Like sands through the hourglass

I think it’s clear that the Tigers bullpen situation will be an on going saga. It’s been the lead story leading up to Tigerfest and will likely hold that distinction throughout spring training (unless of course someone gets injured in the World Baseball Classic). Without an established and healthy closer available, anyone that is brought in to help the pen wouldn’t be a lock to close games anyways.
Continue reading Like sands through the hourglass

Notes from Gerald Laird conference call

Paraphrasing some comments from Gerald Laird during his conference call today:

  • Thoughts on the Tigers pitchers: looking forward to being on the same side as Verlander, Bonderman and other guys and catching them instead of hitting them.
  • Doesn’t really know the guys on the team that well aside from playing against them
  • Comerica is a great hitting park
  • Jimmy Leyland is one of the greatest managers in the game. Excited to pick his brain and learn.
  • Excited to play everyday. Was very frustrating in Texas not knowing whether or not he was the guy. He’s looking forward to relaxing and not looking over his shoulder.
  • Looks forward to working with a stable rotation – there was a lot of flux in Texas
  • He started getting text messages while at the Arizona Cardinal game and found out later that night
  • His priority is to get the most out of the staff and throwing guys out and making plays at the plate. The bulk of his preparation is defensive game calling.

Tigers acquire Gerald Laird

It appears as if the Tigers have filled their hole behind the plate by acquiring catcher Gerald Laird from the Texas Rangers. In return the Tigers will ship out starting pitching prospect Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo. The move is expected to be formally announced later today.

Gerald Laird

Laird will be 29 next year and has played in parts of 6 big league season. He’s only had one really productive year offensively when he hit 296/332/473 in 78 games. In his only season in which he broke the 100 game mark he struggled posting only a 224/278/349 line in 2007. Marcel and Bill James projections have him at a .310-.315 wOBA in 2009 and in 2008 MLB catchers posted a .311 wOBA line so he stands to be average for the position offensively.
Continue reading Tigers acquire Gerald Laird

Pudge traded for Farnsworth

Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth? My first reaction was, and who else did the Tigers get? Rodriguez is having a fine season, and there are teams that are really looking for catching help. Besides the Yankees, the Marlins had also inquired and were turned away. In other words it was kind of a sellers market for the Tigers. If he was going to get moved I anticipated it would be for prospects, or something better than the 2 draft picks they would have secured had Pudge declined arbitration. When the return was a non-elite relief pitcher I actually felt ill. After a few moments of reflection though I feel a little less queasy.

Brandon Inge becomes the full time catcher now and he has an of .758 this season (I was actually surprised to see it was that high). Meanwhile Pudge carries a .755 OPS, but with a .295 average. On a starter perspective it’s surprisingly a push. Of course catching depth has been obliterated and there is a huge drop off when the back-up – presumably Dane Sardinha – enters the game. There’s also the issue of whether or not Inge can hit while catching.

As for Farnsworth the Tigers needed bullpen help and he’s having a nice season with a 8.73 K/9, a 3.45 BB/9 (still not that great). But the guy has allowed 11 HOME RUNS THIS YEAR. His 3.65 ERA is buoyed by a 94% LOB rate – far higher than at anytime in his career.

In terms of the other elements of the trade, both players are free agents at the end of the year. Pudge Rodriguez was going to be a Type A free agent meaning he’d bring back 2 draft picks. Farnsworth was a Type B last year, and would likely be one again this year meaning they’ll get 1 draft pick. So they give up a draft pick in this deal presuming both players were to get offered arbitration and declined. The Tigers save a couple million in the process as Pudge was out earning Farnsworth by about $7 million this year.

Farnsworth kind of fills a need, but not that well. The Tigers don’t take a huge hit in terms of production and aren’t giving up on the season. But my issue is that I think the Tigers could have done better for Pudge. He’s having a good year at a hard to fill position. Factor in the loss of a draft pick and it’s not good. No young player coming back? Not awful, but Dave Dombrowski failed to maximize Pudge’s value. Yankees win this one easy.

Tigers trade Bautista

I didn’t get a chance to touch on this last night because I had left for the game when the news hit. The Tigers traded Denny Bautista for Pittsburgh minor leaguer Kyle Pearson. With Bautista DFA’d the Tigers had 10 days to find a home for him. In exchange they get AA right hander Pearson. The 2003 4th round pick has a below average strike out rate (5.74 K/9) and a middling walk rate (3.38 BB/9). He’s 23.

