Times have changed in Detroit. For so long, the Tigers were sellers, sending established players off to other organizations in return for players who might help down the line when the team was to be competitive.
That was before 2006.
It's certainly a big adjustment for the Tigers and their faithful. For so long, the hopes rested in the future. The improvement of the big league team means that the days of penny pinching and praying for prospects to pan out are over. As if that wasn't true this time last year when Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Clagget were shipped to the evil empire for Gary Sheffield, it certainly became evident when Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez were sent off to Atlanta for Edgar Renteria in a deal timed in such a way that it seemed to be agreed upon in September.
While this feeling of being among the league's elite should be great, some of the fan reaction to this trade reflects that some of the pre-2006 attachment to our prospects still lingers. This is not unjustified, as this resurgence definitely would not have occurred without the help of the likes of Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and others developed within the Tigers organization.
Here's why you should not worry about this trade.
Jair Jurrjens is a guy I have been high on for a while. Always putting up great numbers against guys older than him, he has always been a dark horse candidate to be a solid pitcher at the big league level. A late-summer surge got him to the Major Leagues, and Jurrjens pitched well in his stay, fooling hitters with his off speed stuff and being aggressive in the strike zone, leading to few walks (11 in 30 2/3 IP), few strikeouts (just 13), but rarely decent contact against him (only 24 hits).
The biggest strike against Jurrjens is the same one against the pitching prospect dealt this time last year: his health. After leaving his start against the Yankees with a painful pop in the back of his shoulder, his future was in doubt. That is why this is trade is a good risk. Jurrjens was already in a position where he was on the brink of never being a productive pitcher again. If you want to play a fun game, look up rotator cuff injuries to pitchers, when they occurred, and their statistics after the injury. The names Wade Miller, Ben McDonald, Robb Nen, and many others whose careers never got back on track will come up. This is not to say that Jurrjens is definitely going to get hurt, but he is an increased risk and it was a good move to cash in on him while he had value.
Gorkys Hernandez is an incredible talent, and has drawn rave reviews from the three people I get most of my prospect prognostication from: Mark Anderson (Tigstown.com), Kevin Goldstein, and Nate Silver (BaseballProspectus.com). All that said, you can still go back six years to the Tigers' last Venezuelan hyped toolsy player was a teenager. While Omar Infante wasn't getting near the reviews, you can see how a toolsy, non-dominant star prospect's star can diminish, especially considering Infante isn't really a flop.
Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens, believe it or not, are examples of why this trade should not be a problem. After years of struggling to produce talent from the Carribean, the Tigers have found Jair Jurrjens in Curacao, and Gorkys Hernandez is the first of what should be a large wave of Venezuelan talent from the team's new facilities there. Increased talent coming from Latin America should do wonders in gathering depth of talent in the system.
Edgar Renteria has had an interesting career. At times, he has been among the best shortstops in the league. His WARP totals range from 7.8 in 2003 to 1.5 in his forgettable 2005 season. The verdict of this trade will depend on if we get the 2003, 2006-2007 Renteria or the 2005 version.
In short, trades like the Renteria and Sheffield deals are merely signs that the Tigers are in a brand new position, and the role of prospects has changed. It's easy to get attached to prospects, especially after years of losing. With drafts like the last three and the team's increased presence internationally, this is something Dave Dombrowski can continue to do without sacrificing the future.