Baseball / Sports

Tigers still reaping rewards from '09 trade that netted Scherzer, Jackson

All three teams got something positive out of the deal. But only the Tigers are still reaping the benefits of a 2009 trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees.

The Diamondbacks, who are hosting the Tigers for three games this week, have been wondering what things would have been like had they not traded away Max Scherzer, among other prospects they had over the years.

Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick told the Arizona Republic in May when Tony La Russa was hired as chief baseball officer: "You can name a lot of really top major leaguers that were developed by the Diamondbacks. We have to get our act together in making sure which ones to keep. That's one of the historically bad parts of our record."

The Tigers acquired Scherzer in a blockbuster trade Dec. 8, 2009. The Diamondbacks received right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy from the Yankees and right-handed pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Tigers.

The Yankees received centerfielder Curtis Granderson from the Tigers. The Tigers received four players in return. They got Scherzer and left-handed pitcher Daniel Schlereth from the D'backs and centerfielder Austin Jackson and left-handed pitcher Phil Coke from the Yankees.

"Even though we liked Curtis and Edwin, it was a situation where when we needed more good young talent on the verge of just breaking in," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said of the trade.

Don Kelly played with Granderson and Edwin Jackson on the Tigers in 2009 and remembers what giving up those players meant.

"When you're making a trade like that, giving up a centerfielder in his prime and a good, top-of-the-rotation guy, I'd say it worked out pretty well, not only for us but for the other teams involved as well," Kelly said.

Granderson hit 30 home runs for the Tigers in 2009, at the time a single-season career high. He would go on to hit 41 home runs in 2011 and 43 home runs in 2012 for the Yankees. He's now in his first season with the Mets and was batting .238 with 14 home runs entering Monday.

Edwin Jackson was 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA in 214 innings for the Tigers in 2009. He has pitched for five teams since being traded to Arizona and has never matched 13 wins in a season since the trade. He's 5-10 with a 5.61 ERA in his second season with the Cubs. Jackson is 45-60 since 2009, but he has averaged more than 193 innings per season in that span.

The Diamondbacks were happy with Kennedy in 2011, when he had the best season of his career. He was 21-4 with 198 strikeouts in 222 innings that season. But Kennedy has never duplicated that success and was traded to the Padres in July 2013. Kennedy is 7-9 with a 3.62 ERA with 137 strikeouts in 129 1/3 innings for the Padres this season.

Scherzer, Coke and Jackson have each played important roles in the Tigers' success. Schlereth appeared in 73 games for the Tigers in 2010-12. Although he hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012, the Tigers purchased his contract from the Pittsburgh Pirates in June, and he is currently pitching for Triple-A Toledo.

Dombrowski said Scherzer was viewed as a potential All-Star at the time by some in the organization. "I wouldn't say you'd ever predict you're getting a Cy Young (winner), but we felt we were getting a solid major league pitcher," Dombrowski said.

Dombrowski said he was talking to several clubs about possibly moving Granderson, but that they needed a young centerfielder in return and some young starting pitching. The D'backs were interested in Kennedy but couldn't work a deal on their own.

"When you talk about it, when you're a general manager for a while with a club, the cycle is such that players are free agents in six years, so Max, we're looking at him being a free agent and Austin is one year away from free agency at the end of this year," Dombrowski said. "That's how long, in some ways, that deal was made. Those guys are not with Arizona and the Yankees anymore and had successful careers, but our guys are getting close to that point."

When asked if Scherzer ever wondered what would have happened if he had remained with Arizona, he said: "It's hard to think like that. Every since I've gotten here to Detroit, I've absolutely loved it here. When you've got guys with the talent in this clubhouse, it's so much fun."

Dombrowski said the deal worked out for everyone.

"We got young guys that continued to grow, and in some ways Max turns out to be the gem, because you wouldn't make that projection that he's going to win the Cy Young," he said. "There were some growing pains, you have to remember. We optioned Max out at one time, even though it was for a short time period. But we were able to achieve what we wanted.

"It helped Arizona at the time when they needed it. The Yankees -- Granderson was a good player for them. Kennedy pitched well. It was a deal that worked for every club. I think it was one of those rare win-wins for everybody."

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