Archive for November, 2010

Wanted – Right Fielder

On a couple of different levels, this piece by Jason Beck about the Tigers looking for a right fielder is interesting.  The first interesting tidbit I took out of it was that it looks like the Tigers are set on Ryan Raburn as the team’s starting leftfielder.  After a breakout 2009, Raburn got off to a slow start in 2010 before turning it on in the second half.   After the break, he had a .900 OPS and he hit thirteen of his fifteen home runs.  And for most of the second half, Raburn was out in left field.  He was a lot better against lefties but his numbers against right handed pitching (.753 OPS) wasn’t awful.  Even his fielding was solid (he had a +3, eleventh best amongst leftfielders which is good considering the time he spent out there).

The other interesting thing was Brennan Boesch’s name wasn’t even mentioned in the article.  He was the opposite of Raburn.  He took the world (at least the Tiger’s world) by storm in the first half then cooled off (okay, let’s call it an ice cold .458 OPS) in the second half.  Probably the only thing that kept him in the lineup (for better or worse) was Magglio Ordonez’s injury.  It looks like for now, we can pencil Boesch in as the fourth outfielder assuming the Tigers fulfill their plan of finding a right fielder in the open market.

Of course the corner outfield market is a bit thin.  Carl Crawford doesn’t appear to be in the Tigers plan so the next best options are Jayson Werth (probably not as good as he’s going to be paid) or a return of Magglio Ordonez and Ordonez has his own issues.  Namely will he be fully recovered by the time the Tigers open up camp?

One of the lower tier players I wouldn’t mind the Tigers going after would be Austin Kearns.  He’s never lived up to his top prospect hype, but he had a decent showing when he landed in Cleveland and he could keep enough money available for the Tigers to really go after another pitcher.  Brad Hawpe might make an interesting option as a bounce back player after a horrible 2010.  And if power is what they’re going after, the frustrating Rick Ankiel is available.  Jeff Francouer is also an interesting option with an unusual past.

So there’s guys out there, you just wonder if the Tigers would be better off sticking with a Boesch/(insert player) platoon out in right field and using their money on pitching.  Casper Wells is another guy who’s probably close to a make it or break it type of season so he’d also be an interesting option.

Pitching Going Quickly?

Yesterday I talked about the state of the Tigers rotation.  Well, just in the past day, two guys the Tigers could have made a grab for are close to being tied up. It looks like the Brewers and Nationals are going strong after Carl Pavano and now the Colorado Rockies have gotten into the mix.  Pavano’s price may have just gone up too because another pitcher is close to a deal with another team and the supply at the top end of the free agent pitching pool is slowly dwindling.

Jon Garland is one of those guys and he signed a one year, incentive laden deal with the Dodgers.  Garland had a nice bounce back season last year and fortunately he’s staying in the National League because he’s pretty good against us (his 13 wins is his most against any other team outside of the Royals).

If you look at Rotoworld’s top 50 free agents and assume we won’t be getting Cliff Lee, then the next best starter is Hiroki Kuroda and he’s already resigned with the Dodgers.  Jorge de la Rosa (Type A free agent, I don’t know the rules if a team picks up two of these in the same offseason) is an interesting option but if Pavano isn’t in the Tigers plans and Andy Pettitte isn’t coming here either, the only other starting pitching choice in the top 20 is Javier Vazquez (who appears to be heading to the Marlins so he might not be around much longer either).

Bottom line, right now what you see is what you’re probably going to get out of the Tigers starting five.  Lets just hope the new and improved offense can put enough runs on the board to keep the back end of the rotation in the winning column.

Avila to Start at Catcher

Looks like I got this one wrong. Alex Avila is going to be the Tigers starting catcher (at least to open the season).  Victor Martinez’s role will primarly at designated hitter but he’ll fill in for Avila when he needs a break.

