Friday, July 21, 2006

Dombrowski Could Use Some "Gambler" Magic Rub Off On Him

Seems Dave Dombrowski could use the "other" Kenny Rogers right about now. The original Gambler. The "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em" guy.

This will be perhaps the most interesting week DD has ever experienced as Tigers GM.

Usually, he's spending late July trying to fend off the vultures, who'd pick at his carcass of a baseball team, trying to get something for nothing, or at least very little. He'd be in "dump salary" mode, or "trade him because he's gonna flee as a free agent" mode.

Not this year.

Today, Dombrowski sits near the top of the baseball world -- if you aspire to being an executive in the sport. He has a first-place ballclub, by 5 1/2 lengths. He has depth in the area that most teams drool over: pitching. He's on a hot streak of sorts, with trades that have panned out and free agent signings that look like a coupon purchase combined with a sale.

His phone will be ringing, that's for sure. Already has, doubtless.

Another strong middle-of-the-order bat would be nice, though I don't believe it's mandatory. Dombrowski probably agrees with me -- or more accurately, I agree with Dombrowski -- so he's unlikely to make a trade for the sake of making a trade, as the July 31st deadline for non-waiver trades fast approaches.

Something tells me, however, that dealing for the Washington Nationals' Alfonso Soriano might fall into that "for the sake of" category.

It's believed that the Nats' asking price, with still ten days left before deadline, borders on the outrageous. The Free Press reported that the Nationals mentioned top pitching prospect Humberto Sanchez, top outfielder prospect Cameron Maybin, and another top prospect for Soriano. Not mentioned them, as in individually, but together -- a three-for-one heist.

The Tigers, thankfully, told the Nationals to cork themselves.

Soriano is a supreme offensive talent -- no question there. He hits with power, hits for average, and -- bonus -- he actually draws walks. You know what those are, right? The Tigers hitters, sometimes, seem to need to be reintroduced to them from time-to-time.

But is he truly needed here?

First, Soriano bats righthanded, and in case you didn't know, the Tigers have more of those than Carter's has pills. Second, he's going to be a free agent at the end of the season. Can you say "rent-a-player"? Third -- and here's the biggie -- what happens to Marcus Thames and Craig Monroe?

Soriano, Thames, and Monroe are left fielders, for all intents and purposes. One of them can DH -- especially if Dmitri Young isn't the answer, the question of which is precipitating all this trade talk to begin with -- but not both, not last I checked with the major league baseball rule book. So one sits. And it won't be Soriano.

Marcus Thames sitting his fanny on the bench for any considerable amount of time appears to be folly. His is the most powerful -- in terms of sheer strength -- bat on the ballclub, hands down. It's the most powerful since Cecil Fielder, if you want to know the truth. But would you constantly sit Monroe, as far as that goes? The kid has had some wonderful moments as well. But one of them -- Thames or Monroe -- would have to be on the bench during a vast majority of the upcoming stretch run.

Now, Soriano may come here, crank homers and draw walks and play defense and be the second coming of Willie Mays, and the previous two paragraphs, I would print and eat with a side of crow.

But what's the likelihood of that? Of a guy switching leagues and immediately becoming lights out? Has it happened? Of course. How often? Not very. Would you be giving up too much for such a gamble?

Oh, Kenny -- where are you now? Not you, Kenny. I meant Kenny.

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