I thought the Tigers did well in their role as "sellers" at the trade deadline, considering the circumstances. All three of the assets they "sold" (David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria) are eligible for free agency after the season, and the teams that acquired them can't get a draft pick in return should they leave as free agents.
But the degree the Tigers have helped their farm system can easily be overstated. In a sense, what general manager Dave Dombrowski did this week was recoup some of the losses from his previous trades that acquired veteran players for prospects.
Lefty Daniel Norris, who will start Sunday at Baltimore, replaces Robbie Ray, who the Tigers moved in a three-way deal that landed Shane Greene, who although not exactly a veteran, was supposed to provide immediate help.
There was a lot of angst about Ray because the Tigers traded a quality No.3 starter, Doug Fister, to Washington to get him, but the Tigers moved too quickly to trade Ray. Just a year older, Ray is much more advanced than Norris. He is 3-5 with a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts for Arizona, including 2-0, 0.83 vs. American League teams. He is allowing 7.8 hits and striking out 7.8 hitters per nine innings, while throwing much harder than he did for Tigers (4-seam fastball up to 93.3 mph from 91.3; Norris has been at 91 mph in MLB this season). The hope for the Tigers is Norris develops next season like Ray has from 2014 to 2015.
Michael Fulmer, the right-hander the Tigers acquired in the Cespedes' trade with the Mets, replaces Jake Thompson, the right-hander, who was traded to Texas for Soria last season and then flipped by the Rangers to the Phillies in the recent deal for ace Cole Hamels. Both Fulmer and Thompson were taken at similar points in the draft as high schoolers, but Thompson is a year younger and has pitched longer in Double-A. Most scouts see Thompson as the better long-range prospect, but it's anything but certain.
Fulmer is an interesting prospect. He runs his fastball into the mid 90s and has a solid, tight slider he commands well. He's three inches taller, and that's important because he throws straight over the top which gives him sharper tilt on his fastball, but his "stuff" is remindful of Tigers' reliever Alex Wilson, who was a starter, too, early on as a minor leaguer. Fulmer does not have a good change up and it's hardly given he will develop one that is major league caliber. He also short arms the ball, which can be good or bad. It's good because there is deception in his motion, but bad in that it leads to a somewhat violent delivery. Fulmer has had injury issues, including issues with his elbow.
Corey Knebel, traded in the Soria deal with Thompson and then flipped to Milwaukee during spring trainng, is having a pretty good season for Milwaukee as a depth guy in the bullpen. He has 2.96 ERA, a 1..244 WHIP and is striking out more than a hitter per inning in 24 appearances and 30 innings. More impressively, his average fastball has been 94.8. He is just 23.
Another pitcher from the Tigers' system who has turned into a serviceable MLB reliever is lefty Jose Alvarez. Traded for Andrew Romine, Alvarez has emerged in the Angels' bullpen this season. He is striking out eight hitters per nine innings and has a 1.143 WHIP. He is 26 and was not signed originally by the Tigers, but did represent their minor league pitching depth when called to MLB originally at 24 for spot starts.
The Tigers also traded 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Crawford to Cincinnati in the Alfredo Simon deal He has missed most of this season with a shoulder injury.
Willy Adames, traded to the Rays in the Price deal, is a far better prospect than the shortstop/utility player, Ja Coby Jones, they got in the Soria trade with the Pirates.
Matt Boyd (in Price deal) and Luis Cessa (in Cespedes trade) are fringe prospects, who have outperformed that status this season.
Also, the Tigers saved $12.3 million off the books this season, and obviously cleared salary for the off season to make moves.
It's painful in the sense this has been a genuine contending team for the better part of a decade, and this could get really ugly during the second half. The Tiger have not rebuilt anything yet, including their farm system. But it is a start in the right - and necessary - direction.
My column. Detroit Lions will only go as far in 2015 as these players taken them: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20150801/pat-caputo-detroit-lions-will-only-go-as-far-in-2015-as-these-players-take-them