Mags and Riches

It looks like the Tigers best chances to land a big free agent bat are:

1. Offer Beltran the 10 year, $200 million that Boras is asking for

or

2. Take a shot at an injured Magglio Ordonez

As much as I’d like to get Beltran, the Tigers won’t be handing out any 10 year deals. As a result, Ordonez is a much more realistic option. The only reason Ordonez doesn’t have a 5 year $60 million dollar contract in hand already is due to concerns about his knees. Last year Ordonez had to undergo knee surgery. Unfortunately a complication called bone marrow edema required a second surgery. His health so far is unknown because agent Scott Boras cancelled a scheduled workout during the winter meetings, which isn’t a good sign.

If the Tigers can work out a creative contract, Ordonez is a risk worth taking. Ordonez’s career numbers are 307/364/525 and he has remained healthy thoughout his career until last year. From 1998-2003 he played in more than 145 games each year. As an outfielder, he is an average fielder.

Ordonez will be 31 next year so some dropoff over the next few years is possible, but he’d still be an upgrade if healthy. Another concern with Ordonez’s production is that he has played in hitter friendly US Cellular field. While he does hit better at home with an OPS of 978, he is still a pretty good hitter on the road with an 895 OPS over the last 3 years.

Because Ordonez was never really known as a speed player, even if he’s slower than before, it isn’t taking away a significant portion of his game. As long as the bat and batting eye are still there, Ordonez will be a valuable player.

The drawbacks are that corner outfield isn’t a pressing need for the Tigers. While a healthy Ordonez would be a clear upgrade over White/Higginson/Monroe the Tigers can get by with what they’ve got. Plus the fact that Higginson’s contract can’t be moved would mean the Tigers would be paying a ton for the right field position. It won’t solve the problems in centerfield, third base, ,or back up catcher.

All that being said, Ordonez is the Tigers best shot at improving their lineup. Other teams are staying away, and if the Tigers are the only bidder willing to offer multiple years that will give them some leverage. The trick is managing the health risk.

Ordonez’s knees can’t be insured. What the Tigers need to do is structure a deal similar to Pudge’s. There was no way that the Tigers would be able to fully insure Rodriguez’s 4 year contract. John Westhoff got creative and had an out for the Tigers if Rodriguez’s back problem flared up. Now I don’t know for sure, but it probably became possible for the Tigers to then insure the rest of Rodriguez. If the Tigers could negotiate a similar out for Magglio’s knees, that reduces the risk and may make the contract insurable. Another tactic could be to offer a one year contract where a second year vests based on games played.

With some creativity to mitigate the risk, Ordonez is worth taking a shot at.

Non baseball stuff
I received season 4 of the Simpsons for Christmas and I’m just amazed at how many of my favorite episodes are in 4. The Monorail, Mr. Plow, Homer skipping church, Whacking Day, the one where Homer gets busted for DOA (or DUI, I always get those mixed up). That’s about as good as it gets.

Carlos Guillen – Breakthrough Season or Peak Season?

As I often do when I’m trying to avoid doing real work, I’ll head over to Baseball Reference and start poking around on stat pages. I took a look at Carlos Guillen’s because of his remarkable season last year. One of the great features of BR, is the list of comparison players. I wanted to see who Guillen was similar to at this stage of his career. The list was far from encouraging with the likes of Julio Lugo, Adam Kennedy, Dickie Thon, and Neifi Perez among others.

One name that did catch my attention is Rich Aurilia. As Tiger fans remember, Detroit pursued Aurilia only to see him sign with Seattle. Of course, Guillen became expendable from Seattle’s viewpoint and the Tigers were the beneficiary.

The other thing that most remember about Aurilia is his tremendous season in 2001 in which he hit 37 homers, had an OPS+ of 148, and made the All Star team. Aurilia’s season came out of nowhere, and he hasn’t come close to approaching those numbers again. Considering that Carlos Guillen had a 2004 season that far surpassed what he had totaled to that point in his career, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at how the two compared.


