The Tigers were expected to be competitive this past season, but they were a slight surprise to make it past the first round and defeat the Yankees. Kurt Mensching of the SBNation Detroit Tigers' blog, Bless You Boys, was nice enough to sit down for our 5 Questions series. We talked about the candidacy of Justin Verlander for MVP, the Curtis Granderson trade revisited, and the minors, among other topics.
ON THE DOUG FISTER TRADE:
MLBDD: It looked like a minor move at the time, but the trade to acquire Doug Fister was one of the key acquisitions made during the season. How do you feel about the trade and its cost in players, and do you think Fister will be able to repeat his performance level in 2012?
KM: I loved the trade right from the start. I kind of felt like the Mariners got fleeced, to be honest.
Starting with what Detroit gave up: Charlie Furbush and Casper Wells were the main components. They weren't exactly top 100 prospects or perennial all stars. Furbush is not likely to have a long MLB career, and he's not really a starter in the long run. Before the season, no one saw him as a good answer for Detroit's rotation, and nothing he did during the season really changed that opinion. Casper Wells, he's a fine player but he's far from an elite player. He plays solid defense. He hits the ball OK. Going into the season we thought he was basically a fourth outfielder, and he played better than that.
I think it's rather safe to say we shouldn't expect Doug Fister to perform at the same level he did. However, looking at his stats, looking at his stuff, it's hard to picture this guy being any worse than a No. 3 starter. He seems very smart with his pitching and looks like there's no reason to believe he'll suddenly fall apart. Plus he's cost controlled for four years to come. What's not to love?
My Thoughts: When this trade was announced, I honestly thought that the Mariners had done pretty well, and didn't really understand why the Tigers had gone out and acquired Fister. Clearly, he showed me (and quite a few other people) and pitched excellently down the stretch. It remains to be seen whether or not he can repeat that performance, but the team clearly trusts him near the top of that rotation.
ON MVP CANDIDATE JUSTIN VERLANDER:
MLBDD: Justin Verlander looks likely to be the AL Cy Young winner, but has also been getting a lot of press about being an MVP candidate. Do you think he should win this award as well, and do you believe he will?
KM: I'll be honest, and it's hard as a fan of the Tigers and of Justin Verlander. I believe a pitcher should win the MVP award, but I don't think Justin Verlander's season was good enough to justify giving him the award. Make no mistake, Verlander had a great season. He performed as you hope for an ace. He stopped losing streaks, he ate innings, he racked up the strikeouts, he had a good year. But to me, I just don't think the season went far enough.
However, I guess he's as good a choice as any. There's no runaway candidate. The best two candidates -- Jose Bautista and Jacoby Ellsbury -- didn't play for a playoff team. Still, to me I think Ellsbury deserves it. He performed well in all facets of the game and he cannot be blamed for his team collapsing around him.
My Thoughts: I actually had a vote, as I voted on the American League awards over at Fake Teams. I actually picked Ellsbury as my top pick, and Bautista ended up winning the Baseball Nation award. I think Kurt is right about the fact that for a pitcher to win it, he has to be extremely dominant (Verlander was), and not really have any viable candidates from the position player side (there were).
ON THE CURTIS GRANDERSON TRADE, 2 YEARS LATER:
MLBDD: It has been nearly 2 years since the Curtis Granderson trade, and it appears to have really helped all parties involved. How do you feel about the return to this point?
KM: As with any trade, how you feel about it is probably fluid. I mean, after 2010 this look like a huge win for the Tigers. After 2011, well, not as huge. Max Scherzer was inconsistent all year. Austin Jackson really seems lost at the plate for periods of time, though his defense is obviously top tier. Phil Coke is a contributor, but not a starting pitcher. Daniel Schlereth is ... not all that good. In the end, the best part about the trade was freeing up the cash to pursue more players. So in a way, you can say the trade helped bring Victor Martinez to Detroit while filling some holes with cost controlled players. And hey, the Tigers made the playoffs. So I think it was a good trade for Detroit.
My Thoughts: This is one of those trades that has worked out reasonably well to all parties involved, which seems to rarely happen with a trade this big. Flags fly forever, and while the Tigers didn't win the World Series, they did make the playoffs with a division title.While looking at the trade, the part that I forget about some time is the ability to use saved payroll elsewhere in the roster. While you can't say that they definitely used the savings to sign Martinez the following year, it definitely doesn't hurt.
ON THE MINOR LEAGUES:
MLBDD: The team has some interesting high-ceiling prospects, most notably Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos. Is there one propsect in particular you are really excited to see in Detroit in the next few seasons?
KM: I'd have to say Jacob Turner is the exciting one. Maybe it's just me, but pitchers always seem more exciting than position players. Or maybe that's how I've been conditioned because the Tigers haven't had any fun position player prospects in decades. Turner can be a big contributor right away.
Beyond that, and a lot further down the line, I am excited to see how Danry Vasquez turns out. He was a high paid teenage prospect out of Venezuela. He had a hiccup or two during his first year of baseball on american soil, but he's just 17, already big bodied, and has lot of developing to do. He has the potential to be a really great addition four or five years down the line.
My Thoughts: Besides Turner, and Nick Castellanos, there's not a lot of high-end talent even remotely near the top of the system. Turner is probably the only player that can really be seen as an impact player that is likely to be in Detroit before late 2013 unfortunately. Thankfully, there aren't a ton of problems with the Major League roster right now for them to address from the farm system.
ON THIS OFFSEASON:
MLBDD: The team won the AL Central in 2011, but was eliminated in the League Championship Series. What moves would you like to see the team make to take the next step in 2012?
KM: I'd love to see them work a trade to bring a second baseman who can bat near the top of the order and get on base. There's not a lot of work needed. Detroit looks to be the favorite to win the division next year and the playoffs are always a crap shoot. I would like to see another bullpen addition or two as well. I just don't trust Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry all that much.
My Thoughts: 2B clearly seems to be the biggest gap, but I think that they could get a veteran like Mark Ellis or someone like that to fill that position well. They don't necessarily need a player who provides a lot of offense there. As for relief pitching, some setup relievers shouldn't be too hard to find that can fill in behind Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde.
Thanks again to Kurt!