- Winter preview----Detroit Tigers:
The Tigers are in trouble.
What they need: A closer; a new middle infield; starting pitching; to clear some salary and replenish the farm system.
Free agents: SS Adam Everett; 1B/3B/OF Aubrey Huff; RHP Brandon Lyon; 2B Placido Polanco; RHP Fernando Rodney; LHP Jarrod Washburn
Everett and Huff won't be back.
Washburn has many options in better situations, probably for much more money than the Tigers are going to be willing to pay, the Yankees, Mariners and Twins are known to have interest in Washburn even as he pitched horribly for the Tigers after joining them at mid-season. He won't be back.
Polanco is 34 and while the Tigers would love to keep him, it makes no sense to pay a load of money to do so if they're clearing salary. With other teams----the Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets----possibly having interest in the good hitting and fielding Polanco, he's gone.
Rodney will be a low-cost pickup for a closer/set-up man hungry team and won't be back.
Lyon could stay depending on the market and where the other available relievers wind up. The market is saturated with closers or former closers; Lyon could be one of those pitchers who's out of work deep into the off season.
Players available via trade: RHP Jeremy Bonderman; 1B/3B/OF Miguel Cabrera; CF Curtis Granderson; OF/1B/DH Carlos Guillen; INF/OF/C Brandon Inge; RHP Edwin Jackson; OF Magglio Ordonez; LHP Nate Robertson; LHP Dontrelle Willis; RHP Joel Zumaya
For everyone who relentlessly rips the Mets, the more I look at the circumstances of some of these teams as I make my way around the league with my Hot Stove Previews, I feel better and better about the circumstances of my chosen club.
For the Tigers, as I list the players, I'll add their salaries because it's more horrifying than any tale Edgar Allen Poe could've conjured at his highest, drunkest and most creatively free.
Jeremy Bonderman ($12.5 million for 2010) has pitched in 20 games over the past two seasons and been predominately terrible. He got paid based on his 14-8 2006 season, was barely mediocre in 2007 and then got hurt. If he's healthy, he's good. Is he healthy? I dunno, but he is overpaid.
Miguel Cabrera ($126 million through 2015) is one of the best hitters in baseball and could be moved based on his talent; salary; that he's the Tigers most marketable player and best bet to rejuvenate a barren farm system to any degree; and that the club (especially owner Mike Illich) were angrier than anyone truly let on for his alcohol-fueled drunken dispute with his wife over the last weekend of the season which resulted in his arrest.
The list of teams who'd want Cabrera is long. The Giants, Mets, Red Sox, Angels, Cardinals and many others would love to get their hands on Cabrera. I think he gets traded.
Curtis Granderson (almost $26 million guaranteed through 2012) is probably the most all-around marketable player the Tigers have to deal, so he'd get the most back. A 28-year-old center fielder who can run and hit for power is hard to find. If the Tigers are serious about rebuilding, Granderson will be moved.
Carlos Guillen ($26 million through 2011) is 34; he can't play the field anywhere other than first base; doesn't hit enough to be a DH; and has become injury prone. He's not going anywhere.
Brandon Inge ($6.6 million for 2010) is also marketable because he's versatile, plays good defense pretty much anywhere you put him and you know what you're getting from him offensively----some pop and lots of strikeouts. I think he'll be traded.
Edwin Jackson is on the block because he's arbitration-eligible; slumped in the second half of the season after looking like Dave Stewart for much of the season; and would bring value back. Depending on how the Tigers do dumping other contracts, Jackson might stay.
Magglio Ordonez ($18 million guaranteed) was a point of debate for almost the whole season because his contract kicker activated when he reached 540 plate appearances in 2009 and the Tigers were faced with the prospect of: A) a union grievance if they benched him; B) using him when they needed him to stay in contention and he was playing better over the second half after a woeful start; or C) releasing him to save the salary for 2010.
There was no "right" answer to the problems. I don't know what I would've done myself----I probably would've bit the bullet and released him----but the Tigers were contending and a championship would've been worth the Ordonez money if they'd turned the trick.
They're stuck with Ordonez.
Nate Robertson ($10 million for 2010)...um, yah.
Robertson's numbers tell the story better than anything I could say.
Dontrelle Willis ($12 million for 2010) could be moved for a team that thinks they could straighten out the charismatic, talented and mentally fried Willis. The Tigers would have to take a bad contract back for him, but he could be moved. If I were the Mets, I'd call the Tigers and say, "Oliver Perez for Willis and Robertson, right now. Take it or leave it."
A return to the NL could only help Willis since he couldn't be much worse or more of a sunk cost than he is now for the Tigers. He's on the verge of becoming an outfielder if he can't learn to throw strikes again.