Before Peak
Age Games BA OBP SLG RC RC/27
Guillen 22-27 488 .264 .331 .383 211 4.33
Aurilia 23-28 575 .270 .324 .419 260 4.74


Peak
Age Games BA OBP SLG RC RC/27
Guillen 28 136 .318 .379 .542 107 7.62
Aurilia 29 156 .324 .369 .572 134 8.00


Post Peak
Age Games BA OBP SLG RC RC/27
Guillen 29-?? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???
Aurilia 30-32 386 .261 .313 .395 178 4.22

Aurilia broke in with the Giants at age 23. Guillen beat him by a year and came up at 22. Over the first 6 years of their careers, they hit for a similar batting average. Guillen was slightly better at getting on base, but Aurilia hit for more power reaching 20 homers in both 1999 and 2000.

Then came the big breakout seasons. Aurilia’s occured at age 29. His RC/27 (runs created per 27 outs, basically the number of runs a team of 9 Aurilia’s would score in a game). jumped 69% from his pre-peak seasons. His OPS jumped 27% from his career to date numbers.

Guillen’s big season (so far, hopefully there will be more) came at age 28. Like Aurilia, Guillen’s numbers for batting average, on base average, and slugging percentage all jumped tremendously. His RC/27 increased 76%, and his OPS jumped 29%.

Here’s the downer. While we don’t know what the future holds for Carlos Guillen we can look at what happened to Rich Aurilia after his big season. In the three seasons since his 2001 peak season, his numbers are actually worse than they were prior to the peak. Despite signing a brand new contract with Seattle last year, his performance was so bad, they released him midseason.

Rich Aurilia’s collapse after an All Star season doesn’t mean that the same thing will occur with Guillen. Guillen is a year younger than Aurilia was during their respective big seasons which could be a good sign. Also Guillen’s big season came after a change of scenery where Aurilia’s came in the middle of his tenure with the Giants. Guillen’s role in Seattle was never clearly defined, and when he came to Detroit he knew he’d be the starting shortstop. Also Guillen’s success wasn’t predicated on a cushy lineup spot (Aurilia was in the same lineup with Bonds and Kent who both slugged over .500). The Tigers offense was pretty good last year, but Guillen hit in all of the first 7 spots in the order.

In looking forward to next season, my guess is that Guillen won’t repeat his 2004 performance, but I also don’t see him falling off completely like Aurilia did. I’m thinking that Guillen’s power numbers will be sustained or only slip slightly because the increase in slugging came not only from home runs, but from an increase in extra base hits across the board. His average, may dip some which would drag down his on base average as well. Then again, what do I know. I thought Eric Munson was going to put it all together last year.

Merry Christmas

I don’t have a whole lot to say on a case by case basis with the recent transactions (and non-transactions). Those being the Inge and Sanchez contracts, the Munson non-tender, and Drew going to LA. Well, actually I have quite a bit to say. Unfortunately I don’t have the time or energy to address it prior to Christmas. So I just want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

The Tender deadline, Derek Lowe, and Just a Little more Beltre

Today is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to players with less than six years of of service. Players that are arbitration eligible, who aren’t tendered contracts are then able to sign with other teams. To be arbitration eligble a player needs between 3 and six years of big league service time, or be in the top sixth of players with 2+ years of service (super 2’s). For the Tigers, those players are Alex Sanchez, Brandon Inge, and Carlos Pena.

John Lowe reports today that the Tigers are expected to tender a contract to Alex Sanchez. However, the chances of Sanchez playing for the Tigers remain small. By offering a contract, it allows the Tigers more time to try and trade Sanchez. It also provides an insurance policy in caae the Tigers can’t find another centerfielder via free agency or trade, and it keeps them from having to rush Curtis Granderson. Fortunately, the contract doesn’t become guaranteed until the start of the season. So the Tigers can cut him during spring training, and only owe him a portion of his salary (30 days of salary if prior to 16 days before start of season, and 45 days of salary if less than 16 days prior to season).

It is expected that Brandon Inge, who right now is slated to be the starting third baseman, and Carlos Pena will be tendered contracts.

Given the Tigers struggles in acquiring free agents, I’m sure they’ll be scanning this new crop of available players to try and find some bargains.

Derek Lowe
Yesterday was the deadline for free agents who had been offered arbitration by their former team to accept arbitration. Derek Lowe was offered arbitration by the Red Sox, and he declined it. Thus ending his career in Boston. This also takes another potential team out of the Derek Lowe sweepstakes which is bad news for the Tigers.

