the word on the electronic Detroit street

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

So many rumors, so little substance. I’ve had my fuzzy little ears perked up for anything interesting, but so much of what’s being bruited about these days is more along the lines of tentative proposals and hopeful speculation, as opposed to leaked details of actual trade chatter from the FO. For a lack of anything better to do (while the next comic is in progress), let’s take a look at a random selection of the wispy hints of rumors and unrumors that have been going around.

Khalil Greene
It would probably just be for a year (since everyone and their pet poodle is sounding the horn of Cale Iorg in 2010), he’s supposed to be solid-to-sparkly defensively (and almost certainly would not be worse than Edgar), and his basic career numbers (.248/.304/.427) are not bad.

I still am not a fan of this rumor. He hit .213/.260/.339 last season, and dealt with his vexation by punching a cabinet or something and breaking his hand. Honestly, I had my fill of those sorts of shenanigans with Jordan Tata and the memory of what Kyle Farnsworth did to himself when he was with the Cubs. The problems of ’08 are not all going to be fixed by the time April rolls around, and there is every probability that the Tigers will be an extremely frustrating team in ’09. We don’t need guys who have already demonstrated an inability to deal with frustration.

Also, his Win Shares dropped from 19 in ’07 (quite good) to 4 in ’08. I’ll just point out that, for comparison, Inge amassed 10 Win Shares in ’08, Edgar had 11, and even Ramon friggin’ Santiago had 6 (the most he’s ever had, aww).

Miguel Olivo/John Buck
I know Olivo was a name we had been tossing around some at the start of the offseason, but give it up, kids and kittens. The Royals have picked up his option AND declared him the ’09 starting catcher. I suppose they could technically still trade him, but that’d be one hell of a jerk move.

Does this mean that Buck is on the market? The Royals right now sound like they’re happy with a Buck/Olivo tandem, and quite honestly I don’t think we want Buck anyways. Veteran presence hurr hurr hurrrrr, he can’t hit. I mean, he hit better than Inge did last season, but that’s not saying much. (sigh)

Jack Wilson
sauce: old rumor now being revived like some sort of horrific zombie rumor

Miguel Montero
sauce: Arizona Republic
He’s a baby catcher (just 25), and apparently the Dbacks are getting him some more time behind the plate in winter ball so they can fatten him up for the ravenous catcher market. He wasn’t terrible in a limited role in ’08, hitting .255/.330/435 in 184 AB. I have no idea what his defense is like. Regardless of what he may turn into in The Future, I don’t think he’s starting catcher material right now, so I don’t know how interested in him the Tigers would be. If we dispense with the concept of veteran catching leadership entirely, a platoon of this kid and Dusty Ryan might not be the worst thing in the world.

Brandon Lyon
sauce: Jason Beck
Ian and his people took a look at this already. I saw the words “younger Todd Jones” and blacked out in terror. When I awoke hours later, slumped on the floor and bleeding profusely from my forehead, I closed the window on my computer and slowly backed away. It seemed like the only reasonable response.

some catcher from the Rangers
sauce: they have so many
Not familiar with the Texas catching situation? They have Gerald Laird (29 years old, .727 OPS), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (23 years old, .716 OPS, longest name in the majors), Taylor Teagarden (24 years old, limited playing time), and Max Ramirez (24 years old, limited playing time). That’s right: three catchers under 25, and not one single catcher over 30. Obviously this is unfair and they should give us a catcher because NO ONE LIKES THE GUY WHO HOARDS ALL THE CANDY AND WON’T SHARE, MR. DANIELS.

Billfer doesn’t like Laird and Salty, like many of my Red Soxian friends, has an enormous TekBoner and would love to play for Boston.

Teagarden is an interesting thought: not a lot of data at the major league level, of course, but he’s young and was a monster in the Big 12 and tends to hit OK when he gets 100+ ABs at his various minor league stops. Plus: TEAGARDEN. C’mon now.
I don’t really think Texas would be crazy enough to deal him, but the idea of getting to say ‘Taylor Teagarden the Tiger’ all the time is so wonderful that I don’t want to let go of it just yet.

