Rogers, Rumors, and the Winter Meetings

The Winter Meetings kicked off today. My fellow bloggers have already commented on how it will be a fairly quiet meetings for the Tigers. That’s what happens when you fill your biggest needs within a couple weeks of the end of the season.

Still, I don’t think the Tigers are done this offseason. While I don’t expect big moves from Detroit during the Winter Meetings, there is still work to be done. The Tigers still have a number of players to tender contracts to. There are currently only 16 members of the team who are signed, and likely to be on the 25 man roster. At least two of those players could be in for a substantial payday.

Curtis Granderson is entering his last year of indentured servitude. The Tigers could sign him for half a million and be done with it. However, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a 5 year deal which would buy him out of his arbitration years and first year of free agency. That would gain the team cost certainty through 2012 which also coincide with the years where he figures to be in his prime.
Continue reading Rogers, Rumors, and the Winter Meetings

Tigers sign Kenny Rogers and Francisco Cruceta

The Tigers shored up their starting rotation and bullpen by signing Kenny Rogers and Fancisco Cruceta. Both pitchers were signed to one year deals. I don’t have terms yet of either deal.

Rogers we know about, but Cruceta appears to be signed largely on his performance in the Dominican Republic. It sounds similar to last year’s trade for Yorman Bazardo who was impressing in the winter leagues.

Cruceta, 26, spent the 2007 season with Triple A Oklahoma in the Texas Rangers organization. In 25 outings (five starts), he compiled a 3-0 record, 3.02 ERA (65.2IP/22ER) and 70 strikeouts. Cruceta has appeared in 13 games with Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, posting a 1-1 record, 1.08 ERA (16.2IP/2ER) and 25 strikeouts. He is fourth in the league with 25 strikeouts.

“Cruceta has pitched very well this winter in the Dominican Republic,” Dombrowski said. “He is a quality prospect and we expect him to compete for a spot in our bullpen in 2008.”

Cruceta has compiled a 63-49 record and 3.77 ERA (943.2IP/395ER) in 214 appearances (145 starts) during his career at the minor league level. He briefly saw action at the major league level with the Cleveland Indians in 2004 and Seattle Mariners in 2006.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to take a flyer on the guy, and maybe the Tigers have latched on to some cheap talent.

To make room Chris Shelton and Timo Perez were DFA’d. Neither was a surprise as neither were likely to make the Tigers roster next year. Chris Shelton was out of options and was destined to be moved anyways. You often hear of meteoric rises, but meteors are subject to gravitational forces and come crashing to earth as well. That was the Shelton meteor ride.

I’ll have more later

Conference Call Notes

  • Kenny’s negotiation process: There was never a lot of change in his position. He wanted to make sure that he represented what was done best for himself and his family. The change in representation had more to do with Rogers intent to stay in Detroit than anything to do with Boras. He was trying to simplify the process so he could communicate directly with the team. If Rogers had decided to become a free agent in the true sense, Boras would still be his agent.
  • There are performance incentives in the contract.
  • Going to the winter meetings they will still look at opportunities to get better, but they are comfortable with the roster and they don’t see any “gaping” needs.
  • Cruceta throws in the mid 90’s and the Tigers look at him as some who can help the team.
  • The team is aware of Cruceta’s suspension but the team is confident that Cruceta learned from the experience and that Cruceta can help the team.
  • The Tigers were never close to signing any other starting pitchers while the Rogers negotiations were on-going.

The Hardball Times Annual

Every week leading up to Christmas I’m going to have a post that details a terrific gift idea. Okay, not really. But I am going to plug the 2008 Hardball Times Baseball Annual!. Every year it is an incredible blend of commentary and hard core number crunching, so it has something for everyone – or at least baseball fans.

This year there is a little extra incentive for Tigers fans because there is an in depth profile of Detroit General Manager and President Dave Dombrowski. Oh yeah, and I wrote it so you better buy it.

But seriously, there is a ton of great stuff and Dave ‘studes’ Studeman runs it all down in the link above. There are pieces by Will Leitch, MGL, Tangotiger, Bill James, John Dewan, Dave Cameron, Brian Gunn, and the list goes on and on.

And when I look at the list I can’t figure out how the hell I got in there, but I’m flattered and honored to be included with such an wonderful group. So thanks to Studes and Brian for inviting me to contribute.

As for how to get the book, you can pre-order it from Acta Sports. This method actually generates the most revenue for the Hardball Times site, which is a good thing. The guys aren’t getting rich off of this. They have to pay the authors, and all those stats that they present for free actually cost money. This helps in a big way to fund the site. Of course if you don’t want to buy the book, or want to get it from Amazon or some other outlet, you can always still donate to the THT on the right hand side of their home page. (hat tip to Inside the Book for the suggestion).

