To Pudge or not to Pudge

One of the Tigers biggest decisions this off season will be whether or not to exercise Pudge Rodriguez’s $13 million option.  The net cost to the Tigers is $10 million because there is a $3 million buyout.  But be it $10 million or $13 million there is no way that Rodriguez will be “worth” what he is owed.  Still I think exercising the option is something the Tigers should do.

Rodriguez has caught over 2000 games, and is in a well expected decline phase of his career.  Next year he’ll be 36 and there’s no reason to believe things will be better.  His slugging percentage has declined each of the last 4 years and the .420 slugging he posted this year was the lowest since 1993.

But his slugging is the acceptable part of his offensive stat line.  For the second time in the last 3 years he finished with a sub .300 on base percentage.  He’s drawn a whopping 46 walks the last 3 years combined.

And then there is his defense.  Rodriguez is much heralded for his ability to shut down the running game, and it has been largely deserved up until this year.  However his caught stealing rate fell to 29% this year which was the lowest of his career.  He also had trouble blocking balls as he allowed .510 passed balls and wild pitches to get by him per game.

Okay, so I haven’t painted a compelling reason to bring him back.  But it really comes down to a matter of if not Pudge, then who?  The free agent class includes the likes of Jason Kendall and Michael Barrett.    Two of the bigger names are Paul Lo Duca and Jorge Posada, but both are the same age as Rodriguez which is a dangerous age for a catcher.

Rodriguez’s offensive numbers were bad, and I don’t really look for them to get better.  I’d expect a few more walks and a slightly better OBP next year, but I also expect the slugging to continue to drop.  But even with the decline he’s still better than Lo Duca who had a .690 OPS this year.

As for the defense, Rodriguez was still above average at throwing out baserunners and ranked 5th among all starting catchers.  While his kills were down, it was in a year when stolen base percentage reached an all time high of 74.6%.  Plus throw in the deterrent that his reputation is and he had the 4th fewest attempts per game against him.  And it was still superior to Lo Duca’s 19% or Posada’s 22%.

As for the passed balls and wild pitches, he does rank 3rd from the bottom.  He does rank ahead of Posada and he’s 2 spots behind A.J. Pierzynski who just received a 2 year extension that will pay him $6.25 million in 2009 and 2010. 

Out of all the options, Rodriguez’s might be the most palatable.  Upgrading the position is going to be difficult at best and could prove to be impossible.  I’m not going to say that Rodriguez won’t be overpaid if he comes back, but do you overpay for 1 year of Pudge or 3 to 4 years of another mediocre catcher?

Danny Knobler is saying that the Tigers are likely to turn down the option I don’t know if he is reporting or opining, but his information is usually pretty good.  If that’s the case I’d hope that the Tigers look to bring back Pudge for not one, but two more years at a discounted per year rate.

Tigers unlikely to bring back Pudge – Detroit Tigers
THT Catching – Major League Baseball Statistics


  1. Greg- other Greg

    October 1, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Sort of agree about Pudge, seems like a catch 22, I could live with his shortcomings if he just stopped swinging at so many pitches waaaay out of the strike zone and just take a walk once in a while.

    What about Dave Ross, does anyone know if he’s a free agent? I don’t know how attached the Reds are to him, but he’s very good defensively, calls a good game, and can do a lot better offensively than he showed this year. He only hit .203 and slugged 17 HR’s. But part of that had to do with injury, and hitting in front of the pitcher all the time. He rarely saw anything over the plate with the pitcher on deck. in 2006 he hit 21 HR’s, had a .255 BA and a .353 OBP/ .579 slg.

    He’ll be 31 next year and can probably be had for 1-1.5 mil a year.

    Billfer, do you know anyone that provides ‘pitch per plate appearance’stats? One problem with Pudge’s free swinging ways, is the Tigers left the opposing starting pitcher in way too long with low pitch counts. It would be nice to see a PPPA(pitch per plate appearance) stat to compare payers as one of the elements in analysis. It all adds up.

  2. Jim

    October 1, 2007 at 8:21 am

    How about trying to get Texas catcher Saltaamachia (spelling) ? Would Texas part with him and is he any good defensively?

