The Coda

Wrapping up some outstanding items from what very well could be one of the most significant trades in franchise history…

Replenishment

Peter Gammons astutely pointed out that the Tigers were able to make this trade because of Ilitch’s and Dombrowski’s refusal to adhere to the asinine draft slotting system. Not only did a willingness to pay above slot money directly allow for the acquisition of main trade chits Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, it also meant that a this type of aggressiveness meant that the Tigers cupboard – while depleted – isn’t bare.

Many of the Tigers new top prospects are the product of slot-buster signings in the most recent draft. Headlined by Rick Porcello, the group also includes Cale Iorg and Casey Crosby among others.

The question then becomes how long can this remain an advantage for the Tigers? Surely other organizations have taken notice of the Tigers strategy, and it’s not that different than what other big market clubs have done. While some teams will still religiously adhere to the slotting system, I have to believe that more teams adopt a more aggressive stance on acquiring top shelf talent early on.

Will the Tigers be able to reload quickly by just outspending on the draft? I don’t mean to minimize the work that David Chadd and his scouts do, because it is easy to make bad decisions with big piles of money. But when you’re willing to spend what it takes to get Maybins and Millers and Porcellos, it certainly improves your chances for success.

On the defensive

I just wanted to do a quick follow up on the value of Cabrera’s defense. It was a hot topic here on Friday and commentor Ryan S pointed out that PMR thought Cabrera was okay in 2006. I should have looked at more than one year of data, and in my haste I got a little sloppy. In terms of run value PMR had Cabrera at +5.2 runs in 2006 at the hot corner. Perhaps Cabrera isn’t awful, and simply underperformed in 2007 due to his weight gain, or the crappy Florida environment.

Taking it a little further I also looked at UZR numbers for Cabrera. In 2006 he rated -14 runs per 150 games. That happened to be the worst rating for third baseman who played at least 120 games. In 2007 UZR rated Cabrera as the worst third baseman in the National League at -28 runs while Brandon Inge ranked tops in the AL at +12.

As for his outfield prowess, he was merely below average in UZR splitting time between left and right field in 2004, but was -21 runs per 150 games while manning left in 2005.

Inge’ing away

But as I suspected even before I wrote the post, Inge won’t be playing third base for the Tigers. The high socks will be of a different color in 2007 as Inge has requested to be traded. I understand Inge’s desire to still be a starter, but I have to wonder if it’s in his best interest. He was mighty peeved when he got bumped from his starting catcher role in 2004, but that seemed to work out pretty good for him.

But given his 2007 offensive season, and his remaining contract, there doesn’t appear to be much of a market for Inge. Bless You Boys takes a look at several possible destinations.

Historical Context

Detroit Tiger Tales takes a look at Cabrera’s offense and puts in the context of Tigers history. If Cabrera can do for the Tigers what he has done for the Marlins, his OPS numbers will rank behind only Cobb, Greenberg, Heilman, and Crawford.

The Dombrowski factor

The praise for Dombrowski has been effusive to say the least, and deservedly so. As I’ve mentioned here before, I wrote a piece about Dombrowski for this year’s Hardball Times Annual (shipping now! get it in time for the holidays! please buy the book!). While I wrote the thing in September, it seems so dated given the flurry of activity this off season. But at least some of the main points of the article still hold true – so I got lucky that Dombrowski didn’t change his methodology.

I bring this up because Eric bought the book and read the article and had some comments on it worth checking out.

But mostly I bring up Dombrowski in this post so I can reference a certain article written by Rob Parker in February 2006. I’d link to the article, but it’s gone from the News site (I’m not implying anything – just that you have to pay to see it now), and the cached version in google has even been removed. So I thought it was worth the $3 to buy it from the archives for entertainment purposes. I won’t reproduce the whole thing to avoid any legal issues, but I will quote the beginning of the article:

The worst general manager in Detroit?

It’s not who you think.

Sure, Matt Millen, president of the Lions, has tried to grab the title. His 21-59 record in five seasons is horrendous.

But realistically, it’s got to be Dave Dombrowski of the Tigers.

Why?

At least Millen has an excuse. He had no experience when he was hired to lead the Lions.

Dombrowski has been at this gig for a while — initially with Montreal in 1988, then in Florida in 1993 and with Detroit in 2003.

And he still can’t get it right.

36 Comments

  1. Mark

    December 9, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Ouch…Rob Parker should stick to arguing with people on TV…at least there no one cares if he’s wrong.

  2. Dave

    December 9, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    “Perhaps Cabrera isn’t awful, and simply underperformed in 2007 due to his weight gain, or the crappy Florida environment.”

    The latter part could actually be very relevant – as any Marlins fan can tell you (I swear, there’s one or two of us), the combination of Florida weather with Dolphin Stadium creates possibly the worst environment ever devised for baseball.