The Tigers Rotation – An Early Look

So far, the Tigers have shored up their offense and their bullpen.  These are both admirable tasks but back in 2006, when the Tigers made it all the way to the World Series, they did it predominately with pitching and defense.  So far, the Tigers haven’t even touched their rotation unless you count the apparent subtraction of Jeremy Bonderman and there hasn’t been a peep out of the rumor mill that the Tigers might go after a starting pitcher.  Not that the current crop (short of Cliff Lee) is top notch or anything.  Still, let’s take a look at what the Tigers have then touch on how they might fill in the hole(s).

Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer I think are two locks.  Verlander is the ace and Scherzer is the ace in waiting.  If we can get a second half Scherzer for all of 2011 and the same out of Verlander that we’ve gotten the past two years, we definitely have a nice base. Of course after that, it gets pretty spotty.

I like Rick Porcello but since he made his debut in 2009, he’s lived (2009) and died (2010) by the Tigers infield defense.  At some point, if he’s going to make the turn to stardom, he’s going to have to get more strikeouts.  Especially in 2011 because if Scott Sizemore sees the bulk of the time at second, the Tigers defense is going to be spotty.  Still, Porcello had a much better second half so hopefully he’ll be able to carry that into 2011.

Armando Galarraga is also a safe bet for a rotation spot but he’s been even more inconsistent then Scherzer and Porcello.  While Galarraga’s numbers look “okay” they’re also a little deceptive because he had just a .262 batting average on balls in play.  If this goes up to a more average .300, we could see a repeat of 2009.

For now, the fifth starter appears to be Phil Coke.  In 125 minor league games, Coke had 77 starts.  Still, this move worries me a little.  Coke’s 2010 platoon splits don’t bear much mentioning, but if you look at his career, there’s an .080 point OPS difference and he’s going to be facing a lot more right handed hitters when the opposition can stack their lineup.  On top of that, he’s started just one game since he was brought up by the Yankees in 2008.

Of course one of the reasons Coke is being pushed into the rotation is there’s not a lot in the immediate pipeline. Andrew Oliver might get a look, but in his five starts he’s probably shown he needs another year of work.  And after all of the guys we’ve mentioned (and Dontrelle Willis), no other Tiger had more then two starts in 2010.  And there weren’t any lights out performances in Toledo and Erie and Jacob Turner is probably at least a year away.

Anyway, the rotation, like the one heading into 2009, worries me a little.  There was a lot of criticism about Jeremy Bonderman’s performance in 2010 but his 171 innings he threw could be harder to replace then many people think.

V-Mart Black Friday Special

Alright, the Tigers aren’t waiting for the Winter Meetings.  They’ve already inked Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta and Joaquin Benoit to multi-year deals and now it looks like the Tigers are very close to inking Victor Martinez to a four year, $50 million deal.  It looks like the only the thing preventing this from being a done deal is a physical examination so it’s safe to say we’re introducing our newest Tiger.

Now the big question is, where does Victor Martinez fit.  For the front end of this deal, I can see him playing mostly catcher but his defensive skills have been mediocre the past couple of seasons.  Bill James +/- has him below average but of course he makes up with that with his stick.  He has a career OPS of .838 and he pretty much matched that in Boston last year in 127 games.  Even if he finishes with just an .800 OPS (he’s finished lower then that in only one year since 2003) it would be a huge upgrade at the position.

The big question is, then what happens to Alex Avila.  He had a rough year at the plate in 2010 but he’s only going to be 24 when the season starts.  So what you’ll probably have is Martinez being the primary catcher through 2011 and maybe 2012 while Avila gets a little more seasoned.  Then on the back end of Martinez’s deal, we’ll probably see him begin to transition to a full time designated hitter.

Another idea would have Martinez be the back up catcher but then be a full time designated hitter.  That would leave Carlos Guillen’s future in doubt because with one year left on his contract, he’s slowly getting squeezed out of any of the potential positions he can play.  If I were a betting man, we’ll see Martinez at catcher, Avila backing him up then Guillen at DH at least to start the season. If Guillen struggles out of the box, then we’ll see some shuffling.

Martinez is a Class A free agent so the Tigers will lose their pick.  They also didn’t offer any of their free agents arbitration so they won’t be getting on back.  Let’s hope the front office knows what they’re doing because those first round draft picks have been good for us.

