The Detroit Tigers have not done much this offseason to bolster their roster for 2017. While we could argue day and night about whether this strategy puts them in an optimal position for the upcoming series — click on just about any other thread and you’ll see wars being waged in the comments — all of this banter has a chance to look really stupid in the future. Every baseball critic has been horribly wrong at some point in his or her career, and your friendly BYB staff is no different.
So, with little else happening around the game right now, the Bless You Boys staff is going to look back on some of their more vulnerable moments.
This week’s question: Which recent Tigers transaction were you initially most wrong about?
*”Recent” was defined as anything after the Tigers’ signing of Ivan Rodriguez in February 2004.
Jacob: When Ian Kinsler was acquired from the Texas Rangers in November of 2013 in exchange for Prince Fielder, I was furious. I loved Prince in the middle of the Tigers' lineup. I loved seeing him crush bombs at Comerica Park. I loved seeing the sheer joy he brought to the ballpark each day with his grins, his special handshakes, and his hilarious version of hustle. I was upset that the acquisition of Kinsler meant losing Omar Infante to free agency. The cherry on top? The only Tigers apparel I owned at the time was a shirsey with "Fielder" on the back. I had completely blinded myself to the statistics saying that the trade was a good one. Of course, we know how that exachange ended up turning out. Kinsler is one of the pillars on which the entire success of the Tigers rests, and represents the only player who wears the Olde English D who is excellent on both offense and defense. While I absolutely despised the trade at first, it has worked out in Detroit’s favor by a wide, wide margin.
Rob: Victor Martinez’s second contract with the Tigers was panned by nearly every baseball analyst in existence, but I wasn’t even a fan of his first deal with Detroit. Like many BYB commenters at the time, I was wary of a four-year commitment to a designated hitter. Martinez was still viewed as a catcher at that point as well, and I skeptical of both his ability to stay healthy — man, was that on point — as well as his defense behind the plate. Luckily, Martinez proved us wrong with a monster 2011 season and three years of outstanding production as a full-time DH. Tigers fans should forever thank the baseball gods that they ended up with V-Mart and not Adam Dunn (who signed for more money with the division rival White Sox that same offseason).
Patrick O’Kennedy: I underestimated how well Cameron Maybin would play for the Tigers in 2016. The team had a need in center and left field at the time, with Anthony Gose the apparent center fielder. It wasn't exactly clear what the plans were for Maybin. He didn't seem to be the right fit. He had not played left field since his rookie season with the Tigers, and was below average offensively and defensively in recent seasons. Well, he was a great fit, both at the top of the batting order and in center field. He was a spark plug for the offense, and posted a 120 wRC+. The Tigers won't miss his defense, but they will miss him at the top of the lineup. Odds are pretty strong that his replacement won't be nearly as good as what Maybin gave the Tigers.
Jeff: I was completely wrong about J.D. Martinez. I just didn’t get it at the time. The Tigers had Trevor Crowe and Ezequiel Carrera as minor league depth, so why bother signing someone else? Here are the major league career batting lines for all three though the 2013 season:
I thought all three were essentially the same player. This is another reminder that adjustments happen and they should be taken into consideration when evaluating players. Late bloomers happen and someone should not be dismissed because they have not arrived by age 25. There is more to evaluating players than just numbers in a spreadsheet. Predicting future performance is hard.
Les: I was wrong about Jacob Turner in 2012. At the time, I thought it was ludicrous to trade away a top-25 talent (the jewel of the farm at the time) with options and six years of club control for a half-season of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. It's clear in retrospect that Dave Dombrowski moved Turner at the height of his value. Meanwhile, Sanchez pitched well during the playoff chase and postseason, and Infante plugged a hole at second base that had been performing below replacement since Placido Polanco left at the end of 2009 (apologies to Will Rhymes).
Kyle: I think we have yet to see the best of Shane Greene in a Tigers uniform, but he has struggled to match the expectations that came over with him before the 2015 season. Greene was coming off of a 3.78 ERA year with the Yankees and was given the opportunity to slide into the rotation as the No. 4 starter. It did not take long for things to fall apart, though, and poor performances and injury problems have marked his time in Detroit. Greene still has a lot of potential, but it's hard to call a 6.44 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over the past two years anything but disappointing.
Peter: December 4th, 2013. A handsome baseball-obsessed Tigers fan gets a notification that his favorite club has signed one of the most successful active closers in the game. With the haunting memories of an inverted Torii Hunter still fresh in his mind and so many years of leads blown by ineffective bullpens, surely this would be the move that makes everything right. This is the real closer the Tigers have missed all these years. Sure, he’s a little old, but Mariano Rivera is still pitching just fine and other closers of this level have pitched into their early 40s with success. Indeed, Joe Nathan would be the guy that changes the fortunes of the Tigers’ bullpen once and for all. And they have him for three years, potentially, so we should be set for a while. Hooray!
Grace: I was most wrong about the Alfredo Simon deal at the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings. At the time, I thought it would turn out fine. I wasn't happy about dealing two good prospects in Eugenio Suarez and Jonathon Crawford, but we were supposedly getting an experienced starting pitcher in return who would help us get to the playoffs in 2015. Fast-forward two years and Simon is barely in the majors — he had an ERA of 9.36 in 15 games in 2016 — while Suarez is tearing the cover off the ball in Cincinnati and Crawford is... okay, he's not doing that great but you get the point. Even if the deal had been a year of Simon for six seasons of Suarez straight up, it would still look terrible in hindsight. Suarez would be handy to have in the Tigers’ current situation.
Ashley: I thought sending Drew Smyly to the Rays in 2014 was a mistake for the Tigers at the time. Obviously, scoring David Price in the deal was a big boon for the Tigers, but at the time, sacrificing Austin Jackson to the Mariners and Smyly to the Rays felt like giving up a lot for someone who may not stay with the team all that long. As it turned out, the deal would end up benefiting us monstrously in the long run. Price ultimately went to Toronto, and brought back one Daniel Norris in return (also Matt Boyd, who may yet prove to be a long-term starter). Austin Jackson has since suffered from multiple injuries and while Smyly has maintained a role in the Rays starting rotation, he certainly hasn't achieved the kind of break out stats I worried the Tigers were sacrificing. While we might not have kept Price for long, the winding path Detroit took to get Norris and Boyd has turned out to be well worth it.