Holly Bio PicBy:  Holly Horning

This has been a very strange – and very different – Hot Stove season this year. It’s been quiet – and boring. And not just for the Tigers.

We were forewarned in the late fall that the names available would not be as stellar as in years past. That this was going to be an off-year in terms of blockbuster deals and flashy, expensive players.

But despite the yawns the Hot Stove season has generated, big things have been happening within baseball. A sport that changes so slowly, sometimes the evolution goes unnoticed. But not now. New trends have emerged that are sudden and alarmingly rapid.

First, the growing hesitation by teams to offer long-term contracts. Followed by organizations now loathe to offer contracts of more than 2-3 years to players already in their 30’s. GMs are now realizing that it’s not good business sense to lock down a player who has started the decline in performance and who will become generally untradeable within a year or two.

But the biggest trend we’re seeing is the overall reluctance to part with top prospects. Teams now are showing a death grip on their most promising players and refusing to cough them up. We saw more deals not get done this year because, in the end, the prospects were more important to the future performance of the club than the established player.

There were only a couple of teams willing to deal from their farm systems, led by – surprise, surprise – Dave Dombrowski. And that was because Dave moved to the Red Sox when their farm system ranked near the top with one of the largest collections of promising players.

Ironically, one of the most significant events that undoubtedly inspired teams to take a closer look at their trading habits can be traced to the Tigers. The infamous moves by former GM Dombrowski in which he traded David Price and Yoenis Cespedes and received one of the most notable hauls in pitchers Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris and Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer.

These Tigers’ moves were roundly recognized as brilliant and many within baseball took notice. Many analysts believe these were the catalysts that inspired the majority of teams to refuse trading their top pitching prospects in the 2016-2017 Hot Stove season.

But there are other reasons, too. A noticeable jump in pitchers’ contracts and the new focus on hanging onto young, club-controlled talent. Teams save a ton of money by developing their own players, keeping them for pennies and then allowing them to leave around the age of 30.

There are teams like the Mets with a starting rotation that has just only jumped to $11 million for 2017. The Indians pay out $14 million for their rotation. And the Tigers? $71 million.

See the problem with this?

The Tigers are now encountering the perfect storm where they have a depleted farm system and no longer have the capital to trade for top pitching prospects. Salaries are skyrocketing. Which means only one thing.

The Tigers need to start developing their own players. And in a hurry.

But unfortunately, if you go back at least 10 years, Detroit does not have a good record of drafting and developing, especially starting pitchers. Other than Justin Verlander, the only other pitcher worth mentioning is Rick Porcello. The rest of their all-star rotation over the past decade was developed by other teams.

An issue of concern is that Al Avila kept the entire scouting and drafting departments intact when he took over the job. In fact, he re-hired some older scouts who used to work for the Tigers way back when. All of them the same guys with the aforementioned track record.

Will these same people suddenly change their methodology and start making different decisions? Will the new analytics department kick in and be a game-changing element? Will the Tigers break their long scouting drought?

There’s no doubt about it – they must. It’s a whole new era in baseball.


  1. Seems time they show some fiscal responsibility. Let’s see if the savings trickles down to the fans. I don’t think Dombrowski’s methods have been a proven failure, though either. He brought the Tigers right to the brink. A few bounces here or there and they could have won 3 WS. Let’s see how his Boston experiment pans out before passing judgement.


  2. I wonder if this renaissance of financial responsibility will end up being “collusion light”, similar to what happened in the late 80’s when Gibson, Parrish & Morris among others couldn’t get offers. As for the drafting, I thought David Chadd was supposed to be a huge addition when he came from the Red Sox over 10 years ago.


  3. Thank you, Holly, for the alert. I am sure that the Tigers will be getting some great draft prospects and other young prospects now, since they are keeping the old retread scouts and rehiring some others. Old habits die hard, very hard!


  4. 1) I figure this keeping your prospects thing will last until a contender needs a pickup at the trade deadline. 2) Anyone think the Chisox will be any better with the kids they acquired? 3) We sometimes hear how the Tigers were going to pick player X, but he went 1 pick ahead of their turn.


    • “Anyone think the Chisox will be any better with the kids they acquired?” Absolutely. Maybe not immediately, but soon.


  5. The good news is that within a couple of years, the Tigers will have a putrid record, and consequently high draft picks. The bad news is that they will almost certainly draft idiotically, like the Lions a decade ago, and fail to develop the talent they accidentally acquire. The only hope is new and engaged ownership.


  6. It seems to me that age 30 is still part of a players prime years. For me, giving a player a contract through age 34 is fine. After that, it should be a 2 year agreement, at best.


  7. The baseball money balloon had to burst sometime and it popped LOUDLY in Motown. Having talent being taught the “right way” in the minors for a year or two…what a novel idea! I have NO idea what Tram, Willie, Gibby, are value adding in their current “assignments.” Send them out and find some raw talent. It’s not rocket science.


  8. Holly, if you don’t stop criticizing the Tiger management and their antiquated ways, you are not going to get any ice cream for dessert.


  9. This year’s hot stove was a dud based on both strategic impact and general entertainment factor. Next year’s hot stove has potential for some excitement. I say that based purely on entertainment value, not on the pros/cons of FA spending for the Tigers, b/c next year’s FA will be more fun to watch.


Comments are closed.