mysteries of the Detroit infield


digillustration by Samara Pearlstein

So the Phillies have signed Placido Polanco to a 3 year deal (option for a 4th year, when he will be 38 years old). To play third base.

You can take a moment to revel in the sheer WHAT of that, but when you’re done I think we need to talk about WHAT IN THE HOLY CATS ARE THE TIGERS GOING TO DO WITH THEIR INFIELD IN 2010?!

Catcher

The Tigers were rumored to be ‘shopping’, or at least open to potentially trading Gerald Laird, I guess because he’s probably going to make at least $3 million next year? OK. I don’t even want to think about this. He’s going to be 30 years old for the entire 2010 season, he hasn’t been unusually injury prone or anything (what, some small back spasms that didn’t land him on the DL?), he’s a great defensive catcher who gets insufficient credit for that because his bat was weak as hell this season.

No, he isn’t Joe Mauer, but you know what, we aren’t going to get Joe Mauer. JOE MAUER: NOT OURS. This is a Fact of Life, I have accepted it, I have digested it, I am over it. Yadier Molina: not ours. Also not ours: Pudge circa 2004, Bill Freehan circa 1974.

Could we find a catcher who would come cheaper than Gerald Laird? Yes, of freaking course we could, we could spend the season with a cheapity-cheap-cheap combination of Dusty Ryan and Alex Avila’s 5 o’clock shadow, and maybe they would sometimes hit, and maybe they would make some good throws on occasion or whatever, but they would not be as good defensively as Gerald Laird and they’re just children so they would not be as big a help with our pathetic pitching staff, which has issues, you know that it does, we love it anyways but our love is not enough to heal it.

G-MONEY 4EVA

(Don’t even bring up Brandon Inge. Don’t even. You don’t want to go there with me.)

First base

As of right now, Miguel Cabrera is our 2010 first baseman, but he too has been at the heart of a number of trade rumors this winter. This is because

a) he has an enormous contract ($20 million next year, then $106 million from 2011-2015. That is a lot of millions) and the Tigers, as they keep telling us over and over and OVER again, are trying to do something to reduce their payroll,

b) he was pretty much the only Tiger from ’09 to hit with something approaching consistency (good consistency, not, you know, consistently failing to get hits) and as such is one of the few Tigers who can be said to have real trade value without people laughing at us,

c) he got all mutually combative with his wife and she threw him out of the house because he came home drunk after partying with Wrong Sox players when he had potentially division-clinching games to play in the next two days and the police got involved and Dave Dombrowski had to pick him up from the police station really early in the morning, at which point Cabrera’s blood alcohol level was still quite elevated, and I’m sure none of this made Mr. Dombrowski real pleased with him,

d) and also because Lynn Henning likes trading away the entire team.

But let’s face it, Miggy is going to be 27 next year. He’s entering his prime. We just got him all nice and broken-in at first base. It’s going to be difficult to find someone else willing to take on his contract, and even if that happens, the Tigers will need to be offered something truly out-of-this-litter-box spectacular to make it so. It is unlikely to be made so. So, uh, there.

Third base

It will be Brandon Inge. He’s due $6.6 million in 2010 and he just had surgery on both knees at once. He is such an untradeable commodity that we can’t even call him a commodity, he’s just, like, THERE. Not that I consider this a bad thing, because I love Brandon Inge and eagerly await his 2010 resurgence, fueled entirely by hustle and determination and sugar-laden gum and bionic knees.

Look, you know that Detroit wants Inge to do well next year, he is the longest-tenured Tiger and it would be a good story, and there isn’t really much of anyone else to back him up. If you think they DIDN’T pump his knees full of self-repairing nanobots while they had the chance, well, I would just have to question your obvious baseball naïvité.

Second base

Scott Sizemore is allegedly the cat for the job. He is a few months older than me, he went to Brandon Inge’s college, he split last year between double-A and triple-A, hitting moderately well at both levels. He broke his ankle in the Arizona Fall League and has been recovering ever since. Allegedly it’s healing well and he hopes to be up to speed by the end of Spring Training.

