Whenever I hear about a move the Tigers make, my initial thought is negative. Then I think about things and try to put myself in the shoes of the decision maker while thinking “what was Dave Dombrowski trying to accomplish with this.”
And then I usually get people asking me what I think of the move. By the time that happens, I have a typical response. And that’s…..
….it depends on what they do next.
So the Tigers signed, for two years and $11 million, a reliever coming off a career year who’s going to be 38 next April. They then also sign an aging starter who just turned 41 years old for two years and $16 million. What did Dave Dombrowski accomplish?
I know people will argue vehemently about this, but he made the Tigers better. That’s somewhat simplistic, but let’s look at it. First off, Kenny Rogers was way better then any Tiger starter last year. One of my favorite stats to compare pitchers is Runs Saved Above Average, which you can get from Lee Sinin’s Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia. Nate Robertson led all Tiger starters with a -5, and Jeremy Bonderman was a -6. For those of you who thought Jason Johnson was as good as Kenny Rogers, Johnson served up a -6.
Since Johnson is the guy who’s going out and Kenny Rogers is coming in, it’s best to compare the two of them. Kenny Rogers RSAA was 23, which is very solid, Prior to 2005, he had two rather mediocre seasons (8 RSAA in 2004 and 1 in 2003) but he had an even better year in 2002 when his RSAA was 28. All of those are better then what a Tiger starter has gotten in quite a while.
The other number I like to look at is pitching runs above replacement (PRAR), which is put out by Baseball Prospectus. Kenny Rogers had a 72 and Jason Johnson had a 41. Those 31 runs are worth about three wins.
Now lets look at Todd Jones. He had 15 RSAA and 59 pitching runs above replacement. The Tigers had a revolving door for their 12th pitcher, so if you assume whoever was there is of replacement quality, that’s another 5-6 wins.
Now I’m being optimistic up until now, because this all assumes that Jones and Rogers will perform at the same level they did last year. Todd Jones’ nickname was the rollercoaster, and he got it for a good reason. After having a solid 2000 season, he lost some face in 2001 by blowing some leads late in the game. He eventually lost the closer job to Matt Anderson (remember him) and was then traded for Mark Redman. And Kenny Rogers isn’t a spring chicken either, so you’d expect some kind of break down sometime soon (in years, not in days).
So we have two aging pitchers who “should” improve the team and Rogers is moving from a hitters park to a pitchers park, so I’m all for it. We would have had to pay Jason Johnson $5 million at least, so for another $3 million, we get a better arm. And with the price of closers this year, $5.5 million this year can’t be compared to the $6 million we paid for Troy Percival.
The final note is, we’re still having problems convincing free agents to come to Detroit. The only way we’re going to fix that is by the Tigers winning more games. If this time next year, the Tigers are coming off of a .500 season knowing they’re a player or two away from playoff contention with guys like Justin Verlander in the pipeline, you might be able to get a good player without paying a premium.
Finally, I have an idea. Why not throw a bunch of money at Roger Clemens? I know it’s not my money, but he might play for Detroit for $20 million for one season. He’s nine wins away from 350, so you’d get some hype there and while he wouldn’t completely pay for himself, it would create some excitement. And having a rotation of Clemens, Rogers, Bonderman, Maroth and Robertson doesn’t sound too shabby.
I know, it won’t happen, but a guy can dream.
An ancilliary benefit is we don’t have to rush Joel Zumaya or Justin Verlander.