The last thing I’ll write about Beltre
On Friday I lamented the fact that it seemed like the Tigers didn’t pursue Beltre hard enough (if at all). Well it’s a good thing I stuck that paragraph in at the end conceding the fact that I didn’t have access to all the information. Two reports this weekend state that Beltre wasn’t going to leave the west coast.

Gammons reported that the World Series champion Red Sox couldn’t get him either, at least not at less than $14 million per year

The reason the Mariners had to go to $13 million for five years with Adrian Beltre is that that’s where the Red Sox went with Scott Boras. Boston planned to plug the 25-year-old star in at third and go for a cheaper shortstop until Hanley Ramirez is ready, but Beltre preferred the West Coast and wanted $14 million a year over five seasons to go to Boston.

Just think what the Tigers would have had to offer. John Lowe has sources that say the Tigers would have been willing to go even higher:

It is not known how high the Tigers were willing to go for Beltre. One person with knowledge of the Tigers’ thinking said the club would have ultimately offered upwards of $90 million, presumably for six or seven years.

So at least it makes me feel better that the Tigers were in, and in competitively. It doesn’t sound like we had a shot at Beltre, at least not a price that would have still made the signing a positive. It’s one thing to overpay a guy an extra million or two on a two year deal, it’s a whole different thing to be on the hook for an extra $15 million over 5 years. And it seems that even winning teams in warm climates don’t always get their guy either. In Gammons same piece he notes that Koskie took less money to sign with Toronto than what he was offered in LA:

The Dodgers had a pretty good idea they would lose Beltre, as they bid $20 million for Corey Koskie, but the third baseman took $17 million from the Blue Jays.

Free agent frustrations

As I mentioned in my last post, Adrian Beltre is the first guy that I’ve been disappointed in missing. Adding Glaus, Pavano, and Finley would have been a nice boost to the team, but Beltre was the guy I was most excited about.

First of all, for some reason I thought we had a shot at him. Based on all the local specualtion, reports from national media (Gammons, Rosenthal, etc), and my own hopes it seemed plausible. Beltre was looking for a big long term deal, the Tigers had big money to spend (supposedly) and were eager to make a splash. His former team promptly signed an insurance policy (Kent) because they felt he wouldn’t be coming back.

Assuming the Tigers were interested, which is a big assumption, they were only competing with the Mariners’ and the Dodgers. LA was content to let him walk if they thought he got too pricey. That left the Mariners as the main suitor. The same Mariners who finished with 99 losses and 29 games out of first place. The same Mariners’ who play in Safeco which was the worst hitters park in the American League. Ballpark and winning are two of the common reason we hear about players not coming to Detroit. Seattle manages to lose more games, play in a less conducive hitters environment, and they manage to sign two sluggers. If it all comes down to Detroit not being on the west coast, or Detroit being too cold then Detroit is going to be in a world of hurt for a long time.

This leads me to believe that the Tigers weren’t ever in on Beltre. And really, it isn’t the Tigers’ fault that the media may have exagerated their interest. But what I don’t get is why they weren’t interested. Detroit definitely identified third base as an area of need as evidenced by the pursuit of Glaus, Koskie, and Renteria.

It’s the interest in Renteria, and the lack of interest in Beltre that have me most perplexed. Rumors had the Renteria offer at 4 years and $9 million per year. That would mean that Renteria would have been under contract from age 29-32 where players are typically productive but beginning to decline. Also Renteria would have been playing short where you would expect his defense to decline has his range decreases. Beltre with a 5 year contract would have been signed from age 26-30, right during his peak seasons, and a defensive decline playing third at those ages wouldn’t be expected. So over the life of the contract, it seems you’d have better defense on the left side between Beltre and Guillen than Guillen and Renteria.

Offensively, there is reason to be concerned that last year might have been a fluke for Beltre. His slugging percentage of .629 was 154 points higher than his previous season high (.475 in 2002). What seems the most suspicious is that the boost in power came exclusively from home runs. His 48 homers more than doubled any previous season, while his doubles and triples stayed pretty much in line with past performance. Even if last year was a fluke, it isn’t unreasonable for him to continue to improve on his career numbers of 272/334/463 as he moves into his peak seasons. When you compare Beltre’s career numbers to Renteria’s 289/346/400 and take into account that Renteria has most likely played through his peak seasons, Beltre looks better and better. The question then becomes, is Beltre worth another year of risk, and $4 million more per year? I guess that the Tigers decided he wasn’t worth the risk.

