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Friday, February 28, 2014

Reiter: With one move, Tigers reinvent themselves on offense and defense

So Ausmus’ first Tigers team will be different than Leyland’s last—more athletic, more dynamic, more versatile. Will they be better? Well, no, not definitely. It is not easy to replace the production of a player like Fielder, even a down-year Fielder. “You take Prince Fielder’s bat out of the lineup, that’s 100 RBI, that’s nothing to scoff at,” Ausmus said.

The fact is that Detroit didn’t need to get better. It is de rigueur for teams that don’t win the World Series to focus publicly on their shortcomings and explain how they’ve addressed them so that the result will be different next time. But in the case of last year’s Tigers, it was probably just bad luck, played out in the small-sample-size environment of the playoffs. “They were built to win it all,” one rival GM said. “They just didn’t.”

One of the harmless lies we tell ourselves about sports with playoff structures is that the ultimate winner was the best team all along. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Change a few unfortunate bounces in very tight games, subtract a celebrating Boston cop, and the slow-pitch Tigers could easily have been last year’s champions.

Dombrowski might have retained Fielder, and the overall style that resulted from his presence, and he could have been confident that he would again have a legitimate shot at a World Series. A lesser GM might have gone that route, but Dombrowski didn’t for one reason: Money. Even counting the $30 million they sent to Texas along with Fielder, the Tigers all at once lopped $76 million in future commitments off their unwieldy books, funds that they might redirect to Cy Young winner Max Scherzer (who is due to become a free agent after this season) or Miguel Cabrera (who can hit free agency after 2015).

The idea is to get your team to the playoff tournament as many times as you can, where the odds say you might eventually hoist a trophy. Dombrowski knew that he needed to trim his payroll in order to fund those shots not just in 2014, but in the years to follow. The Kinsler-for-Fielder trade allowed him to do that in the best way possible: By fielding a team that will still win, just differently. It would be no surprise at all if the trading partners meet again in late October, with a World Series on the line.

Thanks to Tiger Barnald.

Repoz Posted: February 28, 2014 at 07:53 AM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tigers

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