Tigers fans have been calling for GM Dave Dombrowski to “do something” after a quiet week to start at the winter meetings. And Thursday he certainly delivered, upgrading the outfield and bullpen in two trades at the cost of a fairly substantial downgrade at the back of the rotation.

Tigers trade SP Rick Porcello to Red Sox for LF Yoenis Cespedes, MR Alex Wilson, and prospect Gabe Speier.

The Tigers filled a huge gap in the outfield, by swapping starter Rick Porcello for Yoenis Cespedes. A Porcello/Cespedes deal had been rumored for most of the off-season, but looked dead when the Red Sox traded the name most often paired with Cespedes, Rubby De La Rosa, to Arizona in the Wade Miley deal. Both Cespedes and Porcello are eligible for free agency in 2016.

Offensively, Cespedes saves Tigers fans from the horror of watching Rajai Davis try to field and hit right handed pitching and should, at a minimum, replace the offense generated by departed free agent Torii Hunter. In 2014 Cespedes provided significantly more power in the Tigers lineup with slightly better baserunning and (to my great surprise) a better walk rate:



The upgrade over a full-time Davis is nearly incalculable. Davis mashes left handed pitching, to the tune of a career wOBA of .353 and wRC+ of 120. But he is completely helpless against RHP, with a wRC+ of 74 (essentially Derek Jeter’s 2014 season). The acquisition of Cespedes helps the outfield overall, and allows the Tigers to limit Davis to face LHP and use his plus speed as a pinch runner.

Defensively, the improvement is dramatic and immediate. In 2014, Hunter was one of the worst defensive players in major league baseball, with -18 DRS (tied for 4th worst among qualified players), and -18.3 UZR (3rd worst among qualified players). JD Martinez moves over to right field after a decent defensive 2014 (-1 DRS and -1.6 UZR primarily in left). Cespedes was 30(!) runs better than Hunter in 2014. Cespedes turned in 12 DRS in left field to go along with a UZR of 10.1.

Also coming to the Tigers is Alex Wilson, a ho hum middle reliever who turned in a deceptively-good 1.91 ERA in 18 games with the Red Sox in 2014. But even with an xFIP of 3.88, Wilson would have been one of the top 3 relievers in the dreadful Tigers bullpen. LH SP Speier was picked 563rd overall in the 2013 MLB draft and was ranked by soxprospects.com as Boston’s 54th best prospect.

Tigers trade SS Eugenio Suarez and prospect Jonathan Crawford to Cincinnati for SP Alfredo Simon

Thrilling the fan base much less, the Tigers acquired SP Alfredo Simon for two more pieces from the ever-dwindling farm system. Simon had a magical first half in his first season as a full-time starter, turning a .234 BABIP into a 12-3 record with a 1.05 WHIP and a 2.70 ERA. This earned him a trip to the All Star Game, after which he promptly turned back into a pumpkin. With a more realistic 2nd half BABIP-against of .313, he went 3-7 in the second half with a 4.52 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. More alarmingly, Simon’s FIP for 2014 was 4.33 (11th worst among qualified starters) and he will have iron gloved Nick Castellanos fielding some of the many, many ground balls he gives up. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS for Simon in Detroit estimated a 9-9 record with a 4.60 ERA and an 89 ERA+.That is about 20 points of ERA+ less than the ZiPS projection for Porcello. How much worse is the Tigers rotation?  According to Fangraphs, the team has dropped from the 3rd best rotation in MLB (behind the Dodgers and Nationals) to 7th.  And that’s just the baseball issues.

Meanwhile, Crawford was the Tigers 1st round pick in 2013 and is generally regarded as one of the top arms in the system. He was rated as the #5 prospect in the Tigers system by Bless You Boys. Suarez was rated the Tigers #8 prospect by Bless You Boys. He was called up to play SS after Jose Iglesias missed 2014 and showed flashes of being a valuable player (0.7 fWAR, .295 wOBA, 87 RC+, with -5 DRS and -0.1 UZR in 622 innings at SS). The Tigers, however, have pretty good depth at middle infield with Iglasias back in 2015. Hernan Perez is a similar player and out of options. SS Dixon Machado had a breakout year in 2014 in AA Erie and has probably earned a promotion to Toledo. So Suarez was expendable, but probably should have brought more in return.

According to General Manager Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers are “settled” with their starting pitching and have slotted Simon into the rotation. Fortunately for Tigers fans, Dave Dombrowski always lies. Or at least, they should hope he is lying about relying on Simon for anything other than replacement-level innings.

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