Who The Robertson Trade Bodes Well For

Originally published in the now defunct: Two On One Out | 30 March 2010

If nothing else, this was a sign of trust in Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman.

What the Tigers did on Tuesday—dealing left-hander Nate Robertson to the Florida Marlins for left-hander Jay Voss—was nothing short of a release. Did anyone really think otherwise?

The Tigers are paying $9.6 million of his $10 million salary this year and are virtually giving the payroll-sensitive Marlins the left-handed starter that they desperately need.

But all the financial obligations aside, what does this really say about the Tigers? What does this indicate, given the health issues that have plagued all three pitchers in recent years?

First, let’s take a look at the background of the situation.

By pitched the best out of all three this spring, he actually made himself more attractive to prospecting teams in need of a quality left-hander.

At 32 years old, Robertson is aging quickly and is the most unlikely to return to the Tigers next year. When the phone call came, Dave Dombrowski pounced.

Another decision was made on Tuesday that affected the trade exponentially.

Willis was officially announced as the Tigers’ third starter this season. As always, the announcement was ironic, given that he was named to the rotation after he was lit up by the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday afternoon.

Willis gave up five runs, seven hits, and four walks in 4.3 innings. The performance lifted his ERA from 1.20 to 3.26.

We shake our collective head and chuckle.

The Tigers obviously feel that, given the circumstances they are facing, Willis and Bonderman—who was also named to the starting rotation—give them the best opportunity to win this year.

That makes sense…to an extent.

Although he has battled issues over the past two years, Willis has the highest ceiling of all three pitchers. Don’t forget the former Rookie of the Year and 22-game winner is only 27 years old this year.

Bonderman has dealt with serious arm injuries these past few years, but he is also only 27. His fastball has lost some velocity though, and it is going to be imperative that he learn how to “pitch.”

Given the situation, both pitchers are still technically in their “prime” and will be looking for much less money next winter. That’s the reality of their career paths. They both need to prove that they can pitch at this level again.

This trade indicates that the Tigers are focused more on the reality of age than anything—not money, not spring performances, not longevity with the ball club (Robertson has been a Tiger since 2003).

It looks like the Tigers are going to trust in their youthful players, such as popular minor league pitching prospects Casey Crosby, Jacob Turner, and now Jay Voss.

Robertson, if anything, gave them depth in the starting rotation and an established quality left-handed arm.

There is one final question remaining: What happens when Willis or Bonderman or any of their other starting pitchers goes down with an injury?

Let’s not forget the Jarrod Washburn debacle

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