MLB Insider: Tigers' Greene making up for Fister trade

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Shane Greene

The longer Shane Greene continues to dazzle, the longer his sinker continues to sink, the longer he continues to put up zeroes, the more and more we're going to hear the narrative.

You know the one I'm talking about.

The Doug Fister trade was a good one, after all!

Just a few days ago, I called this theory something that's just not printable.

Now, I'm coming around.

I disliked the December 2013 Fister trade to the Nationals from Day 1. Like, really disliked it. Fister, while a Tiger, was one of the top 10 starting pitchers in the American League -- and the return for one of the 10 starting pitchers in the AL needed to be better.

It needed to include a Drew Storen, or a Denard Span, or an Anthony Rendon. Instead, it included three bit pieces -- a lefty reliever who might yet pan out in Detroit, a utility infielder who didn't even survive 2014 spring training with the Tigers, and Robbie Ray.

Ray, of course, spent one season in the Tigers organization, splitting his time between Triple-A Toledo and spot duty in the big leagues. He was underwhelming, outside of an impressive major-league debut. But at 23, he was young.

One year and three days after trading for Ray, the Tigers traded him, this past December, to the Diamondbacks in a three-team deal that netted Greene from the Yankees.

And two starts into Greene's career as a Tiger, he hasn't allowed an earned run, and he's gone eight innings twice.

He works fast like Fister, and pitches like Porcello.

Those two guys, Fister with the Nationals and Porcello with the Red Sox, make $11.4 million and $12.5 million, respectively, this season

Greene, at 26, makes the major-league minimum, just over $500,000.

I understand why the Tigers traded away Fister, then Porcello. Their salaries were rising, and fast -- Fister stands to make $100 million or more as a free agent this winter, and Porcello just cashed in, signing a four-year, $82.5-million extension.

The Tigers have stacks and stacks of cash tied up in several others, from Miguel Cabrera to Justin Verlander to Victor Martinez, and they hope they'll be able to sign David Price and Yoenis Cespedes beyond this season.

The Tigers had to draw a line somewhere, and they did it with Fister and Porcello. Whatever the Tigers say, both deals were money matters.

The Tigers did well trading Porcello, landing Cespedes and young reliever Alex Wilson, who will help the team this season.

They did terribly trading Fister, even though Ian Krol could yet be big for this team. He's throwing hard, with movement. We'll see.

But I'll give Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski credit for this: He didn't waste any time altering his plans. Many men in Dombrowski's position have giant egos, and Dombrowski's is healthy, as well. And many GMs would hold on to Ray, the "centerpiece" of the Fister return, for no other reason than not admitting the Fister trade was a dud.

Dombrowski, though, pulled the trigger the first chance he had, when the Diamondbacks came calling in November and early December. And make no mistake, they wanted Ray. The deal could not have been done without Ray. They liked infield prospect Domingo Leyba, too, but Ray was the prize -- and they never considered another Tigers pitching prospect. I had long been under the impression Arizona would've settled for another Tigers pitching prospect, since the Tigers have several nice ones, thus continuing to rule the Fister trade an uncharacteristic gaffe by Dombrowski.

But as it turns out, it took Ray to get Greene, and it took Dombrowski's willingness to trade away Ray -- and thus, without saying so, conceding the Fister trade was no good.

So as long as Greene continues to impress, the narrative -- The Doug Fister trade was a good one, after all! -- will continue, as well.

And the narrative will be absolutely correct.

Troy Tulowitzki

Fluke or For Real?

We're a little more than a week into the 2015 season.

Time to play a quick game of "Fluke or For Real?"

* Rockies, 7-2: Fluke. As long as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are healthy, they'll be fun to watch. But the pitching isn't anywhere close to contender levels.

* Royals, 7-1: For real. I picked them fourth in the division. Apparently, I had been drinking. I forgot how good that bullpen is, and the offense is much improved.