Speaking of arbitration, the Tigers had five potentials and none of them got an offer.  Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, Jeremy Bonderman, Bobby Seay and Gerald Laird can all now sign with another team without any compensation coming back to the Tigers.

Earlier in the week, I talked about the Detroit Pride Cheerleaders.  They’ve extended the deal on their calendar (check out the bottom of the page) and you can still get it for $10.  If you’re going to the Lions game, they’re going to be there on Thursday.

Tigers Close to 4 Year Deal for Victor Martinez

Ken Rosenthal broke this one but the Tigers are close to inking Victor Martinez to a four year, $50 million deal.  More to come on this as the story develops.  The Tigers aren’t wasting any time this off season.

Ten Greatest Living Players

While I can’t argue with many of the guys on this list, I guess I would have thought Al Kaline might have made the cut.  I might have put him in over Koufax but I didn’t think through if there was anyone else off the list that might make more sense then Kaline (and Koufax).

Joaquin Benoit, The 40 Man Roster and Lions’ Cheerleaders

The Tigers signed Rays reliever Joaquin Benoit to a three year, $16.5 million deal earlier this week  and if things go as planned, this should really firm up the Tigers bullpen heading into 2011.  I already talked about Benoit and his sick numbers last year.  He had rotator cuff surgery in 2008, took all of 2009 nine off and the Rays took a chance on him and got 60 innings of pretty much shut down relief (1.34 ERA, 75/11 strikeout to walk ratio) in 2011.  Prior to that, his best season was 2007 with the Rangers when they converted him to a full time reliever after a few years of shuffling him between the rotation and the pen.

I have two general concerns.  One, did he have a career year and how far will he come down if he does?  His numbers seem to indicate (namely the strikeout to walk ratio) that this wasn’t a flash in the pan year though.  Second, he’s 33 and he’ll be 37 when he finishes up the deal.  The Tigers have made a habit of signing guys to a year or two longer then they should have so you wonder if this going to be the case here.

With that, if you have a bullpen of Jose Valverde, a close to 2010 equivalent of Joaquin Benoit and then a healthy Joel Zumaya (who’s said to be at 100%) then the Tigers should really be able to shorten how much their starters pitch.  The Twins have made a living out of having good but not great starters and a shut down bullpen so maybe that’s what the Tigers are going after here.

The Tigers fine tuned their 40 man roster in preparation for the Winter Meetings.  They signed Al Alburquerque from the Rockies system and he’ll probably be in the mix for one of the Tigers bullpen spots.  This guy has 191 strikeouts in 174 1/3 minor league innings so he looks like another power arm that Dave Dombrowski usually brings in.  Cale Iorg, Charles Furbush, Duane Below, Lester Oliveros, Jose Ortega and Brayan Villerreal were all added to the 40 man while Fu-Te Ni was removed.  Ni had the nice 2009 campaign then he really struggled in 2010.

If you’ve been to Lions games this year, you’ve probably seen the Detroit Pride Cheerleaders outside of Ford Field.  Since the Lions won’t have cheerleaders (yet?) the Detroit Pride Cheerleaders decided to just do it themselves and you’ll see them around town and outside of the field before games.  Their visit to the VA hospital on Veterans Day looked particularly heartwarming.  Since they’re not official yet funding can be an issue and they need your help.  Their 2011 calendar is coming out soon so if you want to pitch in, pick one up.  You can also find them on Facebook.


The link to order the Detroit Pride Cheerleader’s calendar is at the bottom of their website.  The preorder price of $10 ends today.

Tigers Close to Signing Joaquin Benoit

Jon Paul Morosi wrote this morning that the Tigers are close to signing a multi-year deal to bring Joaquin Benoit to Detroit.  Benoit had a hard time finding work at the beginning of the 2010 season after missing all of 2009 and he opted for a minor league deal with the Rays this year.  The Rays hit a home run on this signing because he was lights out as the Rays set up man.  He had a .147 batting average against overall and he sported an impressive 75/11 strikeout to walk ratio in 60 1/3 innings.

With the uncertainty with Joel Zumaya, this could really bolster the pen.  Of course we won’t know if it’s a good deal or not until the numbers are released.