  3. BobS.

    October 1, 2007 at 9:23 am

    I doubt that Saltalamacchia would come cheap inasmuch as he was the key to the Braves getting Teixeira from the Rangers.
    I think letting Rodriquez go would guarantee a better performance from him for whoever he signed with.My own feeling is that,for all his faults (especially his inability to take 4 pitches outside the strike zone),the Tigers should show some loyalty to the guy who made Detroit an acceptable free agent alternative.

  4. Anthony L.

    October 1, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I totally agree with Billfer and Bob. Pudge is a big part of the reason we are where we are. He more or less helped to jump start the team again. loyalty should play a part in this. I don’t think Mike or Dave will have forgotten about this.

    I still think he will be staying. You’d have to think if Billfer knows who is available out there then Illich and Dombrowski does. It’s not a head turning list of guys, that’s for sure.

  5. Rings

    October 1, 2007 at 10:09 am

    I think most people agree with your assessment, Bilfer. The one complaint I have is that JL continues to put Pudge in the middle of the lineup.
    If he returns, it’s time for him to settle in to the #8 or #9 hole, depending on who’s at short (and third? – if Inge is part of a trade) next year.

  6. linbus54

    October 1, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Admit it!! Pudge owns this team’s success. If it weren’t for him taking a chance and coming to Detroit, we wouldn’t have all the other great players we have. PUDGE BETTER STAY!!!!!!!!!

  7. Scott

    October 1, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Despite what Knobler reported, I think the Tigers will keep Pudge. I think both sides are going to have to give some, however. Pudge has to realize that $13 million is way above his market value. I think a 2-year deal for 14-16 million would be more reasonable. At this stage of his career, Pudge shouldn’t be looking just at $$$$$. Unless he has completely mismanaged his money, he should be all set for the rest of his life anyway. With a decent off-season, the Tigers have as much chance as anyone of getting to the World Series next year.

  8. Steve in Kzoo

    October 1, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I agree with you BobS,

    Saltalamacchia will come at a high price probably 3 top prospects( most likely Maybin/Miller, Jurrjens, Tata/Vazquez). That is the best scenario. I love Salty, Being a Braves fan as well as a Tigers fan, I even thought the Braves would try a trade with us this off season for Salty for a pitcher because they need pitching we need a young good talented catcher. Well the trade with Texas ended that dream. Anyways it might be plausable if it were just two prospects maybe(Jurrjens, Tata) or maybe just Miller/Maybin straight up for Salty).

    Pudge doesn’t deserve a 13 million dollar option but rather an extension of 14-17 million for 2 years. Scott Boras likes the Organization and Pudge loves Det. We need him even if we have to do a 13 million option. We don’t have another option period. There is no supply of young talented Catchers(excluding Salty) right now. We need Pudge and maybe see wat ’09 FA holds.

  9. Eric Cioe

    October 1, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Why would you trade two of the Tigers’ best pitching prospects (Jurrjens and Miller) and Maybin, who everyone wanted in trade, to get a catcher? Seems like we’d be getting the short end of that stick.

    Plus, if Kenny doesn’t come back next year, you’re going to see at least Miller or Jurrjens in the rotation, and probably both.

  10. crunruh

    October 1, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    I would be happy if Inge was willing to move back behind the plate. I thought he was Pudge’s peer defensively when Pudge came over.

  11. Steve in Kzoo

    October 1, 2007 at 4:00 pm


    I was only speculating on things. Of course one unproven player is not worth that much but just getting the ideas rolling off of peoples backs. Also who would we get a platoon of Rebelo/Wilson don’t make me laugh. Thought they are both great backups it would be a great decrease in offense. Consider Pudge’s .275/12hr/60rbi’s. now the platoon total next yea would be .230-.240/5-9hrs/30-50rbis’s. Not good at all. not to mention we’d miss some of the timely hitting that Pudge had at certain times this year. Compared to hardly any clutch hitting on the part of Wilson/Rebelo platoon. Its just not good to shove Pudge off the plate just yet. We must do something to keep him for at least a year and see what the’09 FA gives us.

  12. Mat

    October 1, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    I think the biggest hit related to letting pudge go would be in the perception of his teammates that the team isnt doing everything to win. Pudge may be on the decline, but he still has a lot of good qualities especially on D and an OK bat. He may be overpriced but he is still good. He has earned a reputation as an elite player and clearly gives the team some credibility and respect that they would otherwise lack, even if he isn’t technically performing as an elite any longer. Without him, Guillen and Ordonez and probably a number of other players will be greatly disappointed unless the $10M is spent to bring in another huge name. It probably doesn’t make or break the decision for DD, but it should factor in a little bit. Overpaying Pudge by 2 or 3 million for one year is far better than the alternative. If they can get him to take less, great, but it seems unlikely Pudge would swallow his pride like that.