With little leverage the Tigers get little in return. For the Pirates they get a guy who could help them at a very low cost.

Of course the Tigers could have kept Bautista had they utilized the options on Freddy Dolsi, Zach Miner, or Casey Fossum (Fossum could have refused assignment). With Rodney’s health always in question and neither of the big guns having pitched at all this year, I would have preferred the wait and see approach and horded as much depth as possible.

Jason Grilli traded!

The Tigers have dealt Jason Grilli to the Colorado Rockies for Zach Simons. This frees a spot for the activation of Francisco Cruceta who will join the team tomorrow.

I’m surprised on a number of levels.

  1. That the Tigers would part with a pitcher given the woes of the starting rotation. The starters aren’t going deep and have generally been unreliable. Meaning the Tigers could use extra options as spot starters (like Zach Miner) and the Tigers have leaned heavily on their long men.
  2. That they’d make the move without Cruceta available to join the team considering Bonderman has walked 13 in his last 2 starts. They might need that arm tonight.
  3. That Grilli would be trade-able at any point in the season.
  4. That Zach Miner wasn’t optioned to Toledo. I think Miner can be effective but the guy has given up runs in 5 of his 10 outings this year. He’s been good in 3 of the last 4 appearances, but still…Grilli has been more effective this year and has pitched 11.1 scoreless innings since some early season rockiness. The longest scoreless streak for a reliever this year is 13.1 IP just as an aside.

As for Simons, he’s a 23 year old right hander in High A ball. He was transitioned to the bullpen last year and bumped up his strike out rate to nearly one per inning. He does struggle some with control with a walk almost every other inning.
Beck’s Blog: Cruceta to join Tigers, Grilli traded

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.

Continue reading The Coda

Tigerfest sells out and some other trade.

There is an unprecedented buzz around the Tigers right now. I know it by looking at my server logs, but a much less obscure measure is the fact that Tigerfest sold out in 24 hours. I was astounded when it sold out last year, and was prepared to move quickly. But I didn’t move quick enough and now I’m left out in the cold. Or considering it’s at Comerica Park maybe I’ll be left out in the warm?

Oh yeah, there was another trade yesterday. I knew about it, was aware of it, but it really didn’t seem to fit anywhere last night. The Tigers swapped relievers with the Rockies and shipped out Jose Capellan for Denny Bautista. Matt took one for the Tigers blogosphere and broke it down. Then again, it’s not like the Tigers minor league blogger has anything else to do right now.
Take 75 North | MVN – Most Valuable Network » Blog Archive » Tigers trade Capellan for Bautista

The New Tigers speak

Now that the deal is official, people have permission to speak freely. And the new Tigers sound pretty excited to be heading North.

Matt Sosnick, the agent for Dontrelle Willis, indicated that Willis is “incredibly excited” and that while the 2 sides hadn’t talked about a contract yet “He’s [Willis] hoping to stay in Detroit for as long as The Tigers will have him. He’s good friends with Jacque Jones, and is a big Pistons fan.”

Sosnick and Dontrelle were also both on WXYT earlier today and their interviews are available for download.

Miguel Cabrera and Willis were both on a conference call this evening as well. Some notes:

  • When asked about his struggles last year, Willis indicated he was a little banged up. But towards the end of the year he felt better and got his command back. He’s been working on his throwing program and thinks his arm strength is there.
  • Cabrera mentioned that he hasn’t had discussions about what position he’ll play, but he’s willing to do anything and he can’t wait to get out there.
  • Cabrera also said he’s already quite familiar with all of his fellow infielders and he is good friends with Carlos Guillen. The two live nearby in Venezuela.
  • Willis couldn’t believe that he and Cabrera were traded together, but thinks that it will help both of them.
  • Dontrelle said that he worked well with Pudge in 2003 and he’s excited to work with him again.
  • As for the cold weather, both just said “baseball is baseball” and that it didn’t matter to them.

And for more Dontrelle, he’s now blogging at Yardbarker.

Chris Shelton era ends

Chris Shelton signs autographsChris Shelton is now a Texas Ranger. The Tigers continued their active winter by dealing Shelton, who was DFA’d last week, for centerfielder Freddy Guzman.

Guzman is a burner who led the PCL with 56 stolen bases last year. He’s about to turn 27 and he’s only amassed 37 big league games in his career, so take that for what it’s worth. He hits for no power, but has some on base skills with a .360 OBP on a .278 batting average in his minor league career.

