Why Verlander and Stafford trades are like Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees for Detroit sports

Detroit Free Press

Detroit sports feels like an old, familiar game.

It’s like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” the idea that every person in Hollywood can be linked to Bacon in just six steps.

Here in Detroit, we have something a little different. Every piece of news about the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions, every issue lingering in the background, seems to go back to either the Justin Verlander trade with the Houston Astros or the Matthew Stafford trade with the L.A. Rams.

Those trades have created ripples that continue to hit the Motor City seemingly every day, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes just a painful reminder.

Waiting on Jameson

Every week, Lions coach Dan Campbell is asked about the health of wide receiver Jameson Williams, and every week he says the same thing — he’s progressing. But don’t forget, the only reason the Lions even have Williams … drum roll, please … is because of the Stafford trade.

The Lions packaged the Rams’ No. 32 pick, their own pick at No. 34, moved up to No. 12 and drafted Williams — a talented receiver coming off a torn ACL.

“He’s progressing,” Campbell said Wednesday. “There’s no setbacks.”

Right now, it’s looking like he won’t play until after Thanksgiving.

Hopefully.

Which is frustrating but not really surprising. The Lions made this pick with the long-term in mind.

The Rams got what they wanted out of the Stafford trade: a Super Bowl ring.

The Lions? It’s still unclear how they fared.

If there is one thing we have learned from the Verlander trade, it’s foolish to make early judgements. If Williams reaches his potential and turns into a Pro Bowl player, and if the Lions can do something magical with the Rams’ 2023 pick — like find a quarterback — both teams will walk away happy.

But we won’t know that for years.

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Because we have seen the other side of the equation, which brings us to …

Who did Tigers get in JV trade again?

The Baltimore Orioles recently claimed Daz Cameron off waivers, and this was significant … drum roll, please … because of the Verlander trade.

Actually, it’s a direct link. Cameron was one of three players acquired in the trade. He was a highly rated prospect and had a chance to prove himself with the Tigers, but he never hit in Detroit.

If he goes to Baltimore and pulls an Isaac Paredes, suddenly finding his stroke and jacking 20 homers, you have every right to lose your mind.

Wait a second.

Isn’t that exactly what’s going to happen?

Meanwhile, that Rams pick is lookin’ sweet

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had ankle surgery on Wednesday and will miss at least four games on injured reserve. This was huge news in Detroit and will have a long-term impact on the Lions … because of the Stafford trade.

The Lions hold the Rams’ first-round pick in 2023, which is quickly turning from silver into gold. It becomes more valuable every day because the Rams’ offense has been a hot mess, they are 3-6 and figure to get worse because of Kupp’s injury.

Stafford and Kupp have the most completions, touchdowns and yards of any QB-receiver duo in the NFL over the last two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. No player has a higher percentage of receiving touchdowns (67%) and team catches (35.7%) than Kupp.

So while nobody wants to see anybody get injured — seriously, we don’t — Kupp’s ankle actually helps the Lions tremendously.

And it makes the Stafford trade even better for the Lions.

Tigers still need a catcher

The Tigers will hit the hot stove season in need of a catcher … yet another ripple from the Verlander trade.

After the Tigers got Jake Rogers in the Verlander trade, the rocket-armed catcher was slotted to become the starter in the future. Well, the future is here and it’s still uncertain because Rogers is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

THE ROAD AHEAD:Biggest priority for Detroit Tigers this offseason? ‘Reshaping our position playing group’

“The catching position across the game is really difficult to evaluate,” Tigers GM Scott Harris told reporters at the owner’s meetings. “It seems like catching additions are scarce, especially in free agency year over year. Catching is an area that we can improve upon.”

Does that mean the Tigers will go after Willson Contreras?

I doubt they would make an expensive, long-term investment in the position right now.

It would make sense to mix-and-match at catcher with Eric Haase, a cheaper bridge-type starter on a short-term deal and hope Rogers can recover.

Because they also have Dillon Dingler and Josh Crouch, who both ended last season in Double-A Erie, waiting in the wings.

MORE FROM SEIDEL:Why Tigers prospect Josh Crouch is ‘gonna make some waves’ as a catcher

The ripples from Stafford trade

Aidan Hutchinson played a critical role in the Lions win Sunday at Chicago. He got a sack, drew a holding penalty, was a menace along the goal line … and it goes back to the Stafford trade.

The only reason the Lions had the No. 2 pick in the spring is because they lost so many games in 2021.

I’m convinced they would have won some of those games with Stafford. So by trading Stafford, it turned into a subtle form of tanking, and the Lions fell into position to PICK Hutchinson.

Every week he gets a little bit better,” Campbell said. “And he makes a few more plays. He learns pretty quickly. Look, there’s still things that happened to him, but he doesn’t make those same mistakes twice, which is what you’re looking for. ”

Hutchinson has been effective against the run and will play a critical role on Sunday against the New York Giants because they have such a strong running attack.

“He’s growing,” Campbell said. “He’s getting better. I mean he’s still — he’s got a long ways to go, but every week, he gets a little better.”

Tigers got Greene indirectly from trade

Riley Greene was recently named the Tiger of the Year by the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, the first rookie to win the award since Mark Fidrych. How the Tigers got him goes back to … drum roll … the Verlander trade.

Again, it’s not a direct link.

It goes back to my take-away-stars tanking theory. The Tigers traded Verlander in September 2017. They were awful in 2018, getting the fifth pick overall. Which they used to get Greene.

If they would have kept Verlander, and he won a few more games, maybe, they don’t even get a chance to take Greene.

Same goes for Spencer Torkelson No. 1 overall in 2020.

Verlander just keeps rollin’

On Wednesday night, Verlander won the Cy Young Award … and it’s a direct result of — ugh.

Admit it, you didn’t see this coming.

When the Tigers traded Verlander, he was 34 and had a 1.279 WHIP — the worst season of his career. He had already pitched in 13 seasons, putting more than 2,500 innings on his arm and was walking more people than at any point in his career.

But since then?

Verlander has won two World Series titles, two Cy Young Awards, tossed his third no hitter and is a lock for the Hall of Fame.

The Tigers have?

Ugh.

Same as the Lions.

Sometimes, this Kevin Bacon game hurts your head.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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