In all fairness, I don’t have access to the information that the Tigers do. I think Dombrowski has done a great job so far, and he has a proven track record. I also have no idea what happened as far as what offers were and weren’t made. I can only go by the reports that I read, and I know Dombrowski doesn’t negotiate in the media. I also fully understand setting a limit to what you’ll pay for a player. I love that they walked away from Glaus and Koskie when the price got too high. I don’t want them to sign a player for the sake of signing someone (Derek Lowe). However, I just don’t get the disparity in the perceived interest in Renteria and the lack of interest in Beltre.

Crap

Mariner’s sign Beltre, 5 years at $65 million. This is the first time I’ve really been disappointed by missing out on a free agent this year. I’ll have more tomorrow morning.

Contractually Speaking

A recent article by John Lowe indicated that the Tigers payroll will be in the $60-65 million range next year. It also quoted Dave Dombrowski about how a World Series champion has never had a single player make up more than a sixth of the team’s payroll. This was all leading up to make us believe the Tigers wouldn’t be signing a $10 million player. The problem with the article is that if the Tigers’ payroll max is $60-$65 that would mean that the Tigers essentially have no money to sign any free agents (beyond Percival), despite the fact that they’ve had simuultaneous offers on the table that would total at least $25 million (Pavano/Finley/Glaus).

With all this payroll confusion I thought it would be worthwhile to take another look at how the Tigers’ payroll looks for this year. I’ve sketched it out to the best of my ability in the table below using data from Dugout Dollars.

The hard numbers are the $49 million for players currently under contract, and the half a million in option buyouts. For the guys with less than 3 years of service, they can be renewed at a price not less than 80% of what they made last year. I took my best guess at the marginal raises these players would receive. In Munson’s case, I took 80% of his salary from last year. I also had to guess on what the roster composition would actually be. Although, that guessing should have minimal impact because as it stands now, even if I’m wrong on a fringe guy, the replacement salary would be comparable. The one exception would be Munson who could very well be non-tendered.

The area I didn’t venture a guess is the arbitration eligible players. I’m sure that Inge and Pena will be tendered contracts. Pena is represented by Scott Boras, and they haven’t been able to come to an agreement the last two years, with the Tigers just renewing his contract. This year it wouldn’t surprise me if the Tigers again failed to come to an agreement and went to arbitration for a one year deal.

It would stun me if Alex Sanchez was tendered a contract. He is a fast guy with a bad hamstring. He’s a poor fielder with no arm. He’s a .300 hitter, but he finished last year with more caught stealings than walks.

With the $49 million in contracts and buyouts, another $4-$5 million in non-arbitration players, and probably $3 million or so for arbitration eligble players leaves the Tigers with a payroll of approximately of $57 million. According to the $60-65 that leaves the Tigers room to sign maybe one mid level guy. Even if they trade Urbina, they’ll probably be getting comparable salary in return so there won’t be any help there (plus given the market, Urbina at $4 million doesn’t seem so bad). That’s why I don’t believe the cap figure that Lowe published, especially given the offers that the Tigers have made.

One other thing of note is that the Tigers only have 3 players under contract for 2006-Percival, Guillen, and Rodriguez. This should give them quite a bit of flexibility and it also leads me to believe they won’t be afraid to offer a big, long term contract. However, a big chunk of money will be going to Bonderman who will be arbitration eligible in 2006.

UPDATE: I messed up when I first posted this and included Maroth as arbitration eligible, which I’ve since fixed.


Other notes
: The Tigers missed on Renteria. I was never a big proponent of that move anyways. I appreciate the thinking by Dombrowski as an alternative to finding a 3rd baseman, I just didn’t like the contract. Now hopefully the Tigers can miss on Derek Lowe also.

Also, December 20th is the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to non-free agents, so we’ll find out real soon if Munson and Sanchez will be with the Tigers next year. There could also be some cheaper alternatives for the Tigers hitting the market at that time.