He has not had a single at-bat at the Major League level and the Tigers are willing to entrust second base to him. I know it worked out OK for FredFred and it worked out… kind of horribly, actually, for Jeremy Bonderman, but that wasn’t immediately evident– anyways the point is that I’m not so sure this is a good idea for a position player.

I don’t know! I’m not a Scott Sizemore expert. Presumably the front office cats who are familiar with him have reasons for believing that this is a doable thing. I just worry. It’s what I do. If Sizemore’s ankle doesn’t end up being ready, or if he isn’t as competent as hoped right away, I’m not sure what the Tigers do. Is there a viable backup plan? (Just lie to me and say yes.)

Shortstop

HOLY CATS Y’ALL I HAVE NO IDEA

Try to get Adam Everett back after not offering him arbitration? Try to pick up some scrub and pair him up with Ramon Santiago all season long? Try to work a trade for someone random I can’t think of right now? Or dip into the unimpressive free agent pool?

Which would mean… go with someone old? I think all the free agent shortstops this winter are old. Like, over 30. Craig Counsell will be 39 years old, can he still walk? (Aside: I have a cactus named Craig Counsell. True story. He needs to be re-potted but I keep putting it off because it’s hard to re-pot a cactus.) Orlando Cabrera is 35 and I am pretty sure he’s a Type A guy. Bobby Crosby will only be 30 but he’s so injury-prone that his body is more like 78. The Red Sox probably just signed Marco Scutaro.

Shortstop is a huge, gaping hole for the Tigers right now. Combine that with the uncertainty about second base, and the possibility of (Paws forbid) Inge getting hurt again or something, and we are looking at a very unhappy situation with a lot of Tiger fan tears in the coming season.

Seriously, what are we doing for a shortstop? We aren’t really considering Ramon Santiago full time, right? Please, someone tell me that they have an idea that does not involve Ramon Santiago full time. Please.

13 responses to “mysteries of the Detroit infield

  1. ivantopumpyouup

    Shortstop is freaking me out. I think about it an start rocking in the corner. At this point I’d attempt to resign Adam Everett. Who’s out there that’s a defensive upgrade over Everett?

  2. Dergunna Waviminn

    When you say, “they keep telling us over and over and OVER again” who is ‘they’?

    Would Brent Dlugach be a downgrade from Adam Everett?

    Have you really seen Miguel Cabrera rumors? I’ve only seen Ken Rosenthal thinking out loud, Lynn Henning similarly trying to increase readership, and thousands of fans wondering what it would take to get him. If a Cubs fan posts on a forum that he thinks Hendry should trade Milton Bradley for Cabrera, does that count as a trade rumor?

  3. As much as I hesitate to point this out, Ramon Santiago did bat about 30 points better than Everett in batting average and on-base percentage, and about 60 points better in slugging average. While I agree that it would be preferable to (a) bring Everett back somehow; or (b) sign some other, unnamed entity (O-Cab would be all kinds of awesome, considering that he was a Wrong Sock just 2 years ago and haunted us as a Twin late last year)… Ramon Santiago full-time would not be the end of the world as we know it.

  4. And, for a little more perspective: Santiago’s OPS in 2009: 704. The OPS of some guy named Elvis Andrus, apparently a more impressive rookie than Fred-Fred: 702. Facts, yo.

  5. I love Ramon Santiago and would love to see him get a chance to play everyday short – but since he’s been with the team approximately 5 million years and no one has ever thought he was up to the challenge – what does that say?

    I am happy to trust GMoney and BInge (gimpy knees and all). I want to believe Miggy’s going to grow up and put last season’s problems behind him.

    But I am scared about Sizemore. WE HAVE NEVER SEEN HIM PLAY! Not during expanded rosters. Not nothing. Yes, he could turn out to be the next Fred Fred or Alex Avila. But what if he’s not?

    BTW, have I ever told you how much I love your photo illustrations?

  6. You used the Tigers logo from my childhood days! Score! Plus bonus points for resurrecting the Pony: Not Yours meme from like 5 years ago. I have a feeling we’re going to get a first-hand look at how good our farm team is this year. This, my friends, scares the holy tootsie-rolls out of me.

    PS – What if we trade Miggy (which God help us, doesn’t happen)… Carlos back to 1st? Holy snappers, what has happened to my beloved striped cats?!

