Winter Meetings Day 4

The last day of a very active winter meetings for Tigers fans is upon us. A look at what took place yesterday and what may take place today follows.

This should be old hat by now, but here are all the ways to keep up with the Winter Meetings at DTW.

The Tigers catching situation

In the midst of a big unannounced move yesterday, the Tigers did make a small official moves. The Tigers signed catcher Robinzon Diaz to a minor league contract. It is mostly just a depth move, but it does give the Tigers a few options behind (or next to) Gerald Laird in 2010.

In 2009 the Tigers worked with a rotation of Dane Sardhina, Dusty Ryan, and Alex Avila as Laird’s caddy. Sardhina is just an abysmal hitter. Ryan has good pop and a cannon for an arm but seemingly couldn’t win over Jim Leyland. Avila burst on to the scene with the bat and probably raised expectations beyond a reasonable level with his August performance but he’s still quite new to catching.

So the Tigers inked Diaz to become an insurance policy. Avila needs to catch on a regular basis and initially it may be better if he does so in the minors. He went to winter ball but struggled. His struggles probably weren’t a large factor in the decision to get Diaz. But the Tigers expect for Diaz to compete for the back-up role regardless.

Some feel he can compete for a job as backup catcher in spring training
Dombrowski on Diaz

As for Diaz’s game, he has a decent defensive reputation and offensively he seems Randall Simon-esque in his refusal to not put the ball in play. He won’t be a game changer but he is another option.

Image credit Pshanks on flickr

Wrapping up the trade

After some extensive reflection I’ve come to the conclusion that this deal will never really sit well with me. By never I don’t actually mean for eternity, but at least until the fruits of the trade bear some sort of championship or something. That isn’t a reflection on the players the Tigers received, more on the circumstances and the players they let go. Still, there are ends to tie up and dots to connect and other miscellany in need of blogging.

Roster Moves

The Tigers are plus 2 on their 40 man roster once this deal is made official. Jon Morosi tweeted that the Tigers have let it be known that Bobby Seay, Dusty Ryan, and Jeff Larish are on the trade block.

I can see trying to get something for players who aren’t in the plans, and it’s clear that Ryan isn’t a Jim Leyland favorite (and they signed Robinzon Diaz to a minor league deal today), but why hold space on the roster for Dontrelle Willis or Don Kelly?

Continue reading Wrapping up the trade

Avila and Lambert up

It’s almost like the Tigers got a bulk discount on a shuttle between Toledo and Detroit. Wilkin Ramirez’s stay in the Detroit was very brief and expressly for the purpose of facing Brian Matusz. Chris Lambert will replace him on the roster. But that’s not all my friends. We also have a lefty catcher in our midst with Alex Avila replacing Dusty Ryan on the roster. Let’s think this through now because there are some implications worth considering before we debate the merits of the moves.

  • Ramirez will not be bumping Magglio Ordonez from the roster for at least 10 days. Barring a DL stay Ramirez cannot be recalled.
  • Alex Avila will likely not burn an option year this year. If even the Tigers decide to change their minds and send him down, as long as he spends less than 20 days off the big league roster it won’t count as an option. So if he’s up for another 8 days that won’t be an issue with the roster expanding on September 1st. He will accrue service time, but probably not enough to move his free agent clock up a year. It does mean he will need to remain on the 40 man roster in an offseason where he otherwise wouldn’t need to.
  • I have a hard time seeing how Dusty Ryan has a future in the franchise. Laird has been struggling mightily at the plate and Ryan still could supplant him more than once a week. Now he’s being exchanged for a catcher who has one year of professional catching experience.

As for the new guys, Avila is one of the two guys I consider to be nearly untouchable largely due to the fact i envisioned him filling a critical role in the near future. I wasn’t thinking this month though. Avila’s overall numbers are very impressive…for a guy one year removed from the draft playing in AA. But his 262/360/446 line is far from overwhelming and he’s only hitting 191/280/393 in the last 28 days (thank you minorleaguesplits.com.

