DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers made the first splash in baseball’s offseason as they addressed a pressing priority.
Detroit filled its No. 1 void Monday, acquiring shortstop Edgar Renteria and cash from the Atlanta Braves for two prospects.
Shortly after reaching the World Series last season, the Tigers pulled off the first major move when they traded for Gary Sheffield.
"The Tigers don’t wait around for the winter meetings, when all the owners and agents get involved," All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez told The Associated Press. "We got Sheffield early last year and now we got Renteria right away.
"I think this was a good move because Renteria is a great player, who is a winner with a championship under his belt."
Detroit hopes this year’s deal at the start of the offseason, necessitated by shifting Carlos Guillen to first base, helps the franchise get back to the postseason after falling short this year with 88 wins.
"We were able to address our biggest need, heading into the winter, with one of the best shortstops in the game," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said on a conference call.
Renteria, a five-time All-Star, hit .332 with 12 homers and 57 RBIs in 124 games with Atlanta this season.
In exchange for the 32-year-old Renteria, Detroit gave up right-hander Jair Jurrjens and minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.
"We gave up a couple of good players, but in order to acquire a player like Edgar we knew we had to give up some talent," Dombrowski said.
The Braves were willing to part with Renteria in what was Frank Wren’s first major move since taking over as general manager because they have shortstop Yunel Escobar, who turns 25 later this week.
Wren replaced John Schuerholz, who moved up to team president after serving 17 years as GM, and made the deal with Dombrowski, whom he worked with in Florida and Montreal.
"John is the president of the club, and you deal with him like any club president," Wren said. "You inform him what you are doing, but don’t necessarily give him a blow by blow."
Wren said the deal was only the first of the Braves’ offseason moves.
They are eager to bolster their starting rotation, which was basically John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and pray for rain this past season. Getting rid of Renteria’s salary provides flexibility to make additional deals.
"This trade wouldn’t make much sense in a vacuum if it was the only deal we were going to make," Wren said.
Wren wouldn’t reveal the amount of cash sent to Detroit to cover part of Renteria’s contract, but said it wasn’t as much as the $8 million that Boston agreed to pay when it traded him to the Braves after the 2005 season. The Red Sox agreed to cover the $3 million buyout if Renteria opts out of his $11 million option for 2009.
Escobar showed enormous promise in his rookie season. The Cuban defector played all over the infield and batted .326 with five homers and 28 RBIs.
"We felt like this was the one area where we could acquire talent as well as put ourselves in position to make other moves," Wren said.
Jurrjens started seven games with Detroit last year and was 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA. He was 7-5 with a 3.20 ERA in 19 starts for Double-A Erie.
The native of Curacao allowed one hit in his second major league start, helping Detroit beat the AL-champion Cleveland Indians 2-1 in late August.
"For a young kid, he’s got a good arm," Cleveland’s Casey Blake said after the game.
Wren expects Jurrjens and another prospect, Jo-Jo Reyes, to compete for a spot in the Braves rotation next spring.
"If they’re not in the rotation at the beginning of next year, they’re going to be in there very quickly over the course of the next season, season and a half," Wren said. "They’re both going to be in our rotation for a long, long time."
Hernandez hit .293 with four homers, 50 RBIs and 54 steals in 124 games at Single-A West Michigan last season.
In 1997, with Dombrowski running the front office and current Tigers manager Jim Leyland in the dugout for the Florida Marlins, Renteria ended a thrilling World Series Game 7. His hit with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning gave Florida its first World Series championship with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians.
"I’m real happy to be a Detroit Tiger player," Renteria said. "I know Dave and Jim Leyland and I think I’m going to be comfortable in Detroit."
Leyland said the Tigers are "thrilled to death" to add Renteria.
"He was a part of the biggest night of my life in 1997," Leyland said. "To be reunited with Edgar is a thrill."