The Tigers make 2 moves, and my internet connection flakes out that night. As such, I’ll just wrap the analysis into one post. Before getting into the individual evaluations I wanted to note that with the Todd Jones signing, the Tigers payroll has eclipsed the $100 million mark. I have it pegged at $102 right now (not counting the relief the Cubs are sending in the Jacque Jones deal.
I can definitely see some merit in this signing. It’s a one year deal and at $7 million it is certainly palatable – even if it’s over market value. With a healthy Zumaya, this deal makes all kinds of sense. The veteran comes back for one more year to help transition to the young gun. Trouble is, we don’t know now if that gun will be firing bullets or blanks or anything.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding Zumaya, I feel the Tigers should have gone after Francisco Cordero. The Tigers very well may end up in a situation where they will be looking for a free agent closer next year anyways if Zumaya can’t comeback or isn’t ready to assume closing responsibilities. In a year that the Tigers were clearly in “go for it” mode, getting a top shelf closer would have fit the bill. If Zumaya does come back, you have a pretty solid bullpen – especially as Fernando Rodney becomes a free agent in 2010.
Bill James projects Cordero to throw 61 innings with a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 3.15. Assuming a league average FIP of 4.43 that would make Cordero worth about one more win than Todd Jones. Jones projects to a 3.77 FIP.
Still, Cordero isn’t a sure thing. He had a bad year in 2006 when he blew 11 saves. It’s probably an anomaly, but it’s out there. Also, Cordero would have wanted to come to the Tigers. It isn’t the laughable proposition it was 3 years ago, but there are no guarantees.
There is value in the Tigers moving quickly to fill a need. Plus Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland have a penchant for the familiar making them comfortable with Todd Jones. As for the $7 million, the Tigers probably overpaid. Jones is about one win above replacement level. Assuming a win in the free agent market is worth $4.4 million then Jones salary should be about $4.8 million (you need to add the major league minimum to the base).
As long as Todd Jones can continue to keep his slugging against south of .400, and if he can limit the walks, the should be okay in 2008.
My initial reaction to this trade was that I liked it, and that has held up over the last day. I like Infante, and at age 25 there is a still a chance he could be a productive major league player. But it was clear that isn’t wasn’t going to happen for him here in Detroit. Plus he’ll be in his second year of arbitration. Plus, the Tigers have a couple players who could fill the utility role for cheap. So even though Infante may have some value to some club, he didn’t have a lot of value to the Tigers. That they got a real major leaguer in return is a coup.
That major leaguer of course is Jacque Jones. The stuff to like about Jones is that he is a solid defender who can play all 3 outfield positions. But his arm has him better suited to center of left. He’s also left handed, which is helpful for the Tigers.
If the Tigers deploy him as part of a platoon, they have the makings of an acceptable offensive outfield. Jones against righties has hit 294/342/483. Meanwhile Marcus Thames against lefties is 263/333/512. For a total cost of $5 million or so a combined 280/335/490 line would fit nicely in this lineup.
The concern with Jones of course is that his slugging fell off the map last year when he only hit 5 homers. It was a Sean Casey-ish year, but it wasn’t nearly as conspicuous as he played a large chunk in centerfield. Whether it was an anomaly or aging remains to be seen. It’s also worth noting that Jones posted the best walk to strikeout ratio of his career last year. For what it’s worth James projects a 278/332/433 line but without facing lefties he has a chance to better that.
So I give the trade a thumbs up. Still, I’ll miss Infante’s salsa at-bat music this season.