Lambert has been pitching very well for the Mud Hens as a starter. In his last 10 starts he has a 2.07 ERA with 52 K’s and only 11 walks. He’ll presumably pitch out of the bullpen until the team decides to recall either Casey Fien (at least 10 days from now) or Jeremy Bonderman gets healthy.

The Lambert move is fine by me. He’s earned a spot. The Avila move is a mystery. I understand wanting to get some offense from the catcher spot and with Avila being a lefty it makes for a more natural time split for Laird who is scuffling. But I can’t see how this helps Avila in the long term and it’s not that clear to me how it helps the team in the short term. There is a big enough learning curve for typical players, let alone catchers. This is a rush move and can only be considered a move of desperation. Then again if you feel the need to call up a player from the minors just to face a guy making his big league debut because nobody else on the roster can hit…then maybe you’re past the point of desperation.

Tigers Top 10 Prospects according to Baseball America

Rick Porcello - cr Roger DeWitt
Rick Porcello - cr Roger DeWitt

It’s another one of those rites of the offseason, the Baseball America top 10 list. The list itself is available to anyone, but for additional information (like scouting reports) you need to be a subscriber.

As for the list, here it is:

  1. Rick Porcello, rhp
  2. Ryan Perry, rhp
  3. Cale Iorg, ss
  4. Casey Crosby, lhp
  5. Jeff Larish, 1b/3b
  6. Wilkin Ramirez, of
  7. Scott Sizemore, 2b
  8. Cody Satterwhite, rhp
  9. Dusty Ryan, c
  10. Guillermo Moscoso, rhp

Continue reading Tigers Top 10 Prospects according to Baseball America

No on Varitek, No on Laird, Yes on Bard

The Tigers are in the hunt for a catcher. Brandon Inge has been moved to third base and Dusty Ryan may be ready to contribute at the big league level, but I don’t think anybody is comfortable with him being handed the full load at this point. With this need has come speculation about where the Tigers may turn. Two names that have been floated out repeatedly are Jason Varitek and Gerald Laird. I’m not particularly a fan of either. So I turn my attention West to the discarded Josh Bard.
Continue reading No on Varitek, No on Laird, Yes on Bard

Game 140: Angels at Tigers

PREGAME: An afternoon delight today as the Angels leave town. It will be Kenny Rogers and Ervin Santana doing battle today. The last time Rogers faced the Angels he shut them out for 7 innings and held them to 5 hits. The last time Santana faced the Tigers he held them to 2 runs on 3 hits in 9 innings. Santana’s numbers are pretty filthy of late, with 4 straight quality starts and a 33:4 K:BB ratio over the last 28.1 innings.

Sheffield’s shoulder is barking so Magglio will DH. Mike Hessman returns to third base. One other note from Beck’s pregame blog: Dusty Ryan hit the Charlie Gehringer statue during batting practice. That’s a long freakin’ ways from home plate.

LAA @ DET, Thursday, September 4, 2008 Game Preview – Baseball-Reference.com

The Call-Ups

It’s September 1st, so it’s the annual rite of infusing of rosters with up and comers and AAA fill-ins. The Tigers announced their round of call-ups. They include: Dusty Ryan, Mike Hessman, Dontrelle Willis, Chris Lambert, Clay Rapada, and Freddy Dolsi.

Dolsi had some nice moments this season, is already on the 40 man roster, and could be a piece of the bullpen puzzle next year. He gets more evaluation time and can pitch some innings as the starters continue to falter. Ditto for Rapada.

Lambert is also a slam dunk, seeing as the Tigers will need to keep him on the 40 man roster if they are inclined to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Plus they need a 5th starter and they get a closer look at him.

Dusty Ryan has a legit shot at being the back-up next year, and like Lambert will be on the 40 man roster anyways. He’ll probably get a start or two before heading to the AFL.

