This is the time of year when little news tidbits fly all over the place like little gnats that you try to ignore or get past until one of them lands in your eye and you just can't ignore it any more and you need your significant other to lick it out, because apparently that's the best way to get a gnat out of your eye. True story.
So, in lieu of real, in-depth analysis and in light of the tid-bitty nature of all of these little news items and rumors, (which, by the way, I subconsciously prefer to spell "rumours," given the preference of my fingers to add that extra "u" every time I type it), I want to throw out some quick "Grand Scheme-style" thoughts on all the matters in hand.
Postseason Awards I don't want to dwell on this. I really don't. But Austin Jackson kind of got screwed out of the AL Rookie of the Year award. I don't want to take anything from Neftali Feliz. He's an incredible pitcher who had an incredible season for a playoff team. But is that all that this is about any more? Jackson, the full time player who hadn't set foot on a MLB diamond before the season, was incredible and more than worthy of the award. Feliz, who pitched in 70 games this year, also pitched in 20 games last year or roughly 30% of an MLB season for a reliever. His 31 IP in 2009 left him 19 inning short of losing his rookie eligibility for 2010. If he were a starter, I'd understand, but as a relief pitcher I think that it is silly. Feliz was a second year player. He just was.
Just as a warning, Miguel Cabrera is going to lose the MVP too. Sure, he was the Most Valuable Player on a team that would have been in last place without him. He single handedly carried the team's offense for months. Then again, Josh Hamilton had an amazing season, and I can't say that I begrudge him the award. But he also had a resurgent Vlad Guerrero and Nelson Cruz around him. I'm pretty sure that the Rangers were just fine when he was hurt for 30 games too.
Budget The Tigers' Budget is probably around $100M. Why do I say that? Here are the $100M+ Payrolls in AL Central History (via Cot's Contracts):
2008 Tigers: 137,685,196
2010 Tigers: 133,995,400
2008 White Sox: 121,189,332
2009 Tigers: 115,085,145
2007 White Sox: 108,671,833
2010 White Sox: 103,080,000
2006 White Sox: 102,750,667
For the other three teams in the league, their respective highest payrolls:
2010 Twins: 97,659,167
2009 Indians: $81,579,166
2010 Royals: $74,985,2010
Detroit is the #2 Market in the Central. Logic says that it stands to have the #2 budget--with the Twins very close or slightly higher because of comparable market strength and a new stadium. To think that the Tigers will budget 20-30% higher than the next highest team is silliness. Of course, this discount's Mike Illitch's late-spring happy feet to make a move, but that shouldn't be budgeted in, for obvious reasons.
You already know my thoughts on the Peralta/Inge contracts. I think that the Tigers have settled on an average/below average defensive left side of the infield, with an average offense. The contracts are perfectly reasonable, and do have upside (Peralta is only 28, let's remember), so I don't HATE what's going on. Considering there are no internal SS options, no free agent SS option and We're at least 2-3 years from a viable internal replacement at 3B, I guess this is just fine.
Yesterday, the Tigers signed Joaquin Benoit to a 3 year/$16.5M deal which is way to much for a middle reliever and oh my god they could have just kept Brandon Lyon around last year for less then that, but Benoit was LOCK DOWN last year, but that was really the only year of his career where that was true Also: Shoulder surgery. So anyway, this certainly improves a bullpen that was so-so last year and lost some role players. Also, I think that Phil Coke needs to be addressed.
Benoit is Phil Coke's replacement in the bullpen, because apparently the Tigers are going to put Phil Coke into the rotation. This is a bad idea. Why? Because Phil Coke was a kick-ass reliever. He also started to struggle down the stretch. I'm not going to say durability issue, but he certainly seems more valuable in the bullpen, especially in a bullpen that also includes Benoit and Valverde. Those three in the back-end of the bullpen would be dynamite.
Catcher: Alex Avila is the man, but a backup/platoon is needed
2B: Will Guillen be able to recover and play here? Sizemore? Rhymes? Santiago? Internal options abound, although none of them are particularly exciting. I'd like to see some defense please, especially with the left size as it is.
