Former editor and writer for Fansided, Tony likes to look at today's game through from a historical perspective.
The Biggest Detroit Tigers Trade Deadline Deals
Prince said in 2000: "the party is over." But for the Detroit Tigers, the party was just getting started. In a quest to end the franchise's world series drought, Mike Illitch let loose the purse strings and chased every expensive free agent that was on the market.
Beginning in 2005, for about 10 years, the Tigers were mentioned as a trade partner for nearly every big-name player. As the trade deadline neared, Tigers fans were glued to sports radio to find out what kind of deal Mike Illitch and Dave Dombrowski would close to help the club make another run at the playoffs. It was fun while it lasted.
Prior to 2005, the Tigers were rarely a part of trade deadline dramatics, but during their run, they made some big trades, often as the clock was ticking down.
Here are the list of the top five biggest Detroit Tigers trade deadline deals and the impact they had on that season and beyond.
5. John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander (August 12, 1987)
Some may consider this the Tigers' worst trade deadline deals considering the club gave up John Smoltz, but you have to take this in context. Yes, Smoltz went on to be the legendary Hall of Fame pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, but that wasn’t a guarantee.
The Tigers needed a starting pitcher for a playoff run and they got their man. Alexander Doyle went 9-0 over 11 starts, three of which were complete-game shutouts. Not to mention his 1.53 ERA and 1.008 WHIP over the same 11 starts. Alexander's efforts on the mound pushed the Detroit Tigers past the Toronto Blue Jays to win the America League East. He ran out of gas in the ALCS, but the trade accomplished its purpose. The 1987 pennant run would not have happened without it.
Doyle Alexander wasn’t just a one-year wonder for Sparky Anderson’s Detroit Tigers. In 1988, he was an All-Star for the club after a 14-win season. They helped lead the Tigers to 88 wins and a second-place finish in the AL East.
4. Jeimer Candelario for Justin Wilson (July 31, 2017)
Candelario and Wilson were the principals in this deal that also saw Tiger Alex Avilia and Cub’s prospect Isaac Paredes switch uniforms as part of it. The Cubs were looking for an arm to anchor the back end of the bullpen for a playoff run, and Justin Wilson was having a career year for a disappointing Tigers team.
The trade never really worked out with Wilson as the Cubs failed to close out the LA Dodgers in the NLCS.
Sometimes it takes a couple of days to evaluate a trade. In this trade, the Tigers were hoping to get a cornerstone for the rebuild ahead. That strategy seems to be working as Jeimer Candelario has been improving offensively while playing solid defense at the hot corner. Even Paredes is showing improvement since coming to the majors in 2020.
3. Tigers Acquire and Trade David Price in Three-Way Deals (July 31, 2014)
Dave Domborwski is a master of the trade deadline deal. To get what he wanted and to add value, “Trader Dave” often used the three-way trade to add value. Two years removed from the embarrassing sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants in 2012, Dombrowski was feeling pressure to get the Detroit Tigers back to the World Series.
In 2014, the Tigers needed more help for the rotation, so they acquired David Price by sending CF Austin Jackson to the Seattle Mariners and SP Drew Smyly, and SS Wily Adames to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Despite joining a rotation that included Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez, David Price, and the Tigers limped down the stretch and held off the Royals to finish first in the American League Central. The Tigers went on to get swept by Baltimore in the ALDS.
The trade continued to pay dividends as Price started the 2015 season 9-1 before being traded to Toronto at the deadline as part of another three-team deal. This time the Tigers got two solid pitching prospects in SP Matthew Boyd and P Daniel Norris. Both are still key players on the Tigers' current roster.
One could recalibrate this trade into Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly for Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris. It's still a pretty good value.
2. Jose Iglesias in Three-Way Deal With Red Sox (July 30, 2013)
Another gem from Dombrowski involved a surprising three-way trade that included the Red Sox and White Sox. This was surprising because the Tigers suddenly gave up on valued outfield prospect Avisal Garcia; he was sent to Chicago as part of the deal. It was rumored that Garcia was creating tension in the locker room with Prince Fielder, so Dombrowski moved him at the deadline. The Tigers also gave up a second player by sending Bryan Villareal to Boston.
While it was a bit of a head-scratcher at the time, it soon became obvious the trade was worth the cost. Iglesias was nothing short of a defensive genius. His speed and range at short were better than anyone in the league at the time. He used his quickness to get on base as well. Over time, he developed into an offensive threat, posting a 7 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) over 5 seasons in Detroit.
1. Justin Verlander to Houston for Prospects (August 31, 2017)
Rebuilding a franchise requires tough, sometimes heartbreaking decisions. One such decision happened at the deadline in 2017 when Detroit sent its heart and soul to Houston. The deal made sense; trading a star player with a huge salary to a contender is part of baseball. But it was agonizing watching Justin Verlander win CY Young awards and a World Series ring while pitching for another franchise.
Four years removed from the trade, things don't look all that bad for the Tigers. OF Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers seem to be developing nicely and could be major pieces of the line-up in the very near future. If the Tigers are somehow able to re-sign Verlander and add a World Series ring, they would make this one of the best trades ever. Until then, we will have to wait to see how the prospects develop.