If they've kept so many and they're also great at developing them then why hasn't there been an influx of young players on the MLB team?
It has gone from they traded away talented prospects for proven MLB players, to the farm was never that great, to they're excellent at talent development and they've kept plenty of young players. It can't be all three. I think Detroit did trade away talented prospects; Rick Porcello, Jair Jurrjens, Drew Smyly, and Andrew Miller are just some of those players. What I'm skeptical of is the notion that Detroit is superior to other teams in drafting and developing. If that were the case why would they not use that to their advantage and build a team full of young talent on cheap contracts? Why constantly overpay for FAs if you're that capable? It makes no sense to me that you state they have such an advantage in that area, but then assert they can't miss any of the prospects they've traded.
I agree, if you don't have a spot for a prospect you trade that prospect. However, the question becomes did they not have a spot for a prospect because a FA signing was in place already, or did they sign a FA because there wasn't a prospect to take that spot?
They used Andrew Miller to acquire Miguel Cabrera. They make that trade every day and twice on Sundays, similarly with Smyly for Price.
The team develops players for the purpose of trading or playing them. You can believe it or not, but they have had a tremendous track record with guys from other organizations that they acquired through trade. They have been mislabeled as signing so many guys via free agency, but be real about where their players have come from...
Current "big contract"/starting guys:
Trade - Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Anibal Sanchez, Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Iglesias, Shane Greene, Anthony Gose, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer, JaCoby Jones
Drafted/Developed - Justin Verlander, Nick Castellanos, James McCann, Steven Moya
FA Signing (year) - Justin Upton (2015-2016), Victor Martinez (2010-2011), Jordan Zimmermann (2015-2016), J.D. Martinez (2013-2014), Mike Pelfrey (2015-2016), Mark Lowe (2015-2016)
So, on the current roster, all but two FA signings on the team is from one offseason.
Previous players that were "impact" players:
David Price - Trade
Yoenis Cespedes - Trade
Rajai Davis - FA (2013-2014)
Alfredo Simon - Trade
Joakim Soria - Trade
Cameron Maybin - Trade
Austin Jackson - Trade
Torii Hunter - FA (2012-2013)
Max Scherzer - Trade
Rick Porcello - Draft/Develop
Drew Smyly - Draft/Develop
Joe Nathan - FA (2013-2014)
Joba Chamberlain - FA (2013-2014)
Phil Coke - Trade
Robbie Ray - Trade
Prince Fielder - FA (2011-2012)
Omar Infante - Draft/Develop
Jhonny Peralta - Trade
Doug Fister - Trade
Joaquin Benoit - FA (2010-2011)
Jose Valverde - FA (2009-2010)
So, outside of a handful of free agents, the majority of big guys were acquired via trade, and that's how those prospects were used.