have drawn some interest, but even they have question marks. The Phillies, Braves, and Reds made waves last offseason by trading away most of their veterans for young talent, so even the obvious sellers aren’t as stocked as usual.
Pomeranz is going to another AL playoff contender
Pomeranz has a 2.47 ERA and 3.18 FIP in 17 starts this year, and has a 137 ERA+ since leaving Colorado in 2014. There may be some regression as he moves to the hitter-friendly AL East, but even that version of Pomeranz is a major upgrade over the likes of Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Joe Kelly at the back of Boston’s rotation. Anibal Sanchez would have been an upgrade for Boston, and instead they just acquired a former top-50 overall prospect. Pomeranz took longer than expected to reach his ceiling, but he’s now in his prime years and proving those scouts right.
Filling that hole was huge for the Red Sox, who currently hold one of the two wild card spots in the American League. They are in a battle with the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays for AL East supremacy, and bolstering their rotation may have given them the leg up they needed. With the Tigers all but out of the AL Central race at the moment — FanGraphs gives them an 8.2 percent chance of catching the Indians — they can’t afford to fall too far behind these AL East clubs.
To make matters worse, the Tigers have seven games against the Red Sox remaining this year, and Pomeranz is slated to start their first matchup on Monday, July 25 at Fenway Park.
The asking price for other trade targets just went up
Ever since the inception of the second wild card spot, the trade deadline has been a boon for teams selling off major league talent. The Tigers made a killing last July when they decided to trade David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Joakim Soria, but have been on the wrong side of these elevated trade prices in years past.
Thanks to the limited options available, this year’s trade targets may be even more expensive, and the Pomeranz deal is an early hint at just how much good pitchers may cost. Espinoza is only 18, but was recently named Baseball America’s No. 15 overall prospect in their latest update. He sports a fastball that has reached as high as 99 miles per hour, and scouts have endlessly praised his clean delivery and plus makeup. He made his debut in Single-A ball last season as a 17-year-old and has held his own in the Sally League through 17 starts this year.
While Pomeranz has two more years of club control remaining beyond 2016, this was a steep price to pay for the Red Sox. Other teams — namely, the pitching-flush Tampa Bay Rays — will see this and ask for similar returns on the trade market. The Tigers don’t have the kind of prospect depth that so many other buyers do, making a trade even more risky given their precarious payroll situation in future years. Teams will be asking for the moon, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the Tigers will pony up in hopes of improving their playoff chances.