Tigers complete three-way blockbuster
Trade of Jackson, Granderson brings relief, reshapes roster
INDIANAPOLIS -- The reshaping of the Tigers roster went from an agreement in principle to a philosophy in practice Wednesday.
Tigers officially completed their three-team trade, sending All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson to the Yankees and All-Star right-hander Edwin Jackson to Arizona in exchange for center-field prospect Austin Jackson and left-hander Phil Coke, plus right-handed starting pitcher Max Scherzer and lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth from Arizona.
The trade had been agreed upon Tuesday, giving many in baseball and in Detroit a chance to digest it. Wednesday's official announcement gave the Tigers their chance to explain a deal that they know won't be popular now, but they hope will set up the team to win next year and beyond.
The impact brings a major reshaping of the Detroit roster along with moderate relief for a payroll that ranked among the top five in baseball the past two years. It comes with the high cost of two relatively young All-Star players -- including one face of the franchise -- who were integral parts of the 2009 club, which came within a game of the American League Central title.
In an ideal world, the Tigers would've preferred to keep them, but Edwin Jackson and Granderson presented their two most compelling pieces to get talent in return.
"When you look at our situation, we gave up a couple of real good players, no doubt," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a news conference. "But we were in a position where we just need to, based upon our situation right now, make some adjustments that we feel we needed to make.
"With that, we were going to make sure that if we made deals, that they were going to bring back quality talent."
In other words, the Tigers wanted talent that was ready for the Majors now, which they feel they have. That group includes a blue-chip prospect in Austin Jackson, whom Dombrowski declared the leading candidate to open next season in center field.
The Tigers saw plenty of the 22-year-old Jackson in the International League, where the right-handed hitter arrived at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a .300 average in 132 games to go with 23 doubles, nine triples, four home runs and 65 RBIs. He earned IL top-hitter honors from Baseball America.
Austin Jackson also earned the close attention of the Tigers, who had scouted him since high school and who made him the key to any deal involving the Yankees.
"He uses the whole field," Dombrowski said. "He's a rhythm-type hitter. He has power, but not big power numbers. But he's also a young athlete who a lot of people feel is going to continue to get stronger as time goes on. So that power may continue to develop. We like his bat. We think he's going to be a real good big league hitter."
While Austin Jackson doesn't boast the power potential of Granderson, his baserunning and defense are comparable. He stole 24 bases in 28 attempts while committing just three errors all year.
"It's exciting getting a chance to get your foot in the door and get in at the Major League level," Austin Jackson said Wednesday evening.
Austin Jackson stands as the lone position prospect in the deal. The three pitchers in the package slot into different roles and styles, led by the hard-throwing Scherzer.
Though Scherzer, at age 25, is only a year younger than Edwin Jackson, he has had only one full Major League season after being selected by Arizona with its first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He went 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA in 30 starts with the D-backs this past season, striking out 174 hitters over 170 1/3 innings.
"I think what's unique in his situation, and what's positive for us, is he's already had a successful year at the Major League level," Dombrowski said.
Scherzer's high-90s fastball has always earned raves. The key, Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said during his session with reporters Tuesday, is to add to his repertoire with his changeup.
"Max, he's always worked on a third pitch," said Hinch. "He's always worked on incorporating secondary stuff and being able to utilize that as a full -- three and four times through the order -- starter. Pitching deeper into games, that is important for him as the next step.
"You know, he was a bona-fide guy for us. And we like him."
So, too, did pitching coach Rick Knapp when he watched video of Scherzer earlier.
"He's a bulldog," Dombrowski said. "He likes the ball. He's a young pitcher that we think will continue to develop. We look at him as a guy that, I'm not saying this year, has All-Star potential. So for us, we look at it as getting a guy after his first year of service that you look and your top three [starters] are [Justin] Verlander and [Rick] Porcello and Scherzer, with [Jeremy] Bonderman coming back."
|D-backs|| RHP Edwin Jackson (from DET)
RHP Ian Kennedy (from NYY)
|Tigers|| RHP Max Scherzer (from ARI)
OF Austin Jackson (from NYY)
LHP Phil Coke (from NYY)
LHP Daniel Schlereth (from ARI)
|Yankees||OF Curtis Granderson (from DET)|
Schlereth, son of former NFL lineman Mark Schlereth and a bullpen mate of Tigers reliever Ryan Perry at the University of Arizona, went in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2008 -- the 26th overall pick. Schlereth broke into the big leagues this year with 21 appearances, going 1-4 with a 5.89 ERA over 18 1/3 innings, but he has closer potential with time and experience.
"We liked him coming out of college," Dombrowski said. "He's like Ryan Perry: He's got a great arm, he's moved [through the Minors] quickly. His numbers at the Minor League level were dominating. He's a hard thrower. He needs to improve his command, but he has quality stuff. He's not just a normal left-hander. He projects to be a guy that someday could be a closer."
Coke is the swingman in the deal, a starter in the Minors who took on middle-relief and lefty-specialist roles when the Yankees called him up. He pitched in 72 games last season, allowing just 44 hits over 60 innings with 20 walks and 49 strikeouts, then made six postseason appearances during the Yankees' run to the World Series. Left-handed hitters batted just .195 off him.
Dombrowski indicated the Tigers haven't decided whether Coke fits best as a reliever or starter. While Detroit has five lefties in the bullpen for now, its only lefty starters are Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson.
"I'm a guy that wants the ball no matter what," Coke said. "It may be as a reliever right now based on what I did last year."
What Dombrowski said began about a month ago as separate discussions with the D-backs on Edwin Jackson and the Yankees on Granderson soon morphed into a combination.
"Really when you looked at it, there were only a few places that satisfied what we needed," Dombrowski said. "And it kept coming back to this situation that we felt was the best one for us. So even though at times it looked like this may not work, we really didn't want to give this one up, because we thought it was the one situation that really kept coming back to giving us that young starter and giving us that young center fielder and also giving us some additional pieces to the deal."
By then, it was already clear that Granderson and Edwin Jackson were on the block. It was a situation, Dombrowski said, where adjustments had to be made. This, he said, was their best scenario.
"We haven't done this very much since I've been in Detroit," Dombrowski said, "but this has been done a lot in my career. You can make good decisions on young players and their abilities. You can shape the franchise and help it very well for the future. But, you have to be willing to take the criticisms and the pains that are attached."
The Tigers made room on the 40-man roster by designating catcher Dusty Ryan and right-hander Freddy Dolsi for assignment. Both saw limited time in Detroit this year while spending most of the season at Triple-A Toledo.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.