Category Archives: trades

Roar of the Tigers reacts in a most inevitable fashion to the Matt Joyce trade

I really had more or less talked myself into being OK with the Matt Joyce/Edwin Jackson trade.

I wasn’t overjoyed with it or anything, but I could see the rationale and I was, I think, fairly level-headed about it when I wrote the post about it. After I had that up, though, I went to look at what everyone else thought about the move, and realized

WOE! SADNESS! ANGUISH! DISTRESS! TEARS BOTH SUPPRESSED AND RELEASED!!

And I think we all know how we deal with stuff like that around here.

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Click for slightly bigger, as per usual.

SIGH. Have fun playing in a giant beret, Mr. Joyce. Detroit, and perhaps more importantly its kittens, will miss you.

Is Joyce for Jackson just?

photos by Samara Pearlstein

Of course as soon as I bother to dig into the JJ Putz stuff in any kind of depth, it starts looking like Putz is in the middle of some sort of gargantuan Mets/Racist Logos/Mariners threeway, and the Tigers look like they’re about to do something else entirely. The rumor of the hour has them trading Matt Joyce to the Rays for pitcher Edwin Jackson.

Jackson has been used by the Rays as a starter, although I suppose it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that the Tigs could try him as a closer. He’s a 25-year-old right-hander who mostly throws a 93-95 mph fastball, supported by a mid-80s slider. He has not had much trouble with injuries, with his only DL stint to date coming back in 2004, when he had a strained forearm.

Just looking at win shares, this move seems OK for the Tigers: Jackson put up 10 win shares according to the Bill James version of the metric in 2008 and Joyce put up 6. A swap of the two would thus have the Tigers up 4 wins. Yay?

In 2008 Jackson put up the following numbers:

4.42 ERA (which y’all know)

1.51 WHIP (the lower this number is, the better, ’cause you want to give up as few walks and hits per inning pitched as possible)

.301 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play; this is kind of a measure of a pitcher’s luck, and unusually high or low numbers indicate that he got either unusually lucky with fielding behind him or unusually unlucky. In this case .301 is only a little higher than typical [around .290ish], so this season probably wasn’t too weighted by defensive luck for Jackson)

5.30 K/9 (the higher this number is, the better, ’cause you generally want to throw a lot of strikes per 9 innings)

1.40 K/BB (the higher this ratio is, the better, ’cause you want to throw more strikes than balls)

10 win shares (up from 2 the previous season)

Just out of curiosity and for the sake of comparison I had a look at Justin Verlander’s numbers again.

4.84 ERA (worse than Jackson)

1.40 WHIP (better than Jackson)

.305 BABIP (definitely getting towards the high side of typical, so he was a little unlucky)

7.30 K/9 (MUCH better than Jackson)

1.87 K/BB (better than Jackson)

8 win shares (down from 15 and 16 in the previous two years, but the fact that ’08 was an off year for Justin shouldn’t surprise anyone)

Jackson was a fairly highly touted prospect with the Dodgers, but no one is going to say that he’s as good as Justin Verlander; I still think it’s at least worth pointing out that Justin in a serious down year still did better than this kid, significantly better in some categories.

And for the lulz, here’s Nate:

6.35 ERA (worse than everyone)

1.66 WHIP (worse than everyone, but not as bad compared to Jackson as one might hope)

.343 BABIP (pretty high; Nate got seriously unlucky with the defense behind him in ’08)

5.76 K/9 (understandably worse than Justin but worryingly better than Jackson)

1.74 K/BB (again worse than Justin but better than Jackson)

1 sad lonely win share (down from 14 and 8 the previous two seasons)

I dunno about you guys, but that does not exactly fill me with confidence.

After the 2008 season I really, really hate to say that the Tigers don’t need extra bats, because that is obviously not true. But I reckon it’s fair to say that the Tigers need pitching MORE. No team can ever have too many arms, and this is doubly and triply true for the Tigers, where the Spazzosaurus runs rampant and the minors are still recovering from past trades.

Jackson has a (to this point) healthy arm and youth (two things not possessed by, say, JJ Putz). Matt Joyce is young and has the potential to be quite a good player, but the Tigers need pitching more than they need outfielders. I assume that this would be the thinking behind a Joyce/Jackson trade, if it does indeed end up goin’ down. I can understand it, but, given what Jackson did last year, I’m not quite ecstatic about it.

