Imagine a rotation with Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay, back–to-back. It could've happened.
In July of 2009, with the Tigers clinging to a slim lead in an awful AL Central, the Tigers were looking for another arm, and a bat for that matter. They searched everywhere. It was well-known that the Blue Jays were shopping bona fide ace, Roy Halladay. The 2003 Cy Young Award winner was in the midst of a 17-10 season, in which he had a 2.79 ERA. The Jays could command a hefty asking price, and they did. From the Tigers, they wanted a king's ransom. It was ridiculous. No way could the Tigers make the deal with an asking price so high. The Tigers would have to mortgage the future, giving up on three young arms that appeared destined to lead the staff for the next decade.
Who did they want?
Rick Porcello, Ryan Perry and Casey Crosby. The Tigers said, "No."
Now, in 2012, it seems completely stupid. Of course you'd make that deal in hindsight. In 2009, it was a different story. Much, much different. Rick Porcello was 20 years old and in the running to be the AL Rookie of the Year. Ryan Perry was throwing 100 mph and was in line to be the closer, before Dave Dombrowski signed Jose Valverde. Casey Crosby, who made his debut Friday against the Yankees, was on fire. That season, in West Michigan (low A-ball), Crosby went 10-4 with a 2.41 ERA. He struck out 117 batters in 104.2 innings. He was an ace in the making, or so it looked. Dave Dombrowski said, "Absolutely not."
"The trade talks never went anywhere," says Lynn Henning, who wrote about the offer at the time. The Jays told the Tigers who they wanted, and the Tigers pretty much hung up the phone.
The Jays didn't get the offer they wanted. They didn't end up trading Halladay until after the season, when they made the deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Halladay, who's hurt right now with a strained lat muscle, has flourished in Philly. In his 2+ seasons, Halladay has gone 44-21 with a 2.60 ERA. He won the Cy Young Award in '10, and finished second last season.
In 2009, Halladay was heading into a contract year. He would become a free agent after the 2010 season, meaning the team that got him would have to not only deal the prospects, but come up with a boat-load of money. Mike Ilitch would have. Anyone who thinks Ilitch wouldn't have opened up a big bag of cash for Roy Halladay is nuts. If Dombrowski had made the trade, Halladay would be in the Tigers rotation this year, no doubt.
In July of '09, Porcello, Perry and Crosby were hot. Since then, not so much. Porcello finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in '09. The next year, he went 10-12, as his ERA went up by a nearly a full run. He went 14-9 last year with a 4.75 ERA. This season, he's off to a slow start, 3-4 with an ERA of 5.21. After '09, Perry quickly imploded, and he's now pitching for the Washington Nationals. Crosby suffered an injury and pitched in just three games in 2010. He has recovered, but he's no longer anywhere near the prospect he was in July of that year.
When asked what he likes about Crosby, Jim Leyland says, "I don't know, I haven't seen him much. He's one of the guys that everybody here marked as a top prospect. But that's just what he is.
We were in a bind where we needed a pitcher. He was the recommendation that the people in AAA made."
We wouldn't miss Porcello, Perry and Crosby much today, especially if the return was Roy Halladay. It's easy to sit back today and say, Dombrowski should've made that deal. He should have.
Name some of the minor leaguers or rookies that Dombrowski has given up in other trades that have amounted to much of anything. Jair Jurrjens? He's been pretty good with the Braves. The Tigers dealt him to get Edgar Renteria. Jurrjens has gone 47-34 with a 3.48 ERA with Atlanta. But he's it. How about the six guys the Tigers gave up for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis?
They traded hot prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, along with Mike Rabelo, Burke Badenhop, Dallas Trahern and Eulogio De La Cruz. What a steal. I hated the deal for Gary Sheffield, because I never liked Sheffield.
But the Tigers gave up three guys who didn't amount to anything. Their names: Humberto Sanchez, Anthony Claggett and Kevin Whelan. Yawn.
In '09, Dombrowksi did end up making a deal. It was for Jarrod Washburn. He went 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA, and never pitched in the big leagues after that season. He also dealt for Aubrey Huff, who was a total bust. The Tigers missed the post-season that year by one game. Roy Halladay would've helped. Dombrowski has made a lot of good moves with trades. This is one he'd like to have back. He's paid to get moves like this right, but got it very wrong.