I’m going to lead off this post by saying something that I’ve never said before: I think the Tigers should’ve traded for Adam Dunn. Shocking, I know. You might remember a post from two months ago that I titled, “Five Prescriptions for an Anemic Offense.” At the time, it appeared as though the Tigers would need to add a major bat to stave off the White Sox and Twins for the Central Division Title. The goal of that post was to identify players who the Tigers had a legitimate chance of acquiring. Trading isn’t easy. In the NBA, the Lakers can say to the Grizzlies, “I’ll give you nothing for Pau Gasol” and get "sounds great!" as a response. That doesn’t work in MLB. A number of factors need to be present to make a trade without getting abused by an opportunistic GM. First, you have to trade with a team that has no chance of making the playoffs. Second, the salary has to be reasonable. Third, the contract should preferably expire within the next 1.5 years. Fourth, the player should be on the back nine of his prime. Those aren’t stone cold rules to follow; but, for the most part, they are the characteristics of a fair, mid-season trade. From that criteria, I came up with five names. If you’ve read anything that I’ve written in the past two months, I don’t have to tell you who #1 was. Number two was Matt Holliday who the Tigers made a run at only to be outbid by the Cardinals. Number three was—drumroll, please—Aubrey Huff.
If the Tigers move Joel Zumaya to the starting rotation, I’m going to have to consider the possibility that Dave Dombrowski is one of my four readers. Three years ago, I wrote that the Tigers should trade for Sean Casey and, for better or worse, it happened. A little less than three years ago I suggested that the Tigers consider Gary Sheffield and they did. This time we agreed on Aubrey Huff. That isn’t to say that I’m happy the Tigers got Huff. Clearly, there is a huge cutoff between the booming bats of Dunn and Holliday and the solid but inconsistent stick that Huff carries around. Not getting either Dunn or Holliday was failure, in my opinion. I have feared all season that whether the Tigers make the playoffs or not relies solely on DD’s ability to bring an elite bat to Detroit. Knowing the opportunity for both Dunn and Holliday was there, not getting either was akin to being OK with missing the playoffs. To be fair, you can fail with a 59 or you can fail with a zero. In my opinion, Huff was the equivalent of failing with a 59. Don't get me wrong, the Huff acquisition on its own merit deserves a much better score--I'd say at least an 80--but I am grading on a heavy curve based on what the Tigers could've gotten had they understood how fickle the value of "top prospects" are.
Since my opinion on Huff is the same now as it was two months ago, I’ll just quote myself:
“Huff has “Renteria Syndrome” which is a condition that spawns rapid fluctuations of inconsistency. Huff was a superstar last season with Baltimore when he hammered the American League—not the least of which was the Tigers—for 32 home runs and 108 RBIs. He makes just $8 million and he is in the last year of his contract. The Orioles have no chance in the stacked AL East. Huff has struggled this year with an OPS+ of 94 through 62 games. However, he would come cheap and he would give Miguel Cabrera some protection. Part of the gamble on Huff would be the hope that he would regain some of his ’08 form. If he could put up anything close to that, the Tigers would likely see a vast improvement in offensive production. Huff also has the added bonus of being a left-handed bat which is something the Tigers have needed since 1842—or thereabouts. “
So, yeah. Huff won’t bring a World Series to Detroit. However, it’s not crazy to think that—in a race as tightly contested as the AL Central has been all season—Huff could (triple special emphasis on "could") bring a Central Division Title to Detroit. If the Tigers weren’t going to make a trade before the trade deadline, then I think grabbing Huff was about the best they could’ve done. Anyone worth a damn would’ve been claimed on waivers (see; Alex Rios). Like Jarrod Washburn, Huff has two months left on his contract and came at a cheap price. Brett Jacobson—the lefty reliever the Tigers parted with to get Huff—was among the top 15 prospects in the organization according to me but he was stuck behind eleventy hundred other relievers who have equal to or greater potential. Huff basically cost nothing. It’s interesting to think you can get Aubrey Huff for next to nothing but can’t get Adam Dunn for a totally reasonable group of prospects. Nonetheless, DD made the best move he could’ve made after the deadline and deserves credit for that. Considering the Tigers inked three pivotal prospects from their 2009 draft just before the deadline to sign expired, this has to be considered a good week for the organization. The three signees—Jacob Turner, Andrew Oliver, and Daniel Fields—won’t help the Tigers this season but they will immediately bolster the credibility of the farm system and, thus, give the Tigers more ammunition to make a Miguel Cabrera-type addition down the road. In the meantime, Aubrey Huff is the only help the team is getting. Early returns aren't favorable but I think there is a perfectly good explanation for that. I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't feel a lot better if he grew his goatee back. Unfortunately, Baseball-Reference doesn’t have player splits for different types of facial hair but, from what I’ve noticed, Huff is a much better hitter with a goatee.
Bottom line: Having an adequate lefty bat in the middle of the lineup is a welcome addition. The AL Central is almost certainly going down to the wire and the Tigers chances of hanging on are better now, than they were four days ago. The good news is that the Tigers are still 1.5 games ahead of the White Sox. The bad news is that the Tigers are only 1.5 games ahead of the White Sox. Giddy up!