I was going to just ammend the original post, but enough time has passed, and I ‘ve read plenty, and I have a number of thoughts about this, so we’ll start a new post.
When the Tigers acquired Josh Anderson on Monday I thought it was a very strong possibility that Marcus Thames career as a Tiger was over. I was apprehensive about that given the injury threat that Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen provided, another big bat on the bench would be nice insurance. As Jason Beck points out, the Tigers were also worried about injury. And the team decided that Thames was a safer bet to make it through the season than Sheffield.
And if the Tigers were going to keep Sheffield over Thames, they had better be sure they could get a good season’s worth of production out of him. Because it wasn’t just an Opening Day decision, but a longer-term decision. If Sheffield got hurt in late April, there would be no Thames to which to turn, unlike years past.
I still think a healthy Sheffield is a better hitter than Thames (the Tigers are giving up OBP skills), and I’d venture the Tigers may even admit as much. But they also probably didn’t like the odds that Sheffield could stay healthy.
There seems to be a perception out there that Sheffield is a clubhouse cancer. He certainly is controversial and he’s quick to burn bridges. But you never hear his teammates complain about him. In fact Thames and Jeff Larish went out of their way to praise Sheffield as a teammate. The beat writers don’t attack him, largely because he almost always was willing to speak and not speak in cliches. My impression is that Sheffield wasn’t in this for the love of the game. Baseball is a job for him. It’s not romantic, but it’s far from being a cancer either.
It’s been established that Marcus Thames is the primary DH going forward, at least for the time being. There is a desire by many to move Carlos Guillen to that role, but I think that is premature. I’m willing to at least see what Guillen can do in the outfield. Thames had improved in 2007 to the point of being an average-ish defender (a half win below to a half win above average depending on the metric), but seemed to regress last year – like the rest of the outfield. If Thames were clearly better than Guillen, then put him in left. I don’t really know that to be the case though.
The other item being discussed is a Josh Anderson/Marcus Thames platoon in left. I don’t see that happening. Thames gets the short end of the platoon in that scenario and I don’t think the Tigers would cut Sheffield to leave Thames in the same situation he’s been in.
There was a disturbing foot note to this based on the lineup in today’s game. Anderson led off and Granderson hit 6th. Detroit Tigers Thoughts has the problems with this broken down perfectly. I’m not opposed to moving Granderson down in the order, but if you’re going to sacrifice his at-bats do it for an OBP machine like Guillen.
There is still one bench spot available. You’d have to like Jeff Larish’s chances of making the team, but it also may be an attempt to keep Brent Clevlen or Ryan Raburn. With Guillen’s flexibility and the fact a roster spot isn’t dedicated to a pure DH, the Tigers could go a variety of ways.
As for Sheffield, he’s already been contacted by the Phillies. Angry Shef has seemed to be productive Shef. If he’s got a chip on his shoulder, watch out NL East. At least until the chip ceases to be metaphorical.
Meanwhile Rob Neyer wonders who the next Tigers high priced contract to be cut will be.
Also, will this be the year we get to see how many homers Thames hits with a full season of at-bats? I’ll put the over/under at 33. What do you think?