The not so hot stove

The Tigers have really tried to be active this offseason. They’ve made competitive offers, if the reports have been true, to a number of guys. But although they’ve competed, they just haven’t come out on top. Sounds a lot like the Lions doesn’t it? However, even with missing on Glaus, Finley, Koskie, and Pavano the team isn’t in a bad position yet. Let’s go player by player and look at what’s been happening.

Carl Pavano
The Tigers really, really wanted Pavano. It sounds like they even offered a 5th year, and comparable money to what Pavano signed for with the Yankees. The thing with Pavano, is that he has been an average pitcher until last year. And his peripheral stats didn’t really improve that much. There is a good chance that last year could have been a fluke. While I would have been excited to see him come to Detroit, it isn’t the end of the world. What becomes more interesting is the fallback plan which brings us to…

Derek Lowe
It sounds like the Tigers are the only team interested in Lowe. What’s troubling is that I can’t figure out why the Tigers are even interested. A two year $10 million dollar contract would be palatable, but he’ll probably get something in the neighborhood of 3/21 that all the other mediocre pitchers are getting. My question is who gets bumped from the rotation and why? Here are the numbers for the Tigers starters (I stuck Ledezma in there because he’s slated to be the 5th guy right now) from last year and Lowe:

Player	        Age	 IP	 ERA	H/9	BB/9	K/9
Maroth 27 217.3 4.31 10.1 2.4 4.5
Bonderman 22 184 4.89 8.2 3.6 8.2
Ledezma 23 41.3 3.92 8.6 2.9 5.0
Johnson 31 196.7 5.13 10.2 2.8 5.7
Robertson 27 190.7 5.05 9.8 2.9 6.9

Lowe 31 182.7 5.42 11.0 3.5 5.2

Maybe you could make a case for taking Johnson out, but you only owe him $3 million for one more year. Lowe would come with more years and twice the dollars. I just don’t get it. Now it’s rumored that the Tigers are also interested in…

Odalis Perez
Now here is somebody I would wholeheartedly support, even at the 3/21 contract. These numbers are much more impressive than what Lowe would bring.

Player	Age	IP	ERA	H/9	BB/9	K/9
Perez 27 196.3 3.25 8.3 2.0 5.9

Now Perez’s K rate dropped from his career average of 6.5 last year. Hopefully it is an anomaly and not the beginning of a trend. That being said, Perez would be moving from one pitchers park to another so the number shouldn’t explode for him. Even taking into account facing a DH instead of a pitcher, an ERA around 4.00 is still plausible and an improvement for the Tigers. The tricky thing becomes how many lefthanders do you want in the rotation? Maroth would probably be traded, or Robertson/Ledezma moved to the pen (which would bolster the pen as well).

Unfortunately with Pedro likely to sign with the Mets, Perez will be a target for Boston as well. Boston is also reported to be interested in Clement. Strangely the Tigers don’t seem to have an interest in Clement, and it sounds like he is going to Anaheim.

So those are the top pitching targets, but what about fixing centerfield with…

J.D. Drew
The Tigers seem to be in serious contention for Drew. Playing his first injury free season, Drew put up big numbers for the Braves last year. He hit .304/.436/.569 with 31 home runs. Drew has the bat and glove to play either in center or at the corner outfield positions. This makes for some nice flexiblity and gives Curtis Granderson one more year to develop. The only knock on Drew is that he’s 29 and has only played 135 games in a season 3 times. Four years and forty would be a risk, but much less of a risk than 7 and 90 or whatever Beltran’s price will be.

Now to fix the infield the Tigers had been looking at…

Corey Koskie and Troy Glaus
With Troy Glaus, there is no way the Tigers should have tried to match/beat the 4/45 that Glaus got from Arizona. On the other hand Koskie would have been a nice addition at $6 million per year. While I initially balked at that cost, it seems affordable given where the market is going.

One third baseman that hasn’t signed yet is…

Adrian Beltre
The Dodgers and Mariners seem to be serious suitors for Beltre, and I hope the Tigers are in there as well. With the Dogers, it sounds like they maybe ready to let him go, as evidenced by LA’s signing of Kent and interest in Koskie. It seems like the M’s, Dodgers, and Tigers are the teams really trying to get a third baseman. I wouldn’t be afraid to offer 5/60 to get Beltre. Any player that can put up the numbers he did at 25, and play good defense is worth the risk.

