Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has made his intentions very, very clear. He wants to trade for a starting pitcher before July 31, and there’s no reason to doubt his sincerity. After all, he also said he wanted a third baseman and went out and grabbed Wilson Betemit, and demoted Brandon Inge.
So when rumors link the Tigers to every breathing pitcher in baseball, I get it. And let me add this: If landing a good starting pitcher means giving up prized prospect Jacob Turner, the Tigers have to do it.
It has to be for a top pitcher, though, not a bottom-of-the-rotation guy. The debate right now is over Tampa Bay’s James Shields, 29, who’s having a fine year, but isn’t a long-time star. He’s 9-8 with a 2.53 ERA, but is basically a .500 pitcher with a career ERA of 4.02.
Whomever Dombrowski targets, he can’t be afraid to deal the Tigers’ top prospect. There may be untouchables on a major-league roster, but I don’t think any team in contention can afford to have an untouchable in the minors. Turner, 20, is an excellent prospect, and in another few years, he may be someone like, oh, maybe Shields?
This will be a tense, tricky week for Dombrowski. I don’t think Colorado is actually going to deal ace Ubaldo Jimenez, so you should probably drop that notion. There might not even be an available pitcher worth a youngster as good as Turner, but the option should remain open.
San Diego’s Aaron Harang? He’s 8-2 with a 3.29 ERA but is way outperforming his .500 history. Dodgers’ righty Hiroki Kuroda? He’s 36 and serviceable, and wouldn’t cost a ton.
There are others, and someone in baseball is going to land one. Dombrowski has to be careful, obviously. He also has to be desperate, without a contract for next season and with a first-place team that should win its division. The lineup is heating up, as expected, so the rotation is the issue.
Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have pitched better of late. Justin Verlander will grapple with the Angels’ Jered Weaver for the Cy Young. If Turner can’t help the Tigers this season — and if he could, he’d be up here by now — there’s nothing wrong with trading him for someone that can.
I know it makes fans nervous because Dombrowski once dealt future star Jair Jurrjens for fading veteran Edgar Renteria. Bad move. But, ahem, he also sent away prized pitching prospect Andrew Miller as part of a trade that landed Miguel Cabrera from Florida. Terrific move.
You can’t trade in fear of a mistake and you can’t always wait for the future. And you can’t ever waste a chance to win the division.