Thanks for allowing me this brief commercial. I now return you to your regularly scheduled Kenny Rogers speculation (the team and Rogers are negotiating again).

As the elusive veteran pitcher world turns

There was quite a bit of drama for a Friday evening as Kenny Rogers fired Scott Boras. Rogers sent an email to all GM’s (wouldn’t that be a neat distribution list to have?) saying that he was now representing himself. This seems like great news for the Tigers who were hoping to resign Rogers. Kenny sent an email last night to Jason Beck saying that he still hopes to be a Tiger in 2008.

I do expect Rogers to sign by Monday at the latest, but am a little curious why he emailed all the GM’s. (**wild blog speculation ahead**) Perhaps he was just trying to confirm the discussions that Boras had had with various clubs and the various offers that had or hadn’t been made. Maybe Rogers distrusted Boras, or didn’t think he was accurately representing his wishes. Or maybe he’s just trying to understand his market for his own sake. (**end wild blog rumor mongering**) And it probably doesn’t matter. By his own admission Rogers wants to be hear, and the Tigers haven’t shown to be cheap when it comes to players they want.

Regardless, Jon Paul Morosi gives us yet another free agent pitcher name to consider in the form of Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda is from Japan, but is a free agent so there is no posting fee like the Red Sox incurred with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Kuroda is a 32 year old right hander who stands 6′ 1″

I honestly don’t know much about Kuroda, but did find 2 assessments. One is from MLB Trade Rumors which had this report

One number to remember here: 300, as in 300 feet to left and 300 feet to right. That’s the stadium Kuroda spent 10 years in, and still he managed to post a sub-2.00 ERA in 2006 and go 13-6. What could he do in Petco with 67 extra feet to left to play with? Tak says that at the least, he’s an innings eater.

Meanwhile Baseball Prospectus had him rated as a top tier Japanese free agent and had this to say:

He’s not Daisuke Matsuzaka, but Kuroda a very strong power pitcher with a low to mid-90s fastball and a wicked forkball. In addition, he features a plus shuuto, something like a screwball, as well as an effective change. Even if he only pans out as a third or fourth starter in the majors, he will give you innings, work deep into games, and he should be fairly consistent start to start.

For an asking price of $7-8 million over 3 years he certainly would rate as intriguing at this point.

I still think that the Tigers should look to add someone beyond Rogers and had been thinking of Bartolo Colon or Kerry Wood. A couple of risky guys with some upside who could be had for 1 year deals. Give said pitcher the last spot in the rotation. If it doesn’t work out you haven’t invested a lot and Andrew Miller is still waiting in the wings. It also means that if Miller isn’t ready, or Rogers can’t go a full season (both decent possibilities) it is another layer of depth.

More Boras posturing

Jon Paul Morosi has been all over the place this fall. The Free Press had him in Arizona for the AFL and he is now covering the General Manager meetings in Orlando. He has the scoop that Kenny Rogers has decided to come back, but Scott Boras says that Rogers is testing the market.

This appears to all be posturing on Boras’ part in an attempt to up Rogers price. The fact that Maddux and Schilling have already signed probably works in the Tigers favor in that their is a cap set for what is reasonable. If I had to guess, and this is complete speculation on my part, it will be a 1 year $7.5 million deal with incentives that if he makes 20 starts it goes to somewhere in the $8.5 range and if he makes 30 starts it approaches $10 million.

Boras: Rogers will explore his options

Newsflash: Rivera is better than Jones

Drew Sharp had a blurb in today’s Free Press in which he argued that “making a one-year commitment to Todd Jones for 2008 is still a better financial and competitive investment than giving Mariano Rivera three years at nearly $40 million.”

It isn’t that assertion that bothers me. One could make an argument that an affordable 1 year deal to provide some depth while your closer in waiting matures is more fiscally responsible than sinking big money into a position that can be filled for less. I’m not going to get into that discussion right now.

But as part of his reasoning Sharp asserted:

Rivera is a future Hall of Famer, but he’s 38 and living more off previous reputation than any current intimidation factor.

There isn’t much distinguishing him — right now — from Jones from a production standpoint.

This is just wrong. Sharp offers no proof of this preposterous assertion, he just leaves it to the reader to believe him. In case you don’t want to take Drew Sharp at face value, here are their 2007 stats, I’ll let you figure out which pitcher is which.

Stat	PitA	PitB
IP	71.1	61.1
H	68	64
HR	4	3
BB	12	23
SO	74	33
R	25	29
FIP	2.61	3.88

Jones probably gets too much grief for what he isn’t. But to assert they are the same player from “a production standpoint” is just, umm, pick your adjective.