But if the Tigers can’t get a third baseman they could always move Guillen to third to make room for…

Edgar Renteria
I don’t like this. I like the idea of finding an alternative to finding a free agent 3B, but I don’t like Renteria at his price (4/36). While Renteria has won 2 gold gloves, you should never judge a player based on gold gloves. Guillen was a better fielder at short last year than Renteria. If Renteria can hit like he did in 2002-2003 that would be great. However, his numbers last year weren’t overwhelming (.287/.327/.401) and certainly wouldn’t warrant $9 million a year.

UPDATE: Just to further illustrate, Renteria’s VORP last year was 27.3. Brandon Inge’s was 23.3. That’s quite the marginal upgrade for a $36 million commitment. Now Renteria has had better seasons while that was Inge’s best season. However, given the price disparity I just don’t see how this makes sense.

So while some targets are off the board, the Tigers still have a number of options out there to put together a much improved team.

Waiting…

Yeah, I’ve pretty much just been surfing baseball web sites today hoping to see that the Tigers have snagged someone. So far, nothing.

In the meantime, over at the Hardball Times they’ve had a couple guest columnists the last couple days. Yesterday it was Bill James. Today it is rising superstar Brian of Tigerblog fame writing about the history of the Expos. Nice job Brian.

The free agent pool is getting shallower

Several of the players the Tigers have expressed interest in have signed, or are on the cusp of signing with other teams.

Jeff Kent signed a two year deal with the Dodgers. Troy Glaus signed a 4 year, $45 million deal with Arizona. And Steve Finley appears ready to sign a two year deal with California.

While I don’t think the Tigers were chasing Kent that hard, all reports indicated that they were agressively pursuing Finley and Glaus. The money Finley is signing for is comparable to what the Tigers reportedly offered. The Glaus contract seems to be on the high side given Glaus’ recent injuries. If Glaus can return to his previous form, and play 3rd base then it seems to be a fair price. However, if his shoulder isn’t fully repaired and he has to play first base. In any case, it would have been nice to add any of these bats to the Tigers’ lineup.

While some of the bigger names are still out there, and the Tigers have been linked with those names (Beltre, Beltran, Pavano) getting those guys will be difficult. It sounds like Pavano is leaning towards Boston or New York. However, the Tigers still have an outside shot at the Belt-boys. If Beltran’s 10 year demand manages to scare enough people off, he may be available late like Pudge was last year. As for Beltre, Frank McCourt’s heavy borrowing may make it difficult to spend like a big market club. When he bought the Dodgers, he financed pretty much all of it. A big chunk of it is a personal $145 million loan from Fox Corp that is due in 2006.

Hopefully the Tigers will still be able to make some headlines during the winter meetings.

The Tigers changing FA landscape

With yesterday’s deadline to offer free agents arbitration, the free agent landscape takes an interesting turn. Two of the Tigers’ potential targets, Troy Glaus and Steve Finley were not offered arbitration by their respective clubs. Conversely, 5 other players the Tigers have been linked with were offered arbitration. Derek Lowe, Carl Pavano, Matt Clement, Edgar Renteria, and Adrian Beltre were all offered arbitration by their former clubs.

So why is this arbitration thing significant? If a player has more than 6 years of major league service, and aren’t under a long term contract, they can declare for free agency. The club then has essentially 3 options, sign a player to a contract, offer the player the opportunity for salary arbitration, or decline to offer the player arbitration.

Signing a player to a contract is pretty obvious, they sign a player to a contract and the player is no longer a free agent.

If they offer a player arbitration, the player then has the option to accept or decline the arbitraiton (this year’s deadline for players to make a decision is Dec. 19). In arbitration, both the player and club submit terms for a one year contract, and the case is then schedule to be heard by an arbitrator, who will decide the player’s salary. In the meantime, both sides can continue to negotiate. Often times even after agreeing to arbitration, an agreement is reached prior to the hearing. The advantage for the club of offering arbitration is that depending on how good the player is, if they sign with another team, the original team get compensatory draft picks. The risk is that the player will accept the opportunity for arbitration, and the team could be stuck paying the player more than they wanted to, plus not have any draft picks.