LF/RF: Question Marks, but plenty of options. Boesch, Raburn and Wells have MLB experience now. Expect one to win/share one position, and a free agent to take the other.
The Non-Position Positions
WHO IS STARTING FOR THIS TEAM?!?! Ok, let me tone down my urgency. Verlander is a legit #1. Scherzer is also damn good. A solid #2. Rick Porcello, still just a pup, is really more of a #4 starter right now. The Tigers can duct tape a rotation together with the best of Phil Coke, Armando Galarraga and Andy Oliver, if they really want to, but that seems like a mistake. A 2/3 caliber, left-handed starter would have been killer here, but with Ted Lilly and Jake Westbrook off the market, pickin's here are slim.
Still, I think that the Tigers need 1 decent free agent starter to compete this year.
Everyone knows the big players on the free agent market: Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn and Jason Werth. The Tigers, at one time or another, have been connected to all four. Some are saying that the Tigers will make a play for two of the four. My thoughts player-by-player:
-Victor Martinez is a 2 day-a-week catcher at most. He is bad defensively. He is an excellent hitter, but would mostly need to DH. As a DH the value just isn't there. A 3-4 year contract for big bucks would be a big mistake here.
-Adam Dunn is an OBP machine. He would be an absolutely phenomenal addition to the Tigers lineup in the 3 hole. I'll also bet you a million dollars that if the Tigers signed him he would bat 5. He has a low batting average a strikes out a lot. People will get frustrated. Also, he is a DH only (realistically), and the Tigers have killed themselves with an overabundance of this type of player. Still, I'd take him for 3 years at $12/14M per. He's that good and the Tigers have the budget space.
-Jason Werth is beloved by everyone except me, apparently. I don't know why, but I've never like Jason Werth. I just don't buy that he is worth a huge contract for 4+ years. He's a late bloomer, sure, but has been a NL-only hitter in a hitter friendly ballpark surrounded by the likes of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. He age is a detriment. Would I complain if the Tigers signed him? No. But I don't think that he is worth what he will sign for.
-Carl Crawford. Please sign Carl Crawford. I've been saying these for three years, back when there were rumors that the Tigers would trade for him. Most recently, I declared the season over in July and said that the Tigers should not make any rash deadline decisions that would jeopardize their chance to sign him. He is 29. He is awesome. He is worth every penny.
I think that I'm going to make a whole post out of this, but the Tigers have a window in which they need to win. That window starts in 2011 and probably peaks from 2012-2014. We're going to call it the Cabrera era. The CabrERA. Yes. Spend now to win now because that is what the team is designed to do. Let me spell it out for you:
Cabrera, Jackson, Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello. If you add 1-2 free agents to fill out that window then you are there.
Crazy other ideas, quickly
-Magglio Ordonez. I'd like to see him back, but only if you can get one of the other big hitters, or can't get any of them. $8M/season is ok with me.
-Carlos Guillen is your DH this year. Isn't he? Why eat that contract?
-Jarrod Washburn. I'm not kidding. Tigers fans' heads just exploded, I know. I think that the team should take a flyer on Jarrod Washburn, who said recently that he was thinking about coming back. His short time in Detroit aside, he is a good pitcher, has been for a long time, and is exactly the #3-caliber left handed starter they need. Might cost $2M. Totally worth it--just ask Aubrey Huff if it makes sense to write off a player after three months.
-Jim Thome has been talked as a cheap DH replacement. I love the idea, but only if you can get Crawford (or maybe Werth). In fact, the Tigers should sign him and just sit him on a bench just so he can't hurt them playing for the White Sox or Twins. Hmm...better sign Carl Pavano too.
-Is Zach Greinke a legitimate trade option? What would you give up to get him? I think in this "win-now" window (Greinke signed through 2012), that a package that reads something like Justin Turner and/or Daniel Fields isn't crazy. One in the hand...
I'm sure that I'll expand on some of these ideas over the course of the next few days/weeks. There is a lot going on in Tigertown, and that the team is dangling on a precipice where the right move(s) will set them on a championship track for the next 3-5 years. The wrong one will be a repeat of the disaster that reads 2007-2010.