  3. Walt

    December 9, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Cabrera seems to be a smart ball player. From what I have read, Cabrera is committed to becoming the superstar that he has the potential to become. The weight loss should help and I think that Belliard may be able to straighten him out defensively. I would not be surprised to see Miguel improve to mediocre defensively this year. Maybe he take a cue from Braun and take a 100 ground balls a day during the offseason.

  4. Jonathon

    December 9, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Is there anyone that does take Rob Parker seriously anymore?

  5. Rings

    December 9, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the good work, Bilfer. I’d seen a couple of these links, but not all and it’s always good to point out the clueless Rob Parker, who is always reactionary and worthless.

  6. Adam

    December 9, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    YAY NEW POST!

  7. Lee Panas

    December 9, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    Cabrera’s Fielding Bible plus/minus was -13 in 2006. He was also in the bottom five for Revised Zone Rating. So, the consensus says that he has been bad at 3B for two years. I’m hoping that his training program over the winter will help him.

    Lee

  8. Kyle J

    December 10, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Assuming DD can move him, I wish Inge all the best. But maybe someone can convincne him that getting paid $6 million/year to be the utility guy on a team very likely to contend for a WS title isn’t such a bad thing. With the number of older players in our lineup, I see no reason he couldn’t be in the lineup 3-4 times per week at C/3B/OF–or even 2B/SS.

  9. Pete G.

    December 10, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Cabrera looks like a first basemen down the road. Could Guillen throw more over the top and move to third? First base actually requires more movement than third and Carlos still has the hands for third. Also, still nervous about the “pen”. We may score 6 runs a game, but we must pitch better.

  10. ez

    December 10, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Rob Parker: The Matt Millen of journalists.

    Why bother to comment on him? You have done nothing when you have bested a fool.

  11. Bob H

    December 10, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Much like the Oakland As and Billy Bean, the Tigers and Dave Dombrowski have given their contemporaries a blue print for success that all teams should follow who are not major market teams. Even the major market teams should take notice if they haven’t done so already.

    The key to that strategy, which you allude to, is having a great scouting department and trust in them to make those difficult decisions with the draft. In hindsight, it seems easy to do what the Tigers have done, but we all know it’s certainly not that easy.

    Baseball, more so than just about any other sport, is difficult for scouting and even more difficult to cultivate all that young talent into successful big leaguers.

    Oh, and Parker is a joke, but we’ve known for for a long time. He’s a talented writer, but he just throws too much out for their for discussion instead of writing impactful articles. He writers articles simply for impact.

  12. Brian H

    December 10, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I wish I could find my favorite old Parker column, which I believe ran after the 2003 season. In his view, the keys to returning the Tigers to glory were signing Pokey Reese and Sidney Ponson. I honestly don’t understand how clowns like Parker can spout complete nonsense for years and keep their jobs.

  13. Kurt

    December 10, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I normally skip Parker, as EZ said. But Bilfer’s $3 were well worth it for that excerpt!

  14. Ryan S

    December 10, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Bilfer and Lee – Thanks for looking into more of Cabrera’s past fielding numbers. It looks like ’06 may have been marginally better for him, but he’s still been a pretty dismal fielder.

    Let’s hope these instincts Dave and others of us are having about the bad Florida environment and his physical shape are part of the story. If he can improve to anywhere near average next year, we could still be pretty solid defensively.

  15. Kyle J

    December 10, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I don’t know about Guillen to 3rd. Seems like his arm has been a bigger issue than his range.

  16. linbus54

    December 10, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Inge is being treated like I get treated everyday at work, “NO RESPECT”!!
    I love Inge. I love to watch great defense. Put Cabrera in left. Maybe he could do less damage there. Inge with his defense has saved more runs against than his offense in 2007 didn’t create. What’s more important???

  17. em3

    December 10, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    I hope this trade doesn’t end up like this one below. Maybin will be a star.

    http://mlbfleecefactor.com/200.....ltz-trade/

  18. SJC in Detroit

    December 10, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    em3:

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/m.....alexander/

    I think it is Bilfer himself who has said that it wasn’t trading Smoltz that was the problem, it was not having anything else in the minors beyond him. Hope Tigers are in better shape today.

  19. em3

    December 10, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    True. I just hope Detroit can sign Cabrera long term because Maybin and Miller are both going to be stars.

  20. Walt

    December 10, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    “True. I just hope Detroit can sign Cabrera long term because Maybin and Miller are both going to be stars.”

    Cabrera and Willis are already stars. Being a huge Redwings fan, I think that if Ilitch wants these two long term, he will have them.

    Besides, if Miller and Maybin are stars, they will be too expensive for Florida and be on the market near their primes.

  21. em3

    December 10, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Good point. Florida will probably trade Miller and Maybin in the next three years. They are pathetic.

    PS: I bet Miller wins ROY next year.