Hessman hit a lot of homers and struck out a lot (139 times in 396 ABs). But he also plays a solid third base and the Tigers don’t have their regular third baseman. Chances are Hessman will be removed from the 40 at the end of the season.

As for Willis, who knows what will happen. He’ll pitch a simulated game tomorrow. But given his forearm issues, I don’t know if he’ll contribute anything.

As for the guys left out, Mike Hollimon, Brent Clevlen, Casey Fien, and Francisco Cruceta would seem to have been candidates. Hollimon struggled mightily once being sent back to AAA seeing his average drop to the low .200s. Fien and Cruceta were probably victims of roster machinations. Fien wouldn’t need to be added to protect him from the Rule 5, so it makes sense to defer his possible promotion to next spring. Clevlen is probably the biggest surprise. He will be out of options next year, and while he slumped late (.645 OPS in August) it wasn’t to the extent that Hollimon suffered.

Guillen’s back=not good

Carlos Guillen continues to battle back problems, and the situation doesn’t sound good. He’s experiencing numbness in his right leg and soreness in both hamstrings. Hopefully the Tigers take it easy with Guillen, and Guillen takes it easy as well. If there is a silver lining it’s that the injury may give the Tigers an opportunity to do some evaluation for next year.

In the short term Ryan Raburn stands to get the bulk of the playing time. However, after the September 1st roster expansion, it could result in innings for Jeff Larish and Dusty Ryan.

The Tigers have already announced that Larish will head to the AFL to get work at third base. Might as well do it in the big leagues since there is little cost.

Dusty Ryan had a very good season for AA Erie. He’s since been promoted to Toledo where he has hit 322/385/559 in 16 games. He could get a look behind the plate with Brandon Inge making some starts at third. Although Inge needs the time behind the plate probably more.

Junkballing: Booing, Injuries, Waivers and Minors

A hodgepodge of all the stuff that went down this week that just didn’t fit anywhere else:

Much ado about a boo

A lot of disgruntled fans did a lot of booing this week. Gary Sheffield received his share when culmination about frustration with his production collided with Sheff being Sheff. That was noisy, but not too surprising. Sheffield responded somewhat, and was still a little misguided.

“Compare me to me,” Sheffield said. “If you’re looking for .300, 30 [home runs] and 100 [RBIs], then I look pretty awful right now. I ain’t the only .220 hitter in this game. I ain’t the last one to hit .220, but it’s never a big deal when a lot of guys that play everyday, hit in the same spot everyday, and hit .220 and nobody says a thing.”

But Gary, you’re getting paid to be you and that’s the problem. You’re not being paid to be a .220 hitter.

But there was more booing. Joel Zumaya bore the brunt of it when he and Bobby Seay blew a 3 run lead. Zumaya, who said it felt like his shoulder exploded, wasn’t a fan saying

“I think it’s pretty lame,” Zumaya said. “I give it everything I’ve got.”

Bobby Seay didn’t appreciate it either.

I’m not a fan of booing. I understand it, but it’s not something I do. That said I don’t know that the booing was directed specifically at Zumaya and specifically at the outing. But it was general frustration with the bullpen crapping the bed again.

Oww, my aching…

The medical staff has been busy, but it seems like everything has been reactive. Todd Jones hits the DL after getting destroyed repeatedly. Joel Zumaya hits the DL after blowing up. It’s reminiscent of Jeremy Bonderman’s situation last year. I understand players wanting to play through things, but how many times once the team suffer for a player trying to gut it out.

But then you’ve got the other side where in that previously linked Sheffield article he said he was hurting, his trainer said he’s doing too much, but the organization said he was fine.

“I’m just going to give it to you straight,” he said. “When the organization tells you that you’re fine, I can’t say I’m not fine. I have to be on the same page as the organization. That’s just the way it goes.