Jason Varitek/Julio Lugo
sauce: Detroit Free Press
Jason Varitek is a bad idea. We’ve already gone over this. Old, expensive, represented by Scott Boras so doubly expensive, old, old, will want more years than we would sanely give him, has mostly lost his bat, would spend the entire time pining for Boston, and he’s old.

I don’t think the Julio Lugo thing is an actual rumor, just Morosi making speculative farting noises, but I still feel obligated to say that it’s also a bad idea. I don’t think he’s regaining the bat of 2005!Lugo any time soon, and the quad strain he struggled with in ’08 (to the tune of a 60-day DL assignment) is kinda ominous for a soon-to-be 33 year old shortstop.

Trevor Hoffman
sauce: Bernie Wilson, AP report
This is a new one, mostly because his departure from the Padres is a recent thing (sidenote: the Tigers have problems, but at least we don’t have the Padres’ problems) and we obviously need bullpen help. He’s a big name and even though he’s widely supposed to be in a precipitous age-related decline, he still managed to post a 1.037 WHIP last season (compare to Fernando and his 1.587 WHIP; heck, even compare that to Bobby Jenks’ 1.103 WHIP, or K-Rod’s 1.288 WHIP) (of course Hoffman had a higher ERA than Jenks or K-Rod, but not higher than Fernando) (because Fernando sucks).

However, there’s no getting around the fact that Hoffman will be 41 in 2009, will have 16 years on his arm, all those years will have been against NL batters, and he will cost more than $4 million (which is where the Padres were low-balling him). Just say no.

JJ Putz
sauce: Detroit Free Press
Again, I think this is more Morosi screaming in the night than it is an actual ‘rumor’. Putz put up a 1.60 WHIP last season, which is… not good, for a closer. He had some sort of weird rib cartilage inflammation injury that landed him on the DL near the start of the year (see here) and another DL stint related to elbow problems mid-June and into July (see here). Neither of those things are good, ESPECIALLY because it sounds like they were both stressy inflammation injuries and he’s a hard thrower.

I totally don’t care. HE’S A MICHIGAN WOLVERINE!! Trade for him immediately.


I think that’s all I’ve got at my fingertips (pawtips?) right now. How about you cats: heard anything interesting/horrifying lately?


15 responses to “the word on the electronic Detroit street

  1. What about Jack Wilson? Last time the Pirates wanted too much for him. Is the Pittsburgh management still in that mode? And is Wilson worth having for the next couple of years while our guys develop? Heard he’s a better than average fielder and is a decent hitter, although a singles guy. Your thoughts?

  2. As long as we’re at the rumour mill, I’d like to start my own (or my idea) What about free agent relief pitcher Russ Springer? I know he’s a little long in the tooth, but he’s had a few really good seasons of relief with St. Louis. He also has a very low WHIP. Maybe he can teach the the other Tigers to throw strikes. I have no idea who is agent is or how much he could be asking for? But it may be worth exploring, unless he want’s too much.

  3. Heh, I actually had Wilson on this list (under Olivo/Buck and above Montero), but you might’ve missed it ’cause it’s a short entry. He’s not a bad hitter, all things considered, but:
    -he’s spent his entire career in the NL,
    -as you noted he doesn’t hit for much power at all (and bear in mind that with Inge at 3B and Polanco at 2B we’re already conceding a lot of power in the infield), and
    -IIRC he’s owed something like $7.25 mil in ’09 with around an $8 mil option for ’10, so he’d be pretty pricey for what would ideally be one year of service.
    He does have pretty good range and he doesn’t make many errors, so with the caveat that I’ve barely seen him play, he seems like a pretty good fielder (and certainly better than Edgar). It’s not the worst idea in the world. But if we’re going with Iorg or some other kitten in ’10, I don’t know that he’s worth whatever we would have to give up (it IS the Pirates, but I assume they’d at least try to pry some awesome prospect out of us for a defensive asset like Wilson).
    I’m not really into the idea of picking up more elderly relievers, unless they’re dirt cheap or something. Springer’s probably going to want/get around $3.5 mil and he was contemplating retirement anyways, wasn’t he? If he does end up playing next season he’s probably going to want to do it in St Louis and if not there, somewhere else in the NL. Dude’s been away from the DH since 1995, I don’t think he’s going to want to go back to that in the twilight of his career.