* Braves, 6-3: Fluke. New GM John Hart probably is surprised by the start, given all the star power -- Craig Kimbrel, etc. -- he dealt away. They're built for the future.

* Yankees, 3-6: For real. This might be the the worst Yankees team since before their 1990s dynasty. They have big names, but they'd make a better Old-Timers Day roster.

* Nationals, 3-6: Fluke. There's no perfect team in baseball, and the Nationals have issues on defense and injury concerns on offense. But that rotation? Man, oh man.

* Giants, 3-7: For real. Forget it's an odd year -- and the Giants have won the last three titles in even years. They lost Pablo Sandoval, and Matt Cain is hurt again.

Hitting the road hard

There's road trips, and then there's no going home.

The Biloxi Shuckers, the Brewers' Double-A team, is starting the season on a 60-night, 55-game road trip.

The team is awaiting the completion of its new, $36-million ballpark.

"By the end of this thing," first baseman Nick Ramirez told the Associated Press, "we might need a little break from each other."

The Shuckers are taking a bus to Pensacola, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; Jacksonville, Florida; back to Pensacola; Huntsville, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Jackson, Tennessee; back to Huntsville; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Birmingham, Alabama.

If there's any good news for the players, they'll be pocketing an extra $750 in meal money. That's no small thing for guys making less than $2,000 a month in salary.

The home opener is scheduled for June 6.

Around the horn

I hear this mistake made all the time on broadcasts -- April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day in baseball to honor the date of his major-league debut, in 1947. It's not his birthday.

Speaking of Robinson, his No. 42 is now universally retired throughout MLB. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was grandfathered in with the number, and he's now retired.

... Something cool to keep an eye on: MLB Network during Tuesday's Cardinals-Nationals broadcast will debut Statcast, revolutionary technology that will give fans a lot more information than they're used to. According to, this will include data such as speeds of runners and defensive players, release time on throws, and degree of spin on breaking pitches. Boy, we've come a long way since all we got was average, homers and RBIs.

... Tigers top prospect Derek Hill, a center fielder, is on the disabled list for the second time in as many seasons. He played briefly for Single-A West Michigan before a quad strain.

Madison Bumgarner

Three up ...

1. New closer in Detroit? With Joe Nathan on the disabled list, Joakim Soria has four saves, and two 1-2-3 ninth innings. He'll be hard to replace.

2. On his way: Kris Bryant, the top prospect in baseball, has two homers in six Triple-A games and should be playing third for the Cubs soon.

3. NL West: The Rockies probably won't last atop the division, but the Dodgers and Padres already are showing signs this will be a fun race.

... Three down

1. "Aces" out West: The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (5.84 ERA) and the Giants' Madison Bumgarner (5.40) are struggling out of the gate.

2. NL rules: Can we just get the DH in both leagues, already? It's painful to watch pitchers "hit" and be taken out of games early.

3. A rare Cuban bust? The D-backs signed Yosmany Tomas to a six-year, $68.5-million deal, he can't play third and it's unclear if he can hit.

Diamond digits

4 -- Homers hit by rookies in Wednesday's Blue Jays-Rays game, Devon Travis and Dalton Pompey for Toronto, Steven Souza Jr. and Mikie Mahtook for Tampa Bay.

9 -- Teams in major-league history to record four shutouts in the first nine games of the season, and two have done it this year: The A's and the Tigers.

27 -- Years since a Tiger hit a home run on the road to account for the only run of the game, per Elias Sports Bureau. Rajai Davis did it against the Pirates on Wednesday, Alan Trammell did it against the Angels in May 1988.

4/17/93 -- For the second time in a week, the Tigers scored 20 runs in a 20-3 victory over the Mariners. That 1993 team, led by Cecil Fielder, Rob Deer, Mickey Tettleton and Travis Fryamn, scored 899 runs, seventh-most in team history. It also gave up 837 runs.

He said it

"To be honest with you, I don't miss it at all."

-- Derek Jeter, legendary Yankees captain, talking on SiriusXM Radio about his first year of retirement.​