The team’s third option, not offering arbitration, essentially severs the original clubs relationship with the player. They can’t negotiate with the player until May 1 of the following year. Also the former team receives no draft pick compensation when the player sings elsewhere.

For the Tigers, it means some players become a little more attractive and a little more available (Glaus and Finley) because signing them would require no draft pick compensation, and the former teams are no longer in the running to sign them. On the other hand, a couple other targets become harder to sign, and have a higher cost. With Pavano and Beltre, I’m not worried about the loss of picks. However Lowe, who isn’t that attractive a catch anyways, becomes even less desirable.

The Tigers themselves declined to offer arbitration to their two free agents, Al Levine and Esteban Yan. Yan had some value at some times, and a one year deal wouldn’t have been all bad, but it appears that Yan was seeking multiple years. Levine pitched horribly for the bulk of the year, but he was actually adequate at the end. However, the Tigers aren’t really losing anything here.

Brad Radke, another potential target, is now off the market. He signed a two year $18 million (terms are speculated) deal with the Twins. The Twins also offered Corey Koskie arbitration. Twinsgeek is excited about both moves because it looks like the Twins historically tight budget might expand a little bit this year.

As for the Steve Finley rumors of a 2 year , $16 million contract? I’ll delve into that in another post. I’ve written enough here already.

Pavano, a closer look

With Carl Pavano’s recent free agent tour stop in Detroit and the rumors and denials of a contract worth $40 million and 4 years I thought I’d take a closer look at what Pavano could bring to the Tigers.

The positives
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Carl Pavano. Last year is being dubbed as his break out season. He compiled an 18-8 record with a 3.00 ERA. He allowed only 49 walks, 13 of which were intentional, in 222 innings.

Pavano is also an extremely efficient pitcher. In addition to the low walk rate, he ranked 3rd in the NL in pitches per inning pitched with 14.2. This efficiency means that Pavano average start lasted into the 8th inning. That would definitely help from exposing the Tigers bullpen (which will be better this year). Pavano’s pitching style seems to mesh well with Bob Cluck’s philosophy of getting guys out in as few pitches as possible.

Pavano also had a low home run rate of .6 dingers per 9 IP. While his fielding independent pitching ERA gets knocked down to 3.56, it is still impressive. Combined with the fact that he is only 28 and hitting his peak seasons, locking him up for the next 3-4 years might not be a bad idea.

The negatives(?)
These aren’t necessarily negatives, but for the sake of consistency and symmetry this section will be dubbed as negatives. These are just some reasons why Pavano could be a dangerous signing.

The first thing to point to is the strikeout rate. The last 3 seasons Pavano’s k-rate has been 5.6, 5.6, 5.2. It’s far from a Cornejo type rate, however it’s not the type of dominance you would expect from a $10 million a year investment. Pavano’s less than average strikeout rate wasn’t as much of a problem with Florida’s solid defense last year. Florida’s rate of turning balls in play into outs was .7033 as opposed to the Tigers’ .6859. Pavano allowed 694 balls in play, and with the Tigers defense of last year, that would have resulted in an additional 12 hits. That alone isn’t too bad, but Pavano won’t have the benefit of facing pitchers 3 times a game. That means more tough outs (and probably a lower strikeout rate as well).

The other thing to be concerned about is that the Pavano would be switching leagues, which means a lack of familiarity with the hitters. However, the impact should be mitigated because he’ll have a catcher that he’s comfortable with that knows the AL. I know that the impact of a catcher on a pitcher’s performance is still up for debate, but I’m in the camp that a catcher can boost a pitcher.

Conclusion
Even if Pavano doesn’t perform as well as he did last year, he will still be an upgrade to the pitching staff. The thing is whether he’s worth $10 million a year, and there are two ways to look at that. I’m not sure whether his performance will be worth the money. However, given what other players are signing for this offseason, a 3-4 year contract between $30-40 million seems reasonable.

I still like the Matt Clement option, and you could always argue that some comparable players could be had in January for less money. However, the Tigers aren’t looking to be bargain shoppers this year. So as long as the money going to Pavano wouldn’t prevent the Tigers from still going after a big bat, I have to hope that Pavano will end up here.