Austin Jackson Finishes Second For AL ROY

Austin Jackson had a nice rookie campaign for the Tigers in 2010.  It just wasn’t quite good enough because he finished second to Neftali Feliz for AL ROY of the Year.  When you look at Wins Above Replacement, these two were nearly identical (Jackson had a slight edge with 2.5 to Feliz’s 2.4) so this could have gone either way.  Feliz had the flashy numbers though and he set the rookie save record with 40 on the season.  I think it also helped that the Rangers made the playoffs.  Jackson did garner eight first place votes so a few people felt he was more deserving.

Ironically, Danny Valencia finished with the same WAR as Jackson despite playing only a little more then half the season.  Part of that may have been his position but he had a nice season with a .799 OPS.

Brennan Boesch came in fifth place in a three way tie at the bottom.  I still think when you look at this crop of rookies, Brian Matusz will be the standout.  I like the Orioles in a few years.

What if the 1987 Braves Didn’t Trade Doyle Alexander?

The Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz trade is one of the more infamous trades in the Tigers history.  In a late season trade, the veteran Alexander was shipped to Detroit for prospect John Smoltz.  Alexander did his job and was awesome in his eleven starts for Detroit (9-0, 3.9 WAR) and in hindsight it’s safe to the say that the Tigers probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs if they hadn’t made the trade.  Of course Alexander didn’t do much after that and John Smoltz went on to have a Hall of Fame career for the Braves.

I still defend the trade because it did what the Tigers set out to accomplish.  Now the Baseball Reference blog is soliciting answers to the question of “What if the Braves didn’t trade Alexander for Smoltz?”.  There’s some interesting feedback and it’s worth the read.

Marlins Trade Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin

It was close to three years ago that the Marlins and Tigers rocked the winter meetings with their blockbuster deal that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit for a package of six prospects.  Not in back to back days, the Marlins have traded the two cornerstones of at least their end of the deal on back to back days for three relief pitchers.  Cameron Maybin was sent to the Padres for Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.  Andrew Miller was traded to the Red Sox for Dustin Richardson.  Neither prospect has lived up to their hype yet and while the Tigers were saddled with that three year Dontrelle Willis deal, that was actually their own fault because they inked Willis to the contract extension.

The only player who remains on the Marlins from that deal is Burke Badenhop.  He’s pitched in each of the last three years for the Marlins and he’s been a decent but not great long relief option for them out of the pen.  Of course with the addition of three relief pitchers to the system, you wonder how long Badenhop has as well.

Hot Stove Shutout?

Tiger fans are expecting a big signing this winter.  They have a ton of money coming off of the books and that should open the door for one of the big, blue chip free agents out there, right??  Well, my biggest concern is the Tigers could be the odd team out.  They’re rumored not to be making a play for Cliff Lee, who everyone expects to be a Yankee.  Carl Crawford also could end up in a Yankee uniform and Victor Martinez could easily resign with the Red Sox.  That leaves Jayson Wersth and Adam Dunn, who the Tigers might be forced to over pay if they want his services and it’s questionable how much of an upgrade he’d be over a guy like Magglio Ordonez who could come cheaper.

So the question is, do the Tigers sit out with regard to the big names and maybe grab some of the second tier guys.  With Jacob Turner being a couple of years away, should the Tigers sign a guy like Carl Pavano to anchor the rotation (leaving Armando Galarraga as the odd man out).  A guy like Brien Fuentes would give the Tigers a formidable one/two punch with Jose Valverde.  And rather then paying big for Dunn or Werth, would it make sense to give a veteran like Lance Berkman and incentive laden deal to come play for Detroit for a couple of seasons.  And while A.J. Pierzynski is the guy people love to hate, it’s hard not to appreciate him if you’ve ever been a Bill Laimbeer fan.  He’d make a nice stop gap if the Tigers brass doesn’t think Al Avila is ready to take on the every day catching job.  I also wouldn’t might if the Tigers could possibly swing a deal with the Royals to maybe bring Zach Greinke into town.

