With the deals Detroit Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has pulled lately, how could it surprise anyone that he might have another ace up his sleeve?
Dombrowski employed Kenny Rogers' (the singer, not the pitcher) best technique last week. While the Nationals, Rangers and Mariners were busy counting their money in a race to sign Prince Fielder, Dombrowski sat patiently and had no problem raising the stakes when time came due to go all-in.
Now that Yoennis Cepedes can call the Dominican Republic home, with some rubber stamp-like red-tape to get out of the way before gaining full access to the United States, Tigers fans have to wonder if Dombrowski has enough in the kitty to play another big hand. The Tigers MLB beat reporter, Jason Beck, reported Dombrowski stating, "I don't want to say on that. Most likely [out], but you never can tell," about the Tigers likelihood of signing Cepedes shortly after the signing of the Prince Fielder deal.
Of course, this is the same genius downplay Dombrowski used a few weeks ago when he all but put the Tigers out of the hunt for Fielder. Averting the attention of the media on the matter was a good plan. Ultimately, his feigning worked just fine. A week later, he signed Fielder, leaving the rest of MLB's world yanking their jaws up from the floor.
Reports have it that six teams are interested in bringing the young Cuban phenom to the states, including the Cubs, Marlins, Orioles and White Sox. Although, Cepedes conceded that the Cubs have shown the greatest interest (h/t MLB.com). So did three other teams in Fielder, and everyone knows how that turned out.
Owner, Mike Illitch, has been the biggest contributor to the regrowth of the city of Detroit. Some might argue he "is" the city of Detroit. Illitch's other team, the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, have brought home plenty of hardware during his tenure as their owner.
He wants more.
Regardless of health, at 83 years old, Illitch doesn't have time to waste bringing another championship to the Motor City. Wind certainly fell from the sails of excitement when Victor Martinez went down. That was not part of Illitch's vision for 2012. He wasn't going to sit idle and watch opportunity slip away. Let's make it perfectly clear, you don't tender $214 million without a serious urgency to press for a championship. Illitch wants so badly for his Tigers to hoist a World Series trophy, he can taste it. He's hungry. He wants his fill now, not later.
Dombrowski has shown such interest in Cespedes that even he went to Cuba to sneak a peek at all the buzz surrounding the heavily skilled talent. Cespedes' game has speed, power, smarts and grace. That's right, speed, a commodity the Tigers are desperately in need of headed into spring training.
The Tigers are flush with outfield talent, but Cespedes would take pressure off center fielder Austin Jackson's responsibility to cover a considerable portion of the outfield, should the Tigers want him bad enough. He'd have to prove himself. There's no guarantee that if the Tigers could reel Cespedes in that he'd actually make the trip north all the way to Detroit without first stopping in Toledo, the Tigers Triple-A affiliate.
Remember, Victor Martinez is out, leaving Don Kelly, Andy Dirks or Clete Thomas as the Tigers designated hitter. Not terrible options, but not Victor Martinez either. Should Leyland's initial defensive scheme turn sour, Cespedes may prove more warranted than most might think.
Putting him in a Detroit uniform most likely makes Young the every day DH and a rotational outfielder when necessary—a move that makes the Tigers instantly better defensively and provides even greater push offensively. Cespedes could also instantly challenge Austin Jackson for the leadoff spot.
A lot of wild what-ifs and a ton of interesting options.
Signing Cespedes might be a gamble. For the Tigers, it's a safe bet to check until someone else sets the market on Cespedes. Illitch and Dombrowski can decide then whether or not they want to go all-in. I'll take odds on Dombrowski to make another slick move.
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