As for Big Red, here’s hoping the change of scenery will benefit him. If he can recapture that opposite field power, he should do quite well with the Arlington jet stream pushing balls out to right.

Guzman is on the 40 man roster, but the Tigers have some wiggle room following “The Trade” because they had freed up 2 spots.

The Cabrera- Willis Trade – early returns

Table of contents for The Cabrera-Willis Trade

  1. Holy Freakin Crap
  2. The Cabrera- Willis Trade – early returns
  3. The 6 runs per game lineup
  4. The New Tigers speak
  5. Where should Cabrera play?
  6. The Coda

What’s being said about the trade of trades…
Baseball Prospectus | Unfiltered

Four is the number of relatively cheap arbitration-eligible seasons that the Tigers are picking up between Cabrera and Willis. Half of the league is willing to bend over backward — perhaps giving up a package analogous to what the Tigers just gave up — for one season of Johan Santana. Although Willis is not the pitcher than Santana is by a long shot, he’s an excellent buy-low guy who was mostly victimized by some poor defense and some poor luck in Miami last year, and an extremely viable #2/#3 starter. And Cabrera might well be the equal of Santana in terms of 2008 value. In terms of overall value, the Tigers are getting perhaps three times as much incoming value as the Red Sox might get for one year of Santana.

Rod Allen-

It’s an incredible trade and it puts them in position to win the Central and possibly win the World Series with the talent in Detroit. It reminds me of a conversation that Mario Impemba and I had with Dave Dombrowski before last season and he said that you need to have top 5 talent at each position to compete for a championship and the Tigers have that now.

Detroit Tiger Tales

As difficult as it is to see Miller and Maybin go, it is not too often you get a chance to acquire an elite hitter like Cabrera. Badenhop DeLaCruz and Trahern are also decent prospects but in a trade of this magnitude they are almost throw ins. The Tigers signaled in their earlier trade of top prospects Gorkys Hernadez and Jair Jurrjens for Edgar Renteria that they were going for it all in 2008 and this deal confirms it emphatically

Continue reading The Cabrera- Willis Trade – early returns

Holy Freakin Crap

The Tigers have pulled off a franchise altering trade today sending former first round picks Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, along with Mike Rabelo and 3 minor league pitchers to the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

When Dave Dombrowski decides to go for it, boy does he go for it. Like in 1997 when he loaded up for a run at the World Series, Dombrowski has quickly put together what has to be considered the best line up in all of baseball. To do it they had to give up 2 of the blue-est of blue chippers. Normally I frown on such a move, but rarely do you get in return a 24 year old with 138 career home runs and a 313/388/542 line in 2700 at-bats either. The Tigers had to have emptied their farm system, but this isn’t for a player on the wrong side of 30. This is someone who has yet to enter his peak. The Tigers have to sign him to a long term deal for this to work, but I can’t imagine they make this trade without some sort of frame work in place.

As for Dontrelle Willis, his 5+ ERA in a pitchers park in the NL is certainly disconcerting. But the Tigers were giving up a player that was likely to be in their rotation next year, and they had to fill that spot and there are certainly worse ways to do it than with Willis.

The Tigers gave up some seriously talented players, but if you’re going to do it, do it the way the Tigers did and get a couple guys in their mid 20’s in return. Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller are tremendous prospects, but Cabrera is a rare, rare player and for the Tigers to acquire him is a major coup.

As for the other 3 pitchers, Jon Paul Morosi is reporting that they are Burke Badenhop, Dallas Trahern, and Eulogio De La Cruz. Trahern is the prize of this group. He’s a heavy groundball pitcher who was set to pitch for AAA Toledo this year, and was a decent bet to reach the majors in 2008. De La Cruz we saw last year, and he has the potential and stuff to strike out a ton of guys, but he’s still searching for consistency.

The Tigers still have Rick Porcello, who couldn’t be traded yet, and is now the clear top prospect in the system. I’m also pleasantly surprised the Tigers didn’t have to move Jeff Larish, Mike Hollimon, and especially James Skelton.

As for what happens next, the Tigers just have to sign Cabrera long term. They also have some of their own players to move. Cabrera is thought of as a third baseman, but he could play left as well. I don’t know where he’ll play for Detroit and it depends on who they can get for Brandon Inge probably. I know that the Tigers just traded for Jacque Jones, but I don’t think they are married to him.

I applaud Dombrowski and the Tigers for pulling this off. The Tigers have the pieces in place to be a very very special team this year and I can’t wait for spring training. I’ll have more on the trade over the next couple of days.