Zumaya's arbitration-eligible and it seems so long ago that his lightning fastball lit up radar guns and overmatched the likes of Alex Rodriguez in the 2006 playoffs. He's had nothing but injury problems since then. He's only 25, so could be added to any deal of the likes of Cabrera to sweeten it and get more back. I'd take a chance on Zumaya.
Non-tender candidates: RHP Zach Miner; SS Ramon Santiago; RHP Joel Zumaya
Miner's a mediocre reliever you can find relatively easily. They'll walk away from any risk of a substantial arbitration award.
Santiago's a 30-year-old journeyman. They're not paying him either.
Zumaya's an interesting case. There are viable reasons for the team to cut their losses with him as he heads for arbitration. They won't, but you couldn't argue with them if they did.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: OF Garret Anderson (Braves); RHP Rafael Soriano (Braves); LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); RHP Kevin Gregg (Cubs); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); RHP Jose Valverde (Astros); 2B Ronnie Belliard (Dodgers); 2B Orlando Hudson (Dodgers); CF Mike Cameron (Brewers); 2B Felipe Lopez (Brewers); RHP J.J. Putz (Mets); RHP Brett Myers (Phillies); OF Coco Crisp (Royals); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners)
Many of these players are contingent on the Tigers cleaning house and needing warm, serviceable, available bodies to fill holes if they manage to somehow dump some big salaries. Most would fall to the Tigers based on the market. Bedard, Putz, Marquis, Davis all will have suitors, but could be left out in the cold scrounging for work, which could lead them to Detroit.
The days of the Tigers delving deeply into free agency/trades for big names are over.
Via trade: 2B Alexei Casilla (Twins); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); SS Brandon Wood (Angels); 2B Dan Uggla (Marlins); 3B/1B Jorge Cantu (Marlins); OF Cody Ross (Marlins); RHP Matt Lindstrom (Marlins); Colby Rasmus (Cardinals); Angel Guzman (Cubs); Josh Vitters (Cubs)
Considering the Tigers situation, they're going to have trouble getting much of anything for their big contracts if someone, anyone agrees to take a couple of them off their hands.
The Twins are annoyed with Casilla and he could play second base for the Tigers and replace Polanco. Morrow needs a change of scenery and there was talk of a deal surrounding Jackson to the Mariners for Morrow----they've supposedly broken down, but could be revisited. I think Morrow will one day be a star if he gets out of Seattle.
Wood's stock has fallen with the Angels after demolishing Triple A in each of the past three years. Is he a Triple A star/big league washout? Or does he need a legitimate chance to play every single day in the big leagues to get his bearings? Who knows?
Uggla, Cantu, Ross and Linstrom could be had, but the Tigers don't have much youth to deal after the series of short-sighted and borderline crazy moves (Jair Jurrjens for Edgar Renteria?) that GM Dave Dombrowski has made in recent years. Doesn't hurt to ask.
Whoever's interested in Granderson will have to give up some young talent along the lines of Rasmus. The Cubs probably wouldn't trade Vitters in such a deal.
- The Prince vs PECOTA:
I mentioned yesterday how Nate Silver received endless credit/accolades/borderline lust for his picking of the Rays to vastly improve in 2008 and being right and that I'vereceived little-to-no acknowledgement for having been right about the Marlins and Giants this year.
He has his calculations; I have what passes for my brain. Take a look at our respective predictions for the 2009 season and see who was more accurate.
I will take your money, your worship or your women...or a combination of all three. And you ain't getting them back.
- Mauer's going nowhere:
There's an article in the NY Times today about Joe Mauer's pending MVP award and his prospects for staying in Minnesota. There's a suggested question as to whether the Twins will be able to keep him and if Mauer will look for richer pastures and a "better" chance to win a championship.
Mauer isn't a money-whore; the Twins will pay to keep him in his hometown; and he's got as good a chance to win in Minnesota as he does anywhere else.
I can't see Joe Mauer going mercenary and looking for every single penny he can squeeze out of the game on the open market to leave his home. That's not to say he doesn't want to get paid; he's going to get his money. The Twins are smart enough to realize that they have to keep one of the best three players in baseball in their fold; they won't pay him ARod money; they probably won't even pay him Mark Teixeira money; but at that point for the player, what's the difference?
How many more cars, homes, villas, boats, whatevers can he buy with $180 million that he couldn't buy with $150 million? And he doesn't seem to be an egomaniac that has to be validated by his paycheck. Everyone knows how great Mauer is already; and they'll know to an even larger degree when he officially gets the MVP later today.
As for the on-field product, the Twins have been in the playoffs five times in the past eight years. A break here, a break there; avoiding the Yankees, etc and they could easily have made it to a couple of World Series and won one of them. Can Mauer guarantee that he's going to have that opportunity anywhere else and have the dual benefit of playing at home? He's got as good a chance to win in Minnesota.
He'll get locked up and be a Twin for life. Guaranteed.