Here’s a big, fat “what if” for ya to chew on.
Before the Tigers shipped their star center fielder, Curtis Granderson, to the Yankees in a three-team trade in December 2009, Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski was considering trading Granderson to Boston.
And here’s who he asked for:
And Clay Buchholz.
Now, sure, the Tigers in the end got a nice haul for Granderson. Four of the players they rely heavily on today — Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth — came over in that blockbuster deal.
But imagine just how different the complexion of this team could be with the addition of Ellsbury, a center fielder who finished runner-up to Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the 2011 Most Valuable Player voting, and Buccholz, a promising young starting pitcher.
According to a Wall Street Journal report published last night, the Tigers and Red Sox were seriously discussing a deal.
Dombrowski confirmed to me the Tigers did have talks with the Red Sox about Granderson, but he wouldn’t specify the players he was seeking.
Apparently — and not surprisingly — then-Boston GM Theo Epstein dismissed the first proposal, deciding two young stud players was too much to give up for Granderson. It was then the teams started talking about a straight-up deal: Granderson to the Red Sox and Ellsbury to the Tigers.
“We thought he was a guy who might have been undervalued a little,” Epstein told the Wall Street Journal.
Presumably, Epstein thought Granderson’s struggles against left-handed pitching — the prime reason why the Tigers considered him expendable — could be corrected. Also, Epstein believed Granderson could really shine playing in a hitter’s ballpark. (Clearly, he was correct; Granderson has fallen in love with cozy Yankee Stadium.)
Ultimately, Epstein decided against that deal, too, leaving the Tigers to send Granderson to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks in the three-team megadeal that rocked the winter meetings in Indianapolis.
“We had Ellsbury in place, so I think the Yankees may have been a little more motivated than we were,” current Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, then Epstein’s assistant, told the Journal.
The deal, or lack of deal, has worked out for all parties.
Granderson has become a legitimate star in pinstripes, setting career highs with 41 home runs and 119 RBIs in 2011. He finished fourth in MVP voting.
Ellsbury bounced back from a miserable, injury-plagued 2010 — during which his heart and passion was openly questioned by Red Sox fans — to bat .321 with 35 homers, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases this past season.
And the Tigers have enjoyed the addition two high-ceiling players (Jackson and Scherezer) and two key members of the bullpen (Coke and Schlereth).
Still, though, it’s fun to wonder might’ve been.
We thought he was a guy who might have been undervalued a little,”