So there’s plenty out there, I just think people will disappointed if the Tigers don’t grab a big name.  My concern with grabbing a big name means we have a lot of money tied up and it could hurt us over the next few years if some holes develop.  We’ve been in that trap before and I’m not ready to jump back in and risk getting back into it.

1987 Draft Do Over

In an interesting series Geoff Young at the Hardball Times is going through the 1987 draft and imagining what would have happened had each team take what would eventually be the best player available based on WAR (Wins Above Replacement).  The Tigers actually did their job in this draft because they’re one of only four teams to be worse off under the revised draft compared to who they actually took (Travis Fryman).

Fryman was a mainstay in the Tigers lineup for most of the 1990s, splitting time between shortstop and third base before eventually becoming a full time third baseman.  The five time All Star was traded after the 1997 season and he eventually landed in Cleveland where continued to have success until he retired after the 2002 season.

Under the revised draft, Fryman would have been taken with the tenth pick by the San Francisco Giants.  In Fryman’s place, the Tigers would have picked Gil Heredia who had a pretty average ten year major league career.  Of course the 1990s were pretty much a lost decade for the Tigers anyway so having a slightly better starter for a couple of years wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

The Jhonny Peralta Signing

I was going to do my analysis but then I ran across this at that pretty much echoes my sentiment.  The money for Peralta sounds high, but the big problem is there’s not a lot of alternatives. Once you get past Derek Jeter, who should go back to the Yankees, things thin out quick and there’s not a whole lot better out there then Peralta.  I think the long term plan is to have Peralta be the stopgap at shortstop until Daniel Fields is ready for his chance.

Quick Hit: Eddie Bonine Still In The Tiger’s Plan

It looks like the Tigers might not have given up Eddie Bonine quite yet.  Jon Paul Morosi tweeted that the Tigers were interested in signing him to a minor league deal.  It looks like the Phillies are also interested in the right hander.  This wouldn’t the be the first time the Phillies cashed in on a Tigers castoff.  While he got a major league deal, Chad Durbin left the Tigers and signed with the Phillies after the 2007 season.

Tigers Even Closer to Signing Peralta

Jon Paul Morosi broke the news a couple of hours ago that the Tigers are going to announce their two year, $11 million deal with Jhonny Peralta some time this week.  Like I said yesterday, this should lock up the Tigers infield.  A lot of people are complaining about the amount of money but I’ll take a closer look at the signing later tonight or sometime tomorrow.

What If the Tigers Drafted Tim Lincecum?

In the 2006 draft, nine teams passed on Tim Lincecum before the San Francisco Giants took him with the tenth pick.  Kevin Goldstein, in his latest Future Shock, speculates what might have happened if each of the nine teams ahead of the Giants had taken Lincecum.

Of course one of those teams was the Detroit Tigers, who took Andrew Miller with the sixth pick.  He talks about how while Lincecum makes the Tigers rotation stronger, it also means they don’t have Miguel Cabrera in the lineup so it probably washes out.  Good stuff because while Lincecum helps out most of those nine other teams, it’s not as much of a difference as you might think.

Big Bats

I wrote about this yesterday, but it appears that offense is the Tigers primary focus in the offseason.  John Lowe recently gave us a run down on the guys the Tigers are likely to go after.  I still like Adam Dunn the best, but Carl Crawford is the most intriguing and probably be the best defensively of the bunch.  Of course it all could just be a smoke screen.

I watched/listened to a few innings of the AFL Rising Stars game.  The lone Tiger, Cbance Ruffin, got one strikeout against the only guy he faced.

Tigers Close to Signing Jhonny Peralta

Beck’s Blog broke the story that the Tigers are close to signing Jhonny Peralta to a two year deal for $11.25 million.  I like the amount because it pretty much shores up the infield, gives the Tigers a solid shortstop option and still gives them plenty of cash to go out and get a big name. As it stands, this is what the infield will probably look like

1b – Miguel Cabrera
2b – Scott Sizemore/Wil Rhymes
SS – Jhonny Peralta
3b – Brandon Inge

And then you have Ramon Santiago to fill in where and when needed.  Not too shabby if the Tigers can pull it off.

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