Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson

I really want to give Dave Dombrowski the benefit of the doubt on this one. I really do. But I am not seeing it.

Matt Joyce is a lefthanded power bat, something the Tigers have needed for a while, who could take over at either of the corner OF spots once Sheffield was gone and either Maggs or Guillen could move to DH. I guess the Tigers think Jeff Larish can play outfield, too.

While the Tigers needed an influx of major-league ready arms, closer was the most pressing need. Edwin Jackson has a great arm, but he’s had plenty of problems finding the plate. Granted, he’s young and could come around.

Someone want to talk me down on this one? I’m all ears.

Historically, Christmas Comes 3 Weeks Early for the Tigers

PORTLAND, Ore. — As we all warm ourselves by that roaring hot stove, savoring yesterday’s blockbuster and thinking about the holidays, let’s not forget the boatload of trades the Detroit Tigers have made on December 4ths of the past. According to the Tigers 2007 media guide, the team has completed seven trades on Dec. 4, beginning in 1952.Despite some recognizable names, nothing Earth-shattering:Dec. 4, 1952 — The Tigers acquired Bob Nieman, and infielder Owen Friend and outfielder/infielder J.W. Porter from the St. Louis Browns for right-handed pitchers Virgil Trucks and Hal White, and outfielder Johnny Groth.Dec. 4, 1963 — The Tigers acquired outfielder Don Demeter and right-handed pitcher Jack Hamilton from the Phillies for right-hander Jim Bunning and catcher Gus Triandos.Dec. 4, 1969 — The Tigers acquired pitcher Joe Niekro from the Padres right-hander Pat Dobson and infielder on Dave Campbell.Dec. 4, 1974 — The Tigers acquired right-hander Tom Walker and catcher Terry Humphrey from the Expos for left-hander Woodie Fryman.Dec. 4, 1978 — The Tigers acquired outfielder Jerry Morales and right-hander Aurelio Lopez from the Cardinals for lefties Bob Sykes and Jack Murphy.Dec. 4, 1998 — The Tigers right-hander Willie Blair from the Mets for third baseman Joe Randa.Bonus Deal! Here’s a trade the Tigers completed 20 years ago today, Dec. 5, 1987: The Tigers acquired outfielder Gary Pettis from the Angels for Dan Petry.

Prior Considerations

As the Cubs mull over the notion of dealing Mark Prior, here’s a question: Should the Detroit Tigers make a play for the right-hander?Why not, I say.

[S]ince he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 2003, Prior has had repeated physical problems, and has pitched in just 57 games over the last four seasons — and none in 2007.

But if you slide him into a low-pressure bullpen role in Detroit, perhaps you give him the opportunity to get well and regain his strength and sharpness. Assuming all that happens, all of a sudden you have a gem to slide into the rotation when Kenny Rogers departs for good. (Assuming, again, that he hasn’t already.)I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of a rotation featuring Verlander, Bonderman, Miller, Robertson and Prior.The idea of trading Prior isn’t the gaining headlines in Chicago. Instead, the Cubs want to sign him, or so it appears.

[The Cubs] hope to sign Prior to a two-year deal with incentives rather than let him play out the string with the Cubs and sign elsewhere in 2009. They may decide to trade or non-tender the right-hander if he doesn’t agree to a deal in the next month.

If the Cubs non-tender him I’d think the Tigers make a call.One has to wonder, though, if they go the trade route, what would it take to get Prior?Footnotes

  • If the Twins trade Joe Nathan to the Brewers or the Giants, I’ll be glad he’s out of the Tigers’ division. Oh, how I wish he were the Tigers closer. The guy throws bullets.
  • Good to hear that Gary Sheffield‘s rehab is going well. I’d forgotten all about it.
  • I’ve got no problem with LaTroy Hawkins on a one-year deal. Two? You’re pushing it.

Kemp for Lemon Revisited

Twenty six years ago today the Detroit Tigers traded left fielder Steve Kemp to the White Sox for Chet Lemon. It was the quintessential Jim Campbell Winter Meetings trade.

Kemp made too much money and former GM Campbell didn’t like players who held out (Rusty Staub) or won in arbitration (Kemp, again). Campbell also liked to trade players who, like Kemp and Ron LeFlore in 1979, were entering their walk year.

On Nov. 27, 1981, the Tigers and White Sox swapped outfielders both who were former top selections in the amateur draft (Lemon by Oakland in 1972, Kemp number-one overall by Detroit in 1976), were roughly the same age and who had put together similar careers to that point.

While many Tigers fans might remember Lemon as an All-Star centerfielder who hit sixth or seventh in Sparky‘s lineup, in his first season in Detroit he batted leadoff 49 times and played 93 games right field. (By early July, Lou Whitaker took over the leadoff spot for good.) It wasn’t until 1983 that he switched positions with Kirk Gibson and became the regular centerfielder…until Gary Pettis arrived in 1988. Lemon finished his first season as a Tiger with a .266 average, 19 HR and just 52 RBI in 125 games.

Lemon hit 142 homers for the Tigers in his nine seasons in Detroit and proved to be a rather durable player averaging 134 games played over that span. (Note: There’s no record of the number of rallies Lemon killed in Detroit but would it be far-fetched to think the total to be in the triple digits?)

Steve Kemp was no slouch during his five years patrolling left field at Tiger Stadium. He produced a .284 average, 89 home runs (lowered a bit with his nine homers in the strike-shortened 1981 season), and averaged 84 RBI and 23 doubles. He also displayed a keen eye at the plate averaging 75 walks — including 97 in 1978.

In his only season in Chicago, Kemp had a career year batting .286 with 19 HR and 98 RBI in 160 games. As I noted, Lemon also hit 19 home runs in 1982 but drove in nearly half the number of runs.

After the ’82 season Kemp cashed in on a free-agent contract with the New York Yankees but he, like so many other mid-’80s free agents, flopped in the Bronx. In 1983, Kemp hit .241 with just 12 home runs in 109 games. After the ’84 season he was traded with Tim Foli and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dale Berra, Alfonso Pulido and Jay Buhner.

An eye injury, suffered when Kemp was hit by a batted ball in batting practice, shortened his career in the mid-1980s. He last played in the majors in 1988 when he played in 16 games for the Texas Rangers, hitting just .222 in 36 at bats. His career batting average in 11 seasons was .278 — five points higher than Lemon’s.

When Jim Campbell pulled the trigger on the Kemp-for-Lemon deal he probably had no idea that Kemp would flame out and that Chet the Jet would play more than 1,100 games in the outfield for Detroit.

Still, he had to like the odds that the trade would work out better than LeFlore for Dan Schatzeder.

As frustrating a player as Chester Earl Lemon could be, he was nothing if not reliable during some fun summers for Tigers fans.