  13. don

    October 1, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    There are a few different dynamics here, I think it helps to sort them out:
    (1) “Loyalty.” People argue that pudge (or p-rod, as I call him, as in “be right back, have to go drain the ol’ p-rod), deserves to have his option picked up because he came in here when nobody else would and helped make the franchise a respectable destination for guys like rogers, maggs, polanco and guillen. Sure, but the other side of that is pudge was a 32 year old catcher with back problems and a lot of miles on him, and we gave him an **** of money to come here. Maybe pudge should show his loyalty and come back for what he’s worth (5-6 mil or 10/2). This one runs both ways, fellas.
    (2) Is pudge worth $13 Mil? Of course not, not even close. His offense is at or below average for a catcher, his defense has come down to around average. He’s not getting any younger, his knees/back will keep getting worse. But then he gets points for being a leader on the team, a favorite of casual fans, his future-HOFer credentials and all that, so bump him up some. But still, the wild flailing at sliders, the GIDP, the obvious decline in bat speed…
    (3) So who else then? Uh, nobody, really. kendall, barrett, loduca? No thanks. Vance wilson, mike rabelo? Not full time options. We’ll absolutely never never never see inge behind the plate again (friggin neifi was our emergency backstop this year). What about kenji johjima at seattle, they have stud-prospect catcher jeff clement coming up next year and still have johjima, so there’s that, and we have some decent youngish pitching to deal. But decent catchers are pretty hard to come by these days, even in the minors: http://www.baseballprospectus......cleid=6467
    (4) So what? I really hope, and I’m not a pudge fan, we can maybe work out a new contract for something like 2 years for 16 mil or something – it’s more than he’d get as an FA (probably) and it’s only 3 mil more than our option on him, making it more worth it for us if he plays 240 games over the next two years. The other options are just not really feasible.

  14. Jim

    October 1, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Just so everyone knows, that is not me looking to get Salty. I know that won’t happen.

  15. Brian Dukeman

    October 1, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    I don’t usually post. But I think the Tigers should exercise their option on Pudge. I know 13 million is a lot for an aging catcher on the downside of his career, but, he has experience. He still calls good ball games. He still knows the pitching staff, even it was held together by duck tape and wire, but considering he has done a good job. Also, Rabelo would benefit the most from it. I think doing is doing both the present and the future a favor. Also, remember the Tigers took a risk signing him, which did payoff in two seasons above .500 and a pennant. Just some thoughts from a non poster.

  16. Mike R

    October 1, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Loyalty shouldn’t play a role in this at all. Loyalty generally leads to bad business and Ivan Rodriguez for $10 million next year is bad business no matter how you slice it. If he’s willing to get bought out and resign for say, $4-5 million then I can swallow that pill a little easier. Otherwise, there are catchers we can get to offer a sub .300 OBP, and near a .400 slugging for half the cost of I-Rod.

  17. Kathy

    October 1, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    No Pudge? No Jonsey either. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone else but Pudge catching for Jones to close a game.

  18. Eric Cioe

    October 1, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    You can’t imagine Jones not closing a ballgame for the Tigers? I can. Maybe my fingernails will get a chance to grow next season.

    If Zumaya can get better control, he’ll be great to close. If he needs another year as a setup guy, then put Rodney in.

    I think the best thing for the back end of this bullpen (eventually) is to have Zumaya close, with Rodney and Seay setting the table.

  19. Mike R

    October 1, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    Disagree whole-heartedly. You can be fine with a non-dominating closer stuff-wise. Jones coming back for another year and leaving Rodney/Zumaya in the 7th/8th innings where there’s a ton more opportunities in which their skills are utilized the best, is far more important then locking down that 9th inning.

  20. Mark P.

    October 1, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Mike R – I couldn’t agree more. The 7th and 8th inning are the most important innings in baseball. I want my two best relievers pitching those innings. I am not saying that we need to resign Jones, though I would not mind it. I would rather have Zumaya in 7th and 8th next year than closing. How many 8th innings games did we lose this year?

    I agree with Bilfer about picking up the option for Pudge. Who else is out there? How many trades can DD pull off (C & SS)?

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