Todd Jones Stats and Graphs – Detroit Tigers | FanGraphs
Mariano Rivera Stats and Graphs – New York Yankees | FanGraphs
DREW SHARP: Todd Jones a better signing than Mariano Rivera

Breaking down the Dombrowski pow-wow

Dave Dombrowski held court today in what was deemed an informal availability session and broached a number of topics.  Jason Beck was first to the web with the bullet points.  Definitely click through to Beck’s reporting, but I’ll weigh in on the bullets as well.

Pudge Rodriguez

No decision yet on Pudge and Dombrowski indicated the team might use their full allotment of time (10 days after the World Series) to make a decision. I just documented my thoughts on the situation and believe Pudge needs to be back next year. Whether that means picking up the option, or buying him out and inking him to a 2 year deal that pays him $7-8 million per – I’d be okay with both.

Todd Jones

Beck says:

They’ve expressed their interest in bringing Todd Jones back for next year, but while he would come back as a closer to start the year, they wouldn’t commit to keeping him there as the season went on.

I like the plan, and don’t want to see Jones blocking Zumaya. At the same time, if Jones is back, and can’t hold down the closer role that probably isn’t a good sign. Also, Jones is looking to see if Atlanta would be interested so he could be closer to home. I’ll be taking a deeper dive look at Jones coming up soon.

The rotation

Three spots are set and allocated to Verlander/Bonderman/Robertson. One spot will go to a veteran – like Kenny Rogers if he chooses to come back or another acquisition if he doesn’t- and the other spot will go to a kid to be determined. While trading Robertson would bring back some value, it also leaves a hole in the rotation and going into the season counting on more than one of Jurrjens/Miller/Bazardo to hold down a roster spot for a full year is a risky proposition. The thought of the three of them holding down one spot and then being available for injuries/tired arms is pretty appealing. Plus a one year deal for Rogers means the whole veteran presence without commiting to someone who might block a youngster when they are ready.

Left Field

Will look to get a left handed bat for the outfield that could be a starter, or a platoon partner for Marcus Thames. The ability to get a starter will probably be directly impacted on the cost of a shortstop, and whether or not they need to fill Kenny’s spot with a longer term contract that would consume more resources.

Jurrjens and Sheffield

Jurrjens will be spending the offseason with Gary Sheffield and working with Sheff’s trainer so that Jurrjens gains strength. I can only wonder how this came about. Did the club initiate it? Did Jurrjens initiate it? Was it Sheffield’s idea? For some reason this just strikes me as a fascinating conversation and a very interesting dynamic. A veteran slugging outfielder near the end of his career teaming up with a 21 year old rookie pitcher from Curacao to build strength. Good times.

Beck’s Blog: No extension for Leyland … yet

Loving the English D

Could it be that Detroit isn’t such a bad place to play?

It wasn’t so long ago that the Tigers were begging players to come here. They were being rebuffed by marquee free agents such as Miguel Tejada, and having to settle for Fernando Vinas and Jason Johnsons. When they did attract the big names, it was more of as a last resort. But it wasn’t just desperation, it was because the Tigers were offering substantially more money and substantially more years. Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez came here because the Tigers were the only club willing to commit to long term deals.

Yet today the Tigers have managed to lock up a player ahead of free agency. Add Jeremy Bonderman to the ever growing list of Tigers who decided to sign at-or-below-market deals to stay in Detroit. Brandon Inge re-upped for 4 more years a couple weeks ago, just one year shy of free agency.

Placido Polanco spent less than 2 months in Detroit before deciding to stick around for 4 more years without even waiting for the end of the season – and this in the middle of a career year.

Polanco’s move wasn’t unprecedented because Carlos Guillen did the same thing in 2004 agreeing to a 3 year deal when he could have made much more on the open market after a career year.

Gary Sheffield agreed to be traded here…and with a reasonable contract extension.

Even Vance Wilson probably could have done better this offseason given the dearth of catching talent, but he signed an extension midseason as well.

Players, good players, players with options, are eschewing the monster payday for a fair wage in a place that they like. I don’t know if it is the team’s performance, or if Dave Dombrowski is just a good guy to work for, or if it is that the AL Central has 4 good teams who each have a shot at the playoffs, but players are liking it in Detroit.

Jason Beck quoted Bonderman saying:

“There’s always the idea of free agency,” he admitted, “but I love the guys here. I love the team. I love everything about playing for the Tigers right now. They’re a great organization.”

It echoes Inge’s comments

“Never,” he said. “It never (entered) my mind that I’d want to be anywhere other than Detroit. It’s all I’ve known. It’s all I really want to know.”

