Grand Cards: Game, Set, Match

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Game, Set, Match

This is what I get for going out for an evening. I passively followed the Tigers score, passively retweeted that Magglio had hurt his ankle ("Oh Hell..."), passively checked in to see the Tigers lose 3-2. It wasn't until we got to our last stop of the night that I got filled in on the details courtesy of a bar TV showing the day's highlights.

Oh hell.

I wanted so badly for Rick Porcello to pitch a good game leading to a Tigers win. Then I could have shown off this and gone to bed with a smile on my face.
2010 Allen & Ginter #AGA-RP Rick Porcello
Was that too much to ask? Was I being greedy, enjoying this Tigers mini-win streak? Looking forward to heading down to Camden Yards this afternoon to root as hard as I could against the rival Twins, all because I know every little bit counts in a season that could go down to the wire again?

But no. On the one night in I don't know how long that I go out for the evening, Detroit's baseball world comes crashing down. Perhaps I should consider myself lucky, as someone who was spared the real-time pain and diagnostic uncertainty and apprehension. On the other hand, when I got all of the information it hit me harder than a fastball to the wrist (Too soon?)

It would take the miracle of miracles for the Tigers to recover from this. Maggs has a fractured ankle and is out 6-8 weeks. Guillen strained a calf and hit the DL too. Their replacements are Jeff Larish and Will Rhymes. Replacement level indeed. I've got to believe that more roster changes are coming, but with today's freaking doubleheader the Tigers are so short on players that they need more infielders more than they need more outfielders. They can come up with more permanent solutions later. That's the nature of the beast.

In the last week, the Tigers have seen three of their starters hit the DL, two for an extended period of time. If, somehow, they are able to continue to contend for the AL Central, it would be a story worthy of hollywood. I mean, it can't happen. Ugh. I'm not saying it can't happen, but you know what I mean. It can't. ARGH.

So I'm just going to say what we're all thinking. The Tigers are finished. Oh hell.

From Here On Out
So what are they going to do about it? First of all, for a team that already had some holes to fill to stay in it, they now of two more. Another infielder is needed--the Tigers are down to having Miguel Cabrera as their ONLY remaining Opening Day starter in the infield. (No, Scott Sizemore's return doesn't count, jerks). The outfield hole is less glaring--there are some appealing minor league options, among which Jeff Larish is not really one--but the impact is even greater considering the huge drop-off expected between Magglio's stellar 2010 play and Minor League Player X's foray into the major leagues.

Dave Dombrowski must feel like Mr. Burns:
"Unless, of course, my nine all-stars fall victim to nine separate misfortunes and are unable to play tomorrow. But that will never happen. Three misfortunes, that's possible. Seven misfortunates, there's an outside chance. But nine misfortunes? I'd like to see that!"

The Tigers didn't have nine All stars to begin with. They had four: Inge, Ordonez, Guillen and Cabrera (ok five, Damon). So unless Miguel Cabrera goes out and hits 9 home runs today, the Tigers are going to lose to Shelbyville, if you catch my drift. Does Jeff Larish have a hand-hewn Wonderbat we don't know about?

In the current state of things, the Tigers are not contenders and should treat their situation as such. That means no Haren, who would have required giving up Andy Oliver AND Justin Jurner. No Lilly, no Bautista or Lowell or whoever. There's not enough to make up for what the Tigers need, and the cost is way too high.
(interesting Update: Dombrowski says no top prospects for "two month rentals", but are also interested in Mike Lowell?)

Which makes me wonder, are the Tigers willing to make the next, very painful, step that signifies the end of their contending ways in 2010? They need to trade Johnny Damon.

We all know it. We also know that it will further decimate a team that has no good options for replacement. We know that it will further hang Miguel Cabrera out to dry as he futilely tries to go after the Triple Crown minus Ordonez in front of him. But come on, Damon is signed to a one-year contract and is having a good season as a potential impact player for a team looking to make a push. He can DH or play outfield. If the Tigers can get any value in return then they should do it.

I also tweeted that they should consider trading Bonderman as well. Same scenario--contract year, potential impact player--but he is less reliable than Damon and would command less in a trade. It may also really alienate us poor fans who are hanging on by a thread. It's worth thinking about though. They can always wink, wink, nod, nod to Bondo that they want to resign him in free agency at the end of the season. Would that be so bad?

Make no mistake. The Tigers are sellers. They should sell while they can.

The not-so-distant future
More important in all of this is what happens in the future. With Ordonez out 6-8 weeks, he will not get enough plate appearances for his Option to automatically vest. Listen, I like Ordonez. I named my cat after him. And he has played excellent baseball this year and I was OK with the prospect of him coming back next year for a swan song, even if his stats were diminished slightly. But he's not worth $15 in 2011. Even if you want him on your team more than anybody in the world, he's not, and everybody knows it.

With that said, the Tigers now have an extra $15M to spend. In fact, add it all up and the Tigers will have more than $60M coming off the books next year. What they will need to do is replace, either internally or via free agency, Ordonez, Bonderman and Inge, not to mention solidify the other holes that haunt the team.

Internal options seem somewhat sparse. At least, too uncertain to rely on three more rookies to make an impact next year. Honestly, I'd like to see all three of those players retained on short term deals, but at something like 50% of their current salary, which would approach more of a fair market value. Damon's a one and done, which is why I'd like to see the Tigers get a little bit of return on him.

Beyond that, with cash in hand I think they need to make a free agency splash. To me, Ted Lilly has the opportunity to be a Kenny Rogers-type veteran for the team, and could be a solid lefty to fill out a rotation that is very uncertain in spots #4 and 5. Honestly, with a relative abundance of minor league outfielders, those positions are not as important, but I've been saying for two years that I'd love to see Carl Crawford in the Old English D. The Tigers would have the money to make that happen. There's not much of a SS crop--which is really the Tigers' biggest need--beyond Jose Reyes, and you wonder whether he's worth the price given his injury history.

I guess what I'm saying is this: The Tigers are toast this year. They have big, gaping holes next year. But with Ordonez's unfortunate break, they have a little more financial flexibility to plug them, and that, sadly, is a good thing. Ship off Damon for a decent prospect or two--can I get some bullpen help?--and we might have something.

In the meantime
We are stuck with things like Today's lineup:

1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Ramon Santiago, 2B
3. Ryan Raburn, LF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Brennan Boesch, RF
6. Scott Sizemore, 3B
7. Jeff Larish, DH
8. Gerald Laird, C
9. Danny Worth, SS

That's five rookies, a Superstar, two career bench players and someone still hitting below the mendoza line. And there's a doubleheader today.

Oh hell.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree here. Sell, sell, sell.
    A sad turn of events for sure.