  22. Derek

    December 10, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    He isn’t a rookie anymore

  23. Matt in Toledo

    December 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I’ll take that action since he’s not eligible.

    But even if he were, I’d take that wager against the field. Miller has control issues he’s going to need to work through, and I’d bet a fairly large sum they’re not going to get worked out quickly enough for him to put up ROY numbers (if he were eligible).

  24. Mike R

    December 10, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I think the Tigers overpaying system is still one that can be successful since there are a lot of teams that have owners that simply won’t give a high school pitcher the deal we gave Rick Porcello.

    That said, teams like Kansas City and Pittsburgh are possibly on their way to spending more in the draft with their young GM’s Dayton Moore and Neal Huntington.

    To me, I think the slotting system is dumb, but with out-right defiance from the big markets, it’s really hurting baseball, in my opinion since teams like the Pirates and whatnot don’t even hesitate to pass on a guy like Porcello for a bullpen bound arm like Daniel Mosko’s (such a bad pick at that spot). This doesn’t happen in the NHL or football where teams refuse to pony up the cash and I think having a hard cap on draft spending to keep the elite talent at the top of the draft boards going to teams that really need them.

    All that said, I don’t think there’s any reason to not spend a ton in the Draft. Especially when teams like the Pirates trade for aging vets with hefty price tags and little remaining talent like Matt Morris instead of spending that on Rick Porcello. It’s all about investment.

    Oh, and I know being skinny isn’t what makes a great defender, i think Miggy Cabrera’s defense will improve with continuous weight loss. Not like it matters, he’s on his way to 1B/DH anyways sooner rather then later (like when Sheff’s deal is up).

  25. Rings

    December 10, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Knobler addresses many of our discussion points here, including a couple Inge items:

    http://www.mlive.com/tigers/in.....stion.html

  26. David

    December 10, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    When he says Cabrera doesn’t want to play LF where did he get that from?

    I didn’t think anyone was bigger than the team

    I didn’t think Leyland tolerated that when he was in Pittsburgh from Barry or in 2006 or 2007 from anyone

    Why start now?

  27. David

    December 10, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    From what I heard from Cabrera on the interview with Dtrain- he will play wherever the team wants him to.

    I understand it but

    Pudge went to 1st and 2nd so he could play

    Guillen is shifting to 1st

    Shef said he would play anywhere except 1st etc.

    I dont get it

  28. Matt in Toledo

    December 10, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    David

    These guys don’t want to embarrass themselves, and playing positions they’re not comfortable with can lead to that.

    The bigger issue here, you may notice, is nobody wants to move down the defensive spectrum. The more people who can play your position, the less your value is and these guys know that.

    I’m sure some of them actually are team players to some extent, but generally you can look to money for your explanation. And this isn’t me decrying the greed in the game.

    If my boss comes in tomorrow and tells me the city I work for would be better served if I did a job that paid less but I could do a better job at, I’d be looking for another job that evening doing what I want to do for the pay I want.

    (Of course the exception here is Sheffield, who is as far down the defensive spectrum as you can get at DH. However, he has to weigh the years he can play as an every day against the years he can play as a DH and balance those worksheets out against one another.)

  29. Walt

    December 10, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    I have a feeling that Ilitch will be offering Cabrera a large enough contract that I don’t think he will be worried about his leverage and value for his next.

  30. Rings

    December 10, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    I’m sure the Tigers have talked to Cabrera by now and he’s expressed his opinion. Knobler is a beat writer – and one of the better ones, if you ask me – so I’m sure he has had the meaning of their conversations relayed to him, which he is passing on to his readers.

    But, David, be realistic…at this point, your criticism of Cabrera’s “unwillingness to play wherever the team wants” is because of your endless defense of, and advocation for, Brandon Inge to remain the starter. You’re already “mad” at him because he’s replacing your guy, before he’s slipped on the Old English “D.”

    It’s over.

    Inge is done at 3B for Detroit, barring injury. He’s asked to be traded (& you’re already seeing the value that most other teams place on Mr. Inge by the mad rush for his services in the trade market) and the Tigers have said that Miggy will be at 3B – and in my opinion, the team will be better for it.

    Let’s move on.

  31. greg

    December 11, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Well, there is one very realistic scenario where he stays: If nobody wants his enormous contract(I think its enormous in relation to his production…just an opinion, but one that several ‘potential suitors’ share). I’ll be slightly surprised if someone really wants to take it on without the Tigers paying a portion, and I’m just not so sure the Tigers will essentially pay Inge to play somewhere else, just to appease him. I think they’ll want a serviceable MR or a prospect for Inge, and I have trouble seeing that come to pass. But, stranger things have happened. Time will tell.

    Baseball is a business, and if nobody wants Inge, then Inge will just have to suck it up, and ‘suffer’ through getting paid 6 million to play a part time role…..gee, life’s rough isn’t it?

