The decision put All-Star pitcher David Price, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, closer Joakim Soria, outfielder Rajai Davis and catcher Alex Avila all onto the market with about 48 hours to go. On Thursday, the Tigers sent Price to the Blue Jays for pitching prospects Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt and Daniel Norris, who was Toronto's No. 1 prospect.
This marks the first time Detroit has traded away veteran players for younger talent since 2005, the year before its run to the World Series. The Tigers traded away veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez around the Deadline in 2008 on their way to a last-place finish, but they got a veteran reliever in return in Kyle Farnsworth.
"We'll only make a trade if we think it makes sense for us," Dombrowski said, "but it gives us a chance to maybe restock our club [after] some of the prospects that we traded away. [We can] get some people that will help us reboot and take it from there."
The decision all but ensures the Tigers' four-year reign atop the American League Central is over, but Dombrowski emphasized that their moves will be aimed toward contending for next season. He hesitated to call it a rebuilding process, suggesting it's a shorter-term goal than that.
"I think our foundation is pretty solid going forward," Dombrowski said. "Even when you take away our free-agent players, we have five everyday players that are 27 and younger, plus [Miguel] Cabrera and [Ian] Kinsler and Victor Martinez.
" ... We've got [James] McCann going forward. We've got [Nick] Castellanos, [Jose] Iglesias, [Anthony] Gose, [J.D.] Martinez, and they're 27 or younger at this point. That's why when people say the club is real old, I'm really not sure where they see that."
Whether the Tigers dramatically reshape their long-term situation remains to be seen. The Royals and Twins both have young cores. But after lengthy consideration, including meetings here, they decided their chances at contending this season weren't strong enough.
The Tigers' win Wednesday halted a three-game losing streak, but it did little to change the perception of their fall out of the thick of the playoff race. Detroit improved to 49-52, 12 1/2 games behind the Royals in the AL Central. The Tigers are 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the second AL Wild Card spot, but four other AL teams are between them -- Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Toronto and the White Sox.
"We played well today," Dombrowski said, "but we have played well before, for a game or two. We just haven't been able to continually go forward. It's not easy for us to do, because we have really been trying to win on a yearly basis. Again, stranger things have happened, but really that's the focus at this point."
Meanwhile, top hitter Miguel Cabrera remains out with a strained left calf. He's expected to return in mid-August, though Dombrowski downplayed that factor in the decision.
"I can't say that any one injury or any one thing in particular plays into it," he said. "It's just really the number of games you win. I'll take the responsibility that we just haven't played well enough, but I think you also have to make a prudent decision what you think is the best thing to do at the time."