This is unfamiliar terrain for the Detroit Tigers.

The club has enjoyed a smooth ride for nearly a decade. From 2006-14, the Tigers averaged nearly 88 wins per season, captured four Central Division championships and made two World Series appearances.

It’s been a different narrative in 2015.

After jumping out to a scorching 12-3 record to start the season, the seemingly effortless ride has been derailed by pothole after pothole. Calling the Tigers’ season a struggle is an understatement. It’s been a disastrous journey for a team with World Series expectations.

Prior to the trade deadline, the road ahead was foggy. The club was bogged down by expensive contracts, aging veterans, a poor farm system and more questions than answers. After necessary maneuvering, the organization seems poised to travel less bumpy roads in 2016 and beyond.

General manager Dave Dombrowski was at a crossroads. The long-time executive was in a difficult position. On one hand, his club sat just 3.5 games behind the second wild-card spot and hardly out of the playoff race. On the other hand, the Tigers hadn’t put together a three-game win streak since early June and continued to struggle against the American League’s bottom feeders.

Dombrowski continued to wait.

Just four days before the deadline, his club sat four games under .500, trailed the Kansas City Royals by double digits in the standings and just got blown out by the Tampa Bay Rays in a game started by David Price.

A decision was needed. Buy or sell?

With owner Mike Ilitch desperate to bring a World Series title to Detroit and Dombrowski operating on an expiring contract, it would’ve been easy to try to salvage a fading season by further depleting an already-vacant farm system and attempt to win as many games as possible.

Multiple news outlets reported the organization was leaning toward making a push for the 2015 postseason.

Three days before the deadline, Jayson Stark of ESPN tweeted out that other teams were told the Tigers weren’t selling.

Still, Dombrowski realized his club was riding on a flat tire with no spare in the trunk. Acknowledging the Tigers’ season was over before the calendar flipped to August was a tough sell. Waving the white flag wasn’t easy for an organization with a heavy payroll.

Yet it became evident things weren’t turning around. The team is plagued by inconsistent offense and mediocre pitching. The Tigers fearsome lineup has a knack for hitting into double plays and stranding baserunners. According to, the bullpen and starting rotation rank among the worst in baseball with a 4.30 ERA and 4.45 ERA, respectively.

Unlike some teams currently in the wild-card chase, simply qualifying for the playoffs isn’t the Tigers’ goal. The organization’s sole focus is winning a World Series championship.

Dombrowski told Chris McCosky of The Detroit News that his decision to sell stemmed from his belief the Tigers weren’t equipped to challenge for a World Series title this year.

We’ve won the division four years in a row but, however you would like to say it, unless you are in a position to win a world championship—that’s where we are at this time. In my heart, I didn’t think we were there with the club.

The Tigers’ trade chest was stacked with tremendous pieces to sell: David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria. The three represented arguably the best starter, hitter and reliever available on the trade market.

With Price, there was no indication a contract extension was imminent and most analysts expected him to join a different organization in the winter. With playoff hopes dim, the Tigers couldn’t afford letting a premier pitcher walk away for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

The fear of losing Price to free agency was confirmed by Dombrowski when he told Chris Iott of MLive Media Group that negotiations were far apart.

We like David. We said we wouldn’t discuss it publicly as far as dollars. But we did approach him at that point. It just was not really where we wanted to go from a financial perspective.

Less than 24 hours after informing other teams that Price was on the market, Dombrowski agreed to a deal that sent the left-hander to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt.

The trio represents a major haul for Dombrowski, especially Norris, who ranked as the Blue Jays’ top prospect by Baseball America.

Next, the front office flipped Soria to the Pittsburgh Pirates for shortstop JaCoby Jones. Then, minutes before the deadline, Dombrowski sent Cespedes to the New York Mets in exchange for Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.

All six prospects immediately filled the Tigers’ top 15 list by MLB Pipeline.

The Tigers received favorable reviews from most media outlets with Jim Bowden of ESPN leading the praise for Dombrowski.

Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer are can’t-miss rotation starters, while Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt and Luis Cessa all have good arms. Taking advantage of the Pirates’ minor league depth at shortstop to grab JaCoby Jones was also a shrewd move.

With $110 million invested in just five players for 2016, adding young, inexpensive talent was necessary. Norris, Fulmer and Boyd are expected to compete for rotation spots next season, while Labourt and Cessa project as bullpen arms.

Dombrowski told Iott the trades put the organization in a better position moving forward.

We have traded so many guys in the past. Ideally, you don’t want to be in this position, but based on where we were, we think this gives us an influx of guys who can help us going into next year. It puts us in a good spot going into next year.

The departure of its soon-to-be free agents gives the Tigers an estimated $46 million in payroll flexibility heading into the offseason.

Adding a veteran starter and bullpen arms are the top items on Dombrowski’s to-do list. He confirmed to Iott the organization is still committed to winning in 2016.

Our starting pitching will need to be addressed in the wintertime. But I assure you that our goal going into next year will be to try to win a world championship.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted the club is expected to pursue Cespedes on the free-agent market and the interest is mutual.

A few potential impact free-agent signingsmixed with the recent youth infusion to go along with an already-promising coreindicates the future is bright in Detroit.

For the Tigers, the road ahead is clearer today than it was last week. Dombrowski is working to ensure the Tigers experience a smoother ride in 2016.

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