(Numberz in dis post mostly from Fangraphs and the ’09 Bill James Handbook sittin’ in my lap.)

What about this Putz fellow?

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

We finally have a developing market! Closers for the win! Let loose the celebratory doves and so on.

K-Rod has gone to the Mets, and Kerry Wood looks like he’ll be getting into bed with the Racist Logos.

The Tigers have not signed a closer yet, but as we all are sadly, painfully aware, the bullpen is an area of DESPERATE NEED for these cats, and the Tigers have accordingly had their paws in discussions about Brian Fuentes, Joe Beimel, possibly Chad Cordero, and JJ Putz. The Putz talks have been pretty active, thus: this post.

As with Jack Wilson, let’s go through and look at this with the clarifying power of bold font.

–What does JJ Putz have to offer us?

–What would JJ Putz cost?

–Is JJ Putz worth that cost? and if not, why not?

–Isn’t ‘putz’ an actual word?

What does JJ Putz have to offer us?

Putz is a power pitcher. He mostly throws a fastball in the 95 mph range (he throws it anywhere from 78-67% of the time, according to Fangraphs), mixing in a mid-80s splitter and a slider with similar velocity, which would probably strain his arm if he was starting but is fine for a closer. He’ll be 32 years old in 2009.

Here comes some boring stuff!

In 2008 Putz posted an ERA of 3.88 and a WHIP of 1.60. He threw 10.88 K/9 and had a 2.00 K/BB ratio. Just for comparison, look at what Jonathan Papelbon, a dude we can probably all agree is an elite closer, did last year: 2.34 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10.00 K/9, 9.63 K/BB. Pretty big difference, right?

Thing is, Putz’s ’08 numbers were very atypical. I know that an ERA of 3.88 seems kind of great because we’ve gotten horribly used to whatever bloated numbers Fernando’s going to put up, but in 2006 Putz had a 2.30 ERA, and in 2007 his ERA was 1.38. His WHIPs in those two years were 0.92 and 0.70. His K/9s were 11.95 and 10.30, and his K/BBs were 8.00 and 6.31. Those are numbers that easily rival Papelbon’s.

The problem, of course, was injury. Two different injuries, to be exact: in early April Putz landed on the DL with inflammation of the cartilage around his ribs, and he hit the 15-day DL again in June with a hyperextended elbow (which was then aggravated in rehab through a comedy-of-errors-esque miscommunication with the team).

His K/9 numbers have been fairly consistent, so even in his down year he was throwing strikes. His K/BB ratio was way outta whack in 2008, though, meaning that Putz was walking many more batters than he usually did. Putz was DL’d on April 2, so by the time he came back he had effectively lost most of April and was playing pitching rhythm catch-up for much of the first half. His timing was all shot to cat poo. It’s even possible that this contributed to the elbow injury that came later; it’s certain that it was a major factor in his unusually high walk rate.

IN SHORT: When healthy, Putz is one of the elite closers in the AL. When in the midst of an injury-dinged season, he walks a lot of dudes and is still not really worse than, say, Fernando Rodney.

Putz is also a Michigan native who grew up in Trenton and went on to become a MICHIGAN WOLVERINE. So at least one tiny part of my brain loves him unconditionally. I feel it’s only fair to mention that.

What would JJ Putz cost?

This is all pure rumor, of course, but the names Jeff Larish and Matt Joyce are being tossed around quite a bit. The most bruited-about seem to be a ‘Jeff Larish plus unnamed pitching prospect X’ rumor, a ‘Matt Joyce plus unnamed pitching prospect X’ rumor, and a ‘Jeff Larish plus Matt Joyce plus maybe unnamed pitching prospect X’ rumor. I would sincerely, SINCERELY hope that that last rumor is unrealistic crazypants.

Putz is set to make $5.5 million in ’09, with either a $9.1 million club option for 2010 or a $1 million buyout. (sauce) There is basically no way in hell that the Mariners would throw in any money, so if you were even tempted to think along those lines, get that nonsense out of your brain. Set in the context of all the money the Tigers did NOT spend on their new catcher or shortstop, though, this is almost a non-issue.

Is JJ Putz worth that cost? and if not, why not?

