Starting in the latter half of the 2010s, the Tigers made a flurry of trades to kickstart their rebuild. The succession of deals was tough to follow. We mourned the star being traded without realizing who we’d gotten back. I noticed this while writing my “bright spots” article two days ago. Some of the trades were massive successes. Sometimes, trades set up bigger and better deals later on. And some trades did not pan out whatsoever. Let’s start with none other than the six-month rental of Yoenis Cespedes in 2015:
The New King in the Jungle
In 2014, Yoenis Cespedes, Gabe Speier, and Alex Wilson were traded to Detroit. The team shipped young pitcher Rick Porcello to Boston. Cespedes quickly became one of Detroit’s most exciting players. The two-time Home Run Derby champion hit long balls with ease and his cannon arm was a threat to any baserunner. His performance earned him a 2015 All Star Final Vote Roster selection.
Going, Going, Gone
Detroit had to make a decision. Were they rebuilding or contending? Tigers brass decided it was best to trade Cespedes. At the time, the Tiger was batting .293 with 18 HRs and 61 RBI. The team struck a deal with the New York Mets. Detroit acquired Mets prospects Michael Fulmer and prospect Luis Cessa in the trade.
Big Apple Cespedes
Cespedes quickly caught fire in the Big Apple. The Cuban native hit .287 with 17 home runs and 44 runs for the Mets in the regular season. He was instrumental in New York’s shocking World Series run. He performed spectacularly against the Dodgers in the NLDS and the Cubs in the NLCS.
Unfortunately, he went cold in the World Series. On the first pitch of Game 1 against the Royals, Cespedes made a costly error that resulted in an inside-the-park home run. He hit a meager .150 in the Fall Classic and the Mets lost the series 4-1. After, the 2015 Gold Glove winner would re-sign with the team. He stayed with them until 2020. Cespedes is now a free agent.
What about the Prospects?
Fulmer would have a dominant rookie campaign for Detroit in 2016. The right-hander posted a 3.06 ERA with 132 Ks with an 11-7 record. He was named the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year and finished 10th in Cy Young voting. He was named to the All-Star team in 2017. After two strong years, Fulmer would struggle with injuries. He had Tommy John surgery in 2019. Fulmer came back in 2020 with a disappointing 8.78 ERA in just 27 innings. He is still with the team. But, at 27, he is no longer looked at as the perennial ace many thought he would become.
Cessa never played a game for the Tigers. Instead, he was traded with Chad Green to the New York Yankees for Justin Wilson in December 2015. Cessa made his MLB debut against Detroit in 2016. He is still with the club and has posted a career 4.40 ERA with 207 Ks. Chad Green is also still with the Bronx Bombers. He has a 3.19 ERA with 379 Ks in the big leagues.
But Wait, There’s More
The Tigers might have lost the Justin Wilson trade on the surface. However, the reliever would prove useful just a season later. Wilson and Alex Avila were traded to the Cubs in a package for top prospect Jeimer Candelario and another young piece named Isaac Paredes.
Candelario had a great first year with the team. Just like Fulmer, his production began to come down in the seasons after that. He had a resurgent 2020 with the Tigers, batting .297 with 11 2Bs and 7 HRs. Isaac Paredes is now a top prospect for the Tigers expected to have a solid rookie outing for the club in 2021.
Rick Porcello was the piece that started this entire Cespedes saga back in 2015. What ended happening to his career? Porcello would stay in Boston until 2019. During that time span, he was the 2016 MLB wins leader, won the 2016 AL Comeback Player of the Year, the 2016 AL Cy Young, and the 2018 World Series. He played with the Mets in 2020. Currently a free agent, Porcello is rumored to be interested in a return to the Motor City.