    Paying him to play somewhere is foolhardy, in my opinion. But if someone wants him and his big contract, great, best of luck Brandon.

  32. Mike R

    December 11, 2007 at 1:34 am

    Defensively it’s a big down grade with Miggy at 3rd instead of Inge, but all that said, the offensive upgrade Cabrera brings far outweighs the defensive advantage Inge has.

  33. David

    December 11, 2007 at 2:34 am

    Matt I understand your argument and think it is perfectly valid but it doesn’t, in my mind, apply in this case

    Cabrera
    in the major leagues has started 356 games at 3rd base and 341 in the outfield… Not a major difference

    He obviously has OF experience and wouldn’t embarass himself

    Money you say?

    Hmm… well if ballplayers aren’t satisfied with the enormous sums they already make and want to maxamize their value so be it.

    But, his value comes from his hitting ability not his fielding ability.

    A guy he is often compared to is Manny Ramirez – great hitter crappy fielder who makes $20mil/year

    And even at his age he is still producing probably due to the lessened injury risk of playing OF.

    If he was playing 3rd (boy that’d be real ugly) who knows what kind of offensive #s he would have put up and how healthy he would have stayed.

    Even a guy like Soriano who switched from probably the 2nd rarest hitting positions to OF cashed in for 17mil/year.

    After Arod and Jeter the next 9 highest paid hitters are either OF or 1st basemen

    Manny, Helton, Soriano, Wells, Giambi, Beltran, Griffy Jr., Pujols, Lee

    Rank Player Team Length of Contract Salary
    1 Alex Rodriguez Texas Rangers* 10 years (2001-2010) $252,000,000
    2 Derek Jeter New York Yankees 10 years (2001-2010) $189,000,000
    3 Manny Ramirez Boston Red Sox 8 years (2001-2008) $160,000,000
    4 Todd Helton Colorado Rockies 11 years (2001-2011) $141,500,000
    5 Alfonso Soriano Chicago Cubs 8 years (2007-2014) $136,000,000
    6 Vernon Wells Toronto Blue Jays 7 years (2008-2014) $126,000,000
    6 Barry Zito San Francisco Giants 7 years (2008-2014) $126,000,000
    8 Mike Hampton Colorado Rockies* 8 years (2001-2008) $121,000,000
    9 Jason Giambi New York Yankees 7 years (2002-2008) $120,000,000
    10 Carlos Beltran New York Mets 7 years (2005-2011) $119,000,000
    11 Ken Griffey, Jr. Cincinnati Reds 9 years (2000-2008) $116,500,000
    12 Kevin Brown Los Angeles Dodgers* 7 years (1999-2005) $105,000,000
    13 Albert Pujols St. Louis Cardinals 7 years (2004-2010) $100,000,000
    14 Carlos Lee Houston Astros 6 years (2007-2012) $100,000,000

    If I were Cabrera (who as you all know is young, but somewhat out of shape) I would try to maxamize my value while reducing my injury risk and playing to win.

    Therefore I would if I were him play OF.

    Rings

    I’ve moved on, I would like them to keep Brandon as a super-sub if at all possible

    This isn’t about Brandon

    This is about first the Tigers and secondly Cabrera

    The best defensive scheme for winning ballgames in my mind would be to stick Cabrera in the OF and Inge at 3rd.

    And I would like Cabrera to stay with us for awhile and not to have to have him worrying about his D or getting injured.

    Also I think it is important to realize that while he might be great this team was already really good without our offseason trades.

    Is he going to hit better than Maggs or Shef or Guillen next year? who knows maybe

    But a reason why I think some teams are sucessful is because players don’t get big heads and everyone is tugging on one end of the rope for a common cause.

    Anyways

  34. Rings

    December 11, 2007 at 9:45 am

    “I’ve moved on” & “The best defensive scheme for winning ballgames in my mind would be to stick Cabrera in the OF and Inge at 3rd.”

    But you haven’t…you’re continuing to argue a point that’s already been decided.
    You can insist all you want that you think otherwise, but Cabrera will be at third and Inge won’t.

    …nobody cares if there is a difference in their “defense” because their overall value isn’t even close – and the more you insist that “defense” is somehow the trump card, the sillier this gets. Jones will be at least the LH platoon in LF as one of our two LH hitters (plus SH Guillen).

  35. BobS.

    December 11, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I knew plenty of Detroit fans considered Inge ‘their’ Tiger,but it wasn’t until this trade I realized just how deeply in love they had fallen.
    Maybe we have to just be more tolerant if this gets even “sillier” until broken hearts mend.In the meantime,I’m submitting a story idea to Lifetime.

  36. ron

    December 11, 2007 at 11:15 am

    I can hardly wait to see Cabrerra take a flying leap into the stands to catch a foul ball. It’ll be better than watching Inge hit.