  4. I am . . . unenthused about most of these names. I could live with Montero and Putz, or possibly one of the Texas catchers.
    I will throw up if they get Khalil Greene or Jack Wilson. Ugh.

  5. Nice tiger! I want to pet his fuzzy eeeaaarrrrr.
    Montero is interesting, but I do wonder about his ability behind the plate. I agree with you that the whole ‘veteran leadership’ schtick is overrated these days, but with the kinds of problems we had with our pitchers, do we really want our only catching options to be extremely young ones? Esp. if at least one is an NL guy who wouldn’t have had that long to study AL batters?
    So right now it’s Miggy at 1B, Polanco 2B, Inge 3B, Magglio RF, Grandy CF. LF is Joyce/Thames/Guillen? DH is Sheff/Guillen? I don’t know; esp. if we end up with some sort of weak bat at C, I don’t think we really want to run Santiago out there at SS all year, coz the lineup looks pretty bad with a weak SS in that case.

  6. ivan, I think one of the Texas catchers would make me happiest, out of this list… I’m not holding out much hope that it’ll happen, though. Salty, who sounds like the best bet to be moved right now, really was talking up Boston, and I don’t know if we can pry anyone else free.
    PfP, those are all good points. :/ The problem here is that there is no great solution, no couple of guys perfectly suited to the Tigers’ situation we can pick up just by throwing money at them. We’ll have to try to make the best of a series of mediocre-to-bad situations, which is… not particularly fun to contemplate.
    Life would be easier if we knew we could count on stuff like Bondo coming back strong, Zoom staying healthy, etc. But you know how that goes.

  7. I still wouldn’t ignore the Phillies, who used a platoon of Carlos Ruiz and minor league lifer Chris Coste this year, and held youngster Jason Jaramillo down in AAA… Wonder if they’d let Coste go for a bucket of balls and go with Ruiz & Jaramillo. If nothing else, he’d come dirt cheap and would meet the criteria of a veteran backstop who doesn’t command a giant salary.

  8. Hey everybody.
    While I have zero rumor rumbling to back up that this is a possiblity, I’ve been wondering if something could be structured with The Mariners to fill all our needs. Putz of course is the key, but since the team is in complete rebuilding mode maybe we could also snag Betancourt and absorb Johjima’s contract. The total of what those guys are owed is only $15m so we’d still be around what total payroll was in 2008. The upside of course is two years of control of Putz (’10 option) and 4 years control of Betancourt (’12 option). The great thing about Betancourt is that he’s probably a better 2B than SS and could slide over to that position if and when Iorg is ready and Polonco departs. The downside is $24m and 4 years of Johjima, but I think helping the M’s clear a spot for Clement is a necessary evil to snag the rest of these guys.
    The Mariner’s current needs are LF, 1B, DH and a utility IF. A Joyce/Larish/Raburn package seems to me like a no brianer for the M’s but I think there’s a way to do this where we don’t have to give up Joyce.
    Thames/Rodney/Larish/Worth I think is a fair return for the three Mariners. Maybe throw in a lower-level OF prospect like Casper Wells? Other players we have that could also be included in some other structuring are Hessman, Fien, Wilkin Ramirez and maybe even Clevlen.
    The one thing I am certain of is that they are not taking Magglio to play LF. No way, no how.

  9. Andrew,
    I’m not sure why you would want the Tigers to acquire Johjima and Betancourt. Johjima compiled a horrific .277 OBP last season. Offensively, he was -2 runs below a replacement level player at his position. Factoring in his defense, only makes him slightly more valuable than replacement level. The Tigers already have a “replacement level” catcher in Dusty Ryan. I’m not sure why you would want to pay $6,000,000 in salary for a player who is only worth the league minimum.
    Betancourt had a miserable .300 OBP last season. His offense was -2 runs below average for his position, and his defense was -10 runs below average compared to other shortstops. Betancourt would not be an uprgrade over Santiago.