“I talked to my trainer, and he said, basically, what I’m doing is unrealistic. That’s what he said. I said, ‘Why won’t anyone say that on my behalf? Why do I always have to come up here and defend me?’ And he just said, ‘Be realistic with yourself.’ That’s all I needed to hear. After that, I felt good about walking on the field. I have no extra incentives to play hurt.

I don’t understand it.

Jeremy Bonderman will be rejoining the team this weekend, but to rehab and likely not play.

And speaking of injuries, Marcus Thames is expected back in a day or two, as is Carlos Guillen who is dealing with a pinched nerve in his back. And Freddy Dolsi was optioned out to Toledo to make room for Todd Jones who is back. Though his role hasn’t been decided. Dolsi will likely be back when rosters expand.

Waivering

Gary Sheffield cleared waivers. Shocking. The bigger news is that the Tigers put in a claim on Raul Ibanez. Corner outfield/DH doesn’t appear to be a need for the Tigers so I can’t figure out the intent unless they hoped to get him for free, and then take the draft picks when he walks. Luckily they didn’t work out a trade that would have had the Tigers sending the Mariners anything of value.

Minor interest

The Tigers have had some good news in their farm system this year from some unexpected sources. And it’s getting some press. Wilkin Ramirez is a high ceiling guy that has had his progression and production limited by injuries. But he’s putting it all together this year earning this assessment from a scout:

“He has power, on-base skills, and don’t forget that he’s a 60 [on the 20-to-80 scouting scale] runner as well. His defense is adequate, but I think he’s the kind of guy who is an everyday corner outfielder on a first-division team—he could be pretty special.”

Also in the same article are some kind words for James Skelton, though scouts still can’t decide if his slight frame is an issue.

Another catcher making noise is Dusty Ryan. Tigs Town recently profiled him.

With the Tigers concerns at the catching position heading into 2009, Ryan will have a wonderful opportunity to enter Spring Training with a chance to impress and earn a big league job.

Finally, Ryan Strieby has been destroying the Florida State League.

The Tigers might have some minor league catchers

Take 75 North runs down all of the catching roster moves that took place in the wake of the Pudge Rodriguez trade. The Tigers organizational catching situation has been described as barren, and that’s not quite fair. There are a couple intriguing prospects who are worth following as they will now be tested at higher levels.

Dane Sardinha was called up to Detroit.
Dusty Ryan went from Erie to Toledo.
James Skelton bumped up from Lakeland to Erie.
Adrian Casanova moved from West Michigan to Lakeland.
Angel Flores will be taking a drive west from Oneonta to West Michigan.
Oneonta doesn’t have to replace Flores because they already have Joe Bowen and Tyler Weber on the team.

The two to keep an eye on are Dusty Ryan and James Skelton. Ryan has burst on to the scene a little bit with his bat this season. Baseball America rated him as the organization’s top defensive catcher. But up until this year the bat hadn’t played with his highest OPS season was the 693 he posted as a 21 year old in West Michigan. However this year he has a 255/345/472 line for AA Erie.

He only has a 15% line drive rate so his .326 BABIP is inflated. But there is something to be said for the 14 homers he has to date. The season hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency. His monthly OPS from April through July have been: 1.022 – .730 – .893 – .675. So his promotion to AAA either coincides well with the up and down nature of his season. Or it coincides horribly with a time where he is either a)regressing to the mean or b)tiring out.

James Skelton has swung a high average, low power bat for the last couple of seasons. That has continued into 2008 where he has a 308/465/409 line. He missed time in June due to injury, but has come back with a little more pop. He picked up 7 of his 12 extra base hits in the month of July. The biggest knock on Skelton is that many feel he’s just too small to be a catcher if he weighs 165 pounds. I have no idea if this is true or not, but the dude is tiny.

Between Ryan, Skelton, and even Alex Avila (290/362/331 at West Michigan) the position isn’t completely empty in the organization. While it does lack top flight prospects, the Tigers aren’t unique in that regard. And with the promotions of Ryan and Skelton the Tigers get another month to evaluate each as they are one step closer to the bigs.