If this means the end of the Detroit Tax in which the Tigers are extorted for boatloads of money, or simply used as leverage on the way to bigger deals (ie Pavano), then this is probably the best news of the offseason for Detroit fans.

Sean Casey signed?

The Tigers scheduled a conference call today with Sean Casey. I’m guessing that means they signed him. If so, I’m not a big fan of the deal. I’ll have more later tonight.

UPDATE: Jason Beck says it’s a 1 year deal. At least it is short, but the fact the Tigers are content with Casey as the first sacker/left handed bat they need is disappointing.

UPDATE 2: Sean Casey is here to be the starter. That was made very clear by Dave Dombrowski who indicated that Chris Shelton would need to earn his way on to the team in spring training and would otherwise be optioned to Toledo.

Dombrowski also said that the starters appear to be set and he isn’t looking to make any more deals for starting players.

As for Casey, he is thrilled to be back and said Detroit was his first choice.

What to do about…Jamie Walker?

UPDATE: Walker is now an Oriole pending a physical. The deal is $11.5 million over 3 years. Congrats Jamie and best of luck with the O’s.

Jamie Walker is the Tiger free agent who I’d most like to see back. The lefty reliever is coming off his best season where he posted an ERA of 2.81 over 56 appearances. He fanned 6.9/9IP which is pretty respectable for a finesse pitcher. The real strength of Walker comes in his control. For his career he only walks 2.2/9 but in 2006 he only allowed 8 walks in 48 innings (1.5BB/9). Continue reading What to do about…Jamie Walker?

Kenny Rogers the Signer

I wish I could have posted this earlier (darn day job), but as everybody has heard Kenny Rogers is a Detroit Tiger pending a physical. The deal is for $16 million over two year, which is line with other contracts. That said, I’m not thrilled.

Rogers has been fairly durable throwing over 190 innings each of the last 4 years. Last year he did a remarkable job preventing homers (only 15) despite pitching in the launching pad that is Texas. However, he also saw his strikeout rate drop to 4.02/9IP. While I expect the Tigers infield defense to be solid next year, that still amounts to a ton of outs left up to fielders. While his 3.46 ERA last year was impressive, his 4.30 DIPS ERA is rather average. I guess the good news is that the Tigers have two of the best pickoff pitchers (Maroth also) in the majors now.

My other issue with this signing and the to a lesser extent the Todd Jones signing, is the age. Rogers is 41 and Jones will be 38. For a team that was severely hampered by injuries last year, Detroit has increased that the chances of that happening again. Luckily the contracts are short term.

In terms of payroll, the Tigers had approximately $18 million come off the books with the departures of Fernando Vina, Bobby Higginson, Rondell White, and Jason Johnson. With these signings the Tigers are $3-$4 million below last year’s payroll. However, Magglio Ordonez goes to $15 million, and the Tigers contingent of arbitration eligible players are inline for big raises (especially Jeremy Bonderman given the starting pitching contracts). I won’t worry about this too much because so far the Tigers heavy investments the last few years haven’t precluded them for investing in scouting and development, or in purusing additional players.

No Offer for Johnson
In what may be the most disappointing move of the last two days, the Tigers decided not to offer arbitration to Jason Johnson. Johnson was very unlikely to have accepted, and even if he had accepted he would have provided similar production at a simliar price as Kenny Rogers. By failing to offer arbitration the Tigers gave up a shot at an additional first or second round draft pick.

Tiger Town
There’s another new Tiger blog – Tiger Town.

Tigers get Todd Jones

The Detroit News is reporting that the Detroit Tigers have reached an agreement with Todd Jones. It is reportedly a two year deal (Tim points out in the comments it is rumored to be $8-10 million which seems like a lot to me). Jones was quite good last year as he halved his walk rate (1.7) and struck out 7.8/9IP. Most impressive may have been that he allowed only 2 home runs in 73 innings pitched. Granted he was in a park that limits homers, but he’ll be moving to a park that limits homers as well.

While his numbers were better across the board last year, the strength in his strikeouts, walks, and homers, indicates that it probably wasn’t all luck.

Jones is a likable guy who may be a good influence in the bullpen. Matt Anderson’s best season came when he took over closer duties from Jones in 2001. Maybe he can have a similar effect on Fernando Rodney.

The timing is a little curious in that Florida probably wasn’t going to offer arbitration to Jones by midnight tonight. If the deal is closed before midnight, or if the Marlins in fact do offer arbitration, the Tigers will lose a 2nd round draft pick.

Granderson in demand
First there were the rumors about Curtis Granderson to Florida for Josh Beckett. Then it was Granderson in the Javier Vazquez deal. Now it appears that the Red Sox are interested in Curtis as well. At least it further validates Tiger fans’ hope that Granderson is the real deal.