Detroit — Dave Dombrowski didn’t make a lot of bad trades when he was the Tigers’ president and general manager. You can probably count the stinkers on one hand. But one that stands out was the Devon Travis-for-Anthony Gose swap with the Toronto Blue Jays.
That deal officially has been shifted to the Tigers’ “trash” category, now that Gose has left the organization and signed as a minor-league free agent with the Texas Rangers.
Also departing the Tigers is one-time prized prospect Steven Moya, whose power always was tantalizing. But he never got it together, never cut down on the strikeouts, and has signed a contract to play in Japan.
The two, at one point or another projected to be long-term staples at the major-league level for the Tigers, were minor-league free agents and free to sign elsewhere without restrictions.
Gose, 27, a one-time second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, was acquired by the Tigers in November 2014, as they looked to find a new center fielder of the future, following the previous summer’s trade of Austin Jackson in the David Price swap.
The price for Detroit was steep, in a hot-shot second baseman named Travis, but early returns from Gose were impressive. By the end of May 2015, he was batting .314/.355/.436. But the production quickly fell off as the strikeouts started piling up, and by year’s end his OPS was down to .688. His speed was a huge asset, but his stolen-base numbers weren’t impressive — how can they be when you hardly get on base? — and he never developed an ability to bunt for base hits.
Still, he was the Tigers’ Opening Day center fielder in 2016, but by mid-May, he had been demoted to Triple-A Toledo, replaced by the previously injured Cameron Maybin.
Gose never played for the Tigers’ again, after a rocky tenure in the minors. He had a dugout altercation with then-Mud Hens manager Lloyd McClendon in July 2016, earning him a demotion to Double-A Erie. The following spring, fences apparently mended, he approached the Tigers about possibly converting to a pitcher — an intriguing prospect, being he’s left-handed and throws in the upper 90s. There were mixed returns on that front last season, and he eventually was shut down with an elbow injury. It’s not immediately clear if the Rangers plan to have Gose pitch or play the outfield.
Travis, 26, the Tigers’ top prospect when he was dealt according to Baseball America, has had trouble staying healthy in Toronto, but when he’s been on the field, he’s been a major offensive producer, with a .792 OPS and 24 home runs and 109 RBIs in 213 games.
As for Moya, 26, he’s been a Tiger since he was a teenager, signing as an amateur free agent out of Puerto Rico in 2008. His minor-league numbers were often impressive — especially the 35 homers and 105 RBIs he had in 133 games at Double-A Erie in 2014 — but he also struck out in more than a fourth of his plate appearances across all levels of his professional career. Moya, a 6-foot-7 left-handed hitter, got brief looks with the Tigers in 2014, ’15 and ’16, with five home runs in 51 games, but with 50 strikeouts in 133 plate appearances.
Even though his arm was strong, Moya’s defense also was a major liability, which consistently would get him passed over for callups.
Moya will continue his career with the Chunichi Dragons of the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Another minor-league free agent, right-hander Myles Jaye, 25, has signed with the Minnesota Twins, according to reports.
In other Tigers news, the team announced it has received cash considerations to complete last July’s trade that sent reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila to the Chicago Cubs for prospects.