Tigers GM reaffirms his genius

Dave Dombrowski has done it again.

As it’s well known by now, the Detroit Tigers made a blockbuster trade just before the deadline on Thursday, shipping beloved centerfielder Austin Jackson to Seattle and starting pitcher Drew Smyly to Tampa Bay in exchange for Tampa Bay Rays’ ace pitcher David Price.

Price is unquestionably a top-flight pitching talent, having won a Cy Young in the last three years. Jackson, a fan-favorite who played admirable defense in the expansive outfield of Comerica Park.

My initial reaction when the news broke was one of shock and then confusion. Who’s going to play centerfield? I said out loud. Why was this even necessary, I asked. But then I thought about it.

I understand the sentiment that losing Jackson, who came to Detroit as only as a prospect, and blossomed into a talent here, is hard to accept.

It was a surreal moment watching him get pulled from the game on Thursday, and it invoked chills seeing the sellout crowd at Comerica Park collectively rise to their feet to acknowledge him. I’ll miss Jackson too.

But Dombrowski reaffirmed his genius yet again, by trading him away. Here’s why.

First off, the Tigers made this trade because of the rise of J.D. Martinez. The outfielder that the lowly Houston Astros didn’t want and became one of the hottest players in baseball this season with the Tigers. Martinez has power in his bat that Jackson can only dream of.

Yes, Jackson had 15 multi-hit games in July since being moved back to the leadoff position, but before that? That strikeout bugaboo that has haunted him for years, came back around, and it was hurting Detroit.

Where Jackson will most be missed is his defense and his clubhouse personality, both of which will be hard to replace. Rajai Davis is a capable fielder and the Tigers are high on AAA prospect Ezequiel Carrera who was called up on Thursday. He can reportedly handle himself at the position as well.

So Detroit doesn’t lose a ton by giving up Jackson. There’s no need to panic.

The trade essentially becomes Drew Smyly for David Price. When you look at it that way, a No. 5 pitcher for a Cy Young winning pitcher, you just have to tip your hat to Dombrowski. The man has done it again.

Price gives Detroit three Cy-Young winning pitchers in its rotation. That’s just unheard of. In fact, according to STATS LLC, the Tigers are the first team in MLB history to have that kind of talent in its rotation.

Make no mistake, this trade was in direct response to the moves the Oakland Athletics made to bolster their rotation.

After getting beat by superior pitching by the Tigers in recent post-seasons, they decided to get better, an unusual move for the usually thrifty A’s. First they acquired Jeff Samardija from the Cubs, then they traded Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for ace Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. Moneyball is dead, Oakland is in win-now mode.

Those moves were made to get Oakland past Detroit, but now it looks like it may all be for naught. In a playoff series, Oakland will put Samardija-Lester-Sonny Gray up against Scherzer-Price-Verlander. Who would you pick to have the advantage? And more importantly, who gave up more to get that rotation?

Add to the fact that Price is signed through 2015 while Lester becomes a free agent in the offeseason. Yes, Max Scherzer will likely leave through free agency, but imagine if you will, if Detroit could lure the lefty ace Lester to big Comerica Park. It would be the ultimate burn to Oakland and it’s not that far-fetched of a possibility.

For now, the Tigers biggest issue may be deciding who to move to the bullpen. Is it Porcello, who is having the best season of his career? Or is it Verlander who has struggled with loss of power and consistency, but performs like a true ace in the postseason.

Dombrowski meanwhile, somehow continues to acquire big stars without a great farm system. It’s uncanny. The best general manager in the business sheds dead weight (Prince Fielder) and acquires prime talent (Ian Kinsler). He once fleeced the Marlins, dealing two, at the time, but now marginal prospects’ Andrew Miller and Camron Maybin, for the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera. He dealt a fan favorite in Curtis Granderson, but got a diamond-in-the-rough Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer. And now this.

We may not realize the full scope of this trade now. But I believe we could look back on this Detroit Tigers team with the same reverence as the 2002 Detroit Red Wings.

That Red Wings team had seven future Hall of Famers, a collection of talent never before seen in NHL history. They went on to win the Stanley Cup.

This Detroit team may have as many as six future Hall of Famers in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price, Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez. The only thing they’re missing is a World Series title to tie it all together.