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Paul: In just 48 hours, Tigers built a better future

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Dave Dombrowski

Detroit -- Forty-eight hours ago, the Tigers had one of the worst farm systems in all of the land.

Today, they don't.

And that's significant.

The Tigers on Friday, just before the 4 p.m. trade deadline, sold off their third marquee player, Yoenis Cespedes, to the Mets for two right-handed pitchers, one of whom projects as a top-of-the-order starter, and soon.

They also received a possible ace-in-waiting Wednesday, in trading David Price to the Blue Jays.

In all, the Tigers received six prospects, five of them pitchers, for Price, Cespedes and Joakim Soria, who was traded to the Pirates.

And you all thought Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski was only a savvy buyer, and not a seller.

Fans are conflicted over all of this. They still see the Tigers within striking distance of the second wild card, but also see the Tigers selling off their most important players. Truth is, this was unavoidable, because the Tigers needed a serious infusion of young, controllable talent, plus they didn't have anything close to the young talent it would've taken to be buyers, anyway.

The latest addition was right-hander Michael Fulmer, the 44th overall pick in 2011 who has battled some knee injuries, but is healthy again -- and has had a heck of a year at Double-A Binghamton, with a 1.88 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 86 innings over 15 starts.

One executive told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal getting Fulmer was an "unbelievable get for a rental."

Fulmer should spend some time at Triple-A Toledo this summer, and should be getting a look with the Tigers in September -- ahead of competing for a rotation spot at the start of 2016.

Michael Fulmer

Along a similar path is left-hander Daniel Norris, drafted just 30 spots after Fulmer in 2011. He came over from the Blue Jays with an arsenal that includes four pitches that grade out at above major-league average, though control is an issue. That will be the Tigers' priority -- fixing the command -- starting Sunday, when he debuts with the Detroit rotation in Baltimore.

Norris, too, is in line to join the rotation in 2016.

Another guy to watch is Matt Boyd, another lefty picked up from the Blue Jays who has been a starter most of his career, but could be moved to the bullpen for the Tigers' purposes, given his live arm could bring some shutdown innings late in ballgames.

Fulmer, Norris and Boyd -- 22, 22 and 24, respectively, making peanuts and expected to contribute to the Tigers right away, perhaps as early as next April, two in the rotation and one in the bullpen.

And now you see what Dombrowski meant when he said "reboot," and when I said "accelerated rebuild." This was never going to be a tear-down of the Tigers, not when they have such big pieces in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Jose Iglesias, J.D. Martinez, James McCann, Anthony Gose and Nick Castellanos in the fold, and hopes that Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Bruce Rondon can turn things around in time for next season.

Had the Tigers stood pat at the deadline and dealt none of their guys, odds were they would've missed the playoffs and lost at least five of their free agents -- with Cespedes the only one likely to return, and that remains the case.

That would've put the front office -- whether it's Dombrowski running the show, Al Avila or somebody else -- in the awful position of trying to find three-fifths of a rotation and half a bullpen over the offseason, a task that would've been fiscally impossible, and not do-able with trades, either, given the state of the Tigers' system.

Now, they've got at least three young, cheap pieces who might be in the mix on Opening Day, and a much less daunting task heading into the offseason.

Now, signing one starter might be enough, with Johnny Cueto and Doug Fister being the early favorites. Trades now are a possibility again, too, as the Tigers have young chips to spin off.

And the Tigers, all of a sudden, look like contenders again 2016.

It's simply amazing how things can change in just 48 hours.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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