  10. There are a few reasons I like this trade. First is that it’s one stop shopping. Second because Johjima and Betancourt both had bad years and Johjima has a contract the M’s want to move, including them could potentially bring down the overall price of the trade. Plus compared to the alternatives being bandied about for SS and C, those two don’t seem like terrible options.
    Betancourt isn’t fantastic but I think it’s unfair to say that he wouldn’t be an upgrade over Santiago. There’s a lot of risk involved with starting a guy who has logged 100+ games only once in his career and hit miserably when he did. Betancourt offers at least a .700 OPS and a proven ability to play 150 games. He also still has a slight bit of upside and could produce close to what Polanco does at the plate. He’d also only cost $2m next year and is owed just $7 through ’10 and ’11 with a buyout in 2012. And the other thing I like about him is that he could easily be moved over to 2B when Iorg is ready and when Polly’s contract expires.
    Compared just to last season Johjima is a minimal upgrade to Ryan. But Kenji hit very well for a catcher in his previous two seasons and his peripherals from 2008 don’t show anything all too alarming. His line drive rate stayed about the same, the only thing that killed him was a .238 BABIP for the season which is incredibly unlucky. I think it’s fair to count on him bouncing back.
    True, I don’t particularly like his contract but I think absorbing it is a necessary evil to making this a low cost trade for The Tigers.
    I’ve been fighting with a dude over at TigsTown who is telling me that the package I proposed isn’t even enough to net BETANCOURT. He is crazy. At least I understand your point of view.

  11. Yes, I wasn’t taking playing time into consideration. An average SS who can play 150+ games a season certainly has more value than an average SS who can only handle playing 100 games in a season. This would make Betancourt a slight upgrade over Santiago.
    Johjima’s true talent level probably lies somewhere in between his performance last season and his performance back in 2006 and 2007. I don’t see him bouncing back entirely though. His lack of plate discipline is a huge concern.

  12. It’s amazing how similar approaches can yield different results. Polly, Johjima and Betancourt don’t take a whole lot of walks, but they don’t strike out much either. But Polly’s hits seem to fall in even with his limited power and those other guys just don’t have that kind of luck (or skill). In some ways I’m not certain that these Mariner players will hit as bad as they did last season for the same reason I’m never sure if Polly will hit as well…

  13. Samara Pearlstein

    Wow Jeff, Chris Coste is pretty much incredibly old. I don’t think he could be a starter, or even a regular platooner for an entire season. If we were just looking for a backup he would be a much more realistic option. I mean dude he is going to be 36 years old when Spring Training rolls around, and he is a catcher. Scary thoughts.
    Andrew and Terpsfan: I am a Kenji Johjima fan in general, especially when you look at the catching market. No, he’s not vintage Pudge, but no one is, you know? Yes, he’s expensive, but so too will be every other available catcher who is not 500 years old or leprous.
    Betancourt doesn’t walk, that’s never been a part of his game. If we could get him, I think that at worst he’d be a wash with Santiago, and at best he’d be a upgrade at least in terms of season-long durability…. but I’m really not hopping with glee at the thought of adding yet ANOTHER cat who refuses to take a base on balls to our lineup, when that has been the bane of our existence for a while now.

  14. If catcher is really that big of a need, then a trade should be worked out with Texas. Like you said they have 4 catchers in their organization that can all produce at the MLB level.

  15. Samara Pearlstein

    There isn’t really an ‘if’ about it: catcher is a big need. Huge need. Enormous sobbing needy need. Right now we have Dusty Ryan and the vague concept of Dane Sardinha, so basically we have ZERO starting catchers. Ryan might turn into one somewhere down the line, but he’s a mere kitten and I don’t think he’s anything like ready just yet.
    I would love to poach from Texas, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible.

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