  7. ivan, not sure… I mean, like I said, there isn’t any real youth in the FA market, but it’s hard to say who the Tigers might look at if they’re willing to trade, not just pick up guys who already have their freedom.

    Dergunna, nearly every other article on the Tigers’ offseason moves has mentioned reducing payroll, or a new emphasis on ‘fiscal responsibility’, whatever you want to call it. So ‘they’ is pretty much everyone covering the Tigers this year.

    It is almost impossible to say how Dlugach would fare vs. another year of Everett. He’s played, what, 5 games outside of the minors? He’s supposed to be a good defender and he hit for a touch more power at triple-A than he has in the past, which is a good sign, but he’s also going to be 27 next year and I don’t know how much more improvement he’s got in him, yanno?

    Miguel Cabrera trade rumors. There ya go.

    Jeff, one of my concerns with Santiago is that he might look OK because he’s not playing every day…. I didn’t know he OPS’d better than Andrus this year though, ha ha, excellent. ‘Course Andrus did play in more games… ;)

    I guess I wouldn’t mind Santiago at short so much if the other infield positions weren’t also such a mess. Like, you can go with a relatively defensive-minded shortstop if you’re getting production ‘most everywhere else, but we know it ain’t comin’ outta catcher, and Inge is a big question mark in terms of health and how that impacts his bat, and second base is apparently going to be manned by infants, so… eek.

    heitk1le, yeah I do wonder a bit why, if this was the plan, they didn’t at least call Sizemore up in September so he could get a taste of the big leagues. Was he hurting or something? I can’t remember if there was a reason.

    h2o, I think that’s my favorite Tigers logo of all time. JUST LOOK AT ITS CRAZY EYES. So good.

    Carlos Guillen should not be playing first base. Uh. No, it just should not happen. That would be a Very Bad Thing.

  8. Since Santiago is Plan B at second, I sincerely hope he’s not Plan A at short.

    (And yeah, we did start a season once with Santiago in the starting lineup–not at short but at second. Went 43-119 that year, as I recall. Not an experiment I care to repeat)

  9. rea, who was our starter at short that year? Omar, wasn’t it?

    Ack. I really would rather not be reminded of the last time we had to raid the farm team for talent before they were ready.

  10. If I didn’t have insomnia already, I’d have it now thanks to the Tygs. Why did they let Polly GO?!!?!?!?!?!?!???!???!??!!!! *incoherent whimpering*

  11. Dergunna Waviminn

    Samara, maybe you can tell us why you believe “them” when “they” say the Tigers are going to reduce payroll. Are you suggesting the Tigers are more concerned with finances than with winning?

    There weren’t any Cabrera trade rumors in those links; only speculative hype invented out of thin air by the same people I mentioned in my first post, with the addition of Jon Paul Morosi. Maybe you can just tell me who you’ve heard is being rumored to be traded for Miggy.

  12. I have to think that after having surgery on both knees, talk of Inge going back to catcher is officially done with. Catching is rough on the knees anyway, and he is starting to get a bit older (try telling him that), and now both knees have been surgically prepared… it just doesn’t seem like a good plan. Even if Laird doesn’t work out for some reason, I’m pretty sure they’d go with Ryan, Avila, or even Raburn before having Inge don the catching gear again.

  13. Well, thank cats, y’all, Everett is back. I’m sure Ramon is not pleased, but the rest of us can breathe a little easier.

    Colt, because they laugh at our suffering.

    Dergunna, um, because they ARE interested in reducing payroll? It’s… not a strange concept. I don’t think they want to be obsessing over finances to the point of impacting the team in an extremely negative way, and I think they’re not quite there yet– even with the Detroit economy what it is right now, they’re still technically not a small market team– but they’re paying much more attention to the payroll and ways to trim it down than they have in recent years.

    It’s Winter Meeting Season, there are trade rumors about EVERYONE. Most of what I’ve heard is just that Miggy is available for the right price, not a specific trade… but that is more than most of us had expected to hear, since Miggy is one of the few Tigers who produced offensively last year and he’s very young. The idea that the team might be open to trading him due to (probably) finances is scary and whack, yo.

    420tocenter, I hope hope hope hope hope you’re right. SRSLY HOPE.

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