This really depends on which particular ‘cost’ we’re talking about. Is JJ Putz worth Jeff Larish plus unnamed pitching prospect X plus the at least $6.5 million he’d be owed? I would say YES. Easily.

He had a, for him, very down year. He had injuries. The cartilage inflammation thing skeeves me out a bit because it, like most inflammation injuries, is a repetitive stress injury, and by their very nature those injuries tend to recur. The particular cartilaginous bits we’re talking about with Putz are the ones where the ribs articulate with the breastbone in the center of the chest; a pitcher could get inflammation here either because of back motion (pulling his arm far back near the top part of his delivery) or front motion (pulling his arm sharply across his body as part of his followthrough).

So, yeah, it’s a delivery issue, and I don’t like that, especially for power pitchers (hello, Rich Harden; hello, Kyle Farnsworth).

Buuuuuuuuut, this was not an issue with the arm itself– not the shoulder, not the elbow, not the bicep. It was also not an oblique strain. While there’s potential for recurrence, there is a lot LESS potential for recurrence than most other pitching injuries in the same injury class (i.e. repetitive stress-induced inflammation). The hyperextended elbow I am willing to treat more like a freak injury, especially if his wonky timing from the rib thing contributed to it.

The point is that, although an injury risk is definite and present, he’s still easily worth Larish + pitching prospect + the money, given the seriousness of the Tigers’ need.

If the trade involves Matt Joyce, however, I am much, MUCH less sure that it’s a good deal for the Tigers. Larish has power, but he is 26 years old and his ‘natural’ position is first base– insofar as he has a position, because despite the training the Tigers have tried to give him at third, he is still probably most and best of all a DH. Joyce, on the other paw, has power, is 24 years old, and plays outfield.

Joyce is a LOT more valuable than Larish, and I’m not just saying that because of the kitten and his burgeoning superheroic tendencies. Powerhouse seafarin’ blog USS Mariner agrees and goes into a little more depth.

A JJ Putz who had not suffered from those injuries is probably well worth a package including Joyce, especially to a team whose current closing situation hinges upon Fernando Rodney staying healthy (not especially likely) and pitching well (not especially likely), and/or Joel Zumaya getting and staying healthy (not especially likely) and having matured somewhat (I’m not holding my breath). But the injuries are canon, so just say no to moving Matt Joyce.

Isn’t ‘putz’ an actual word?

Yes it is. According to my Dictionary Widget, it is “a stupid or worthless person”, or vulgar slang for, uh, male anatomy. However, I think putz-the-noun is usually pronounced with the same kind of very short U as the U in the word “butts”, as in “of all third baseman butts, Brandon Inge’s is the finest.”

JJ Putz’s name is pronounced with a slightly longer U, like the one in “puts”, as in “it puts the lotion on its skin”. I have heard lazy sportscasters pronouncing Putz with a wicked long U, like it rhymes with “flutes”, but this is apparently incorrect. And now you know… the rest of the story.

Gerald Laird, pretty much a Tiger

photo by Samara Pearlstein

As of right now, which is… uh, 1 am Sunday night/Monday morning, FOX Sports is saying that the Tigers have managed to snag Gerald Laird from the Rangers for Guillermo Moscoso and some other as-yet unnamed cat. At more or less the same time, the official Tigers site has up a story saying the deal is ‘likely’ but not yet official. Grain of salt, best laid plans, last minute disaster, etc: pick your own favorite caveat, just in case this ends up falling apart before it’s finalized.

Laird is 29 years old, and managed to get through all of last season with only one injury, a hamstring strain that sent him to the 15-day DL in late June. He made $1.6 million in 2008. He is not a magical sparkly unicorn at the plate: he hit .276/.329/.398 last season, with career numbers slightly under that.

Paws knows that an OPS of .727 is not going to save us, but Inge had a (significantly) worse OPS last season. Saltalamacchia did worse than that. Pudge hit worse than that. Jason Varitek hit worse than that.

So, whatever, he’s not 2000!Pudge. Laird is a defensive catcher. That’s cool. We like defensive catchers, and we need them with our occasionally psychotic pitchers. Of course last season we all fell into the trap of hand-waving lineup holes by assuming that the rest of the bats would be more than capable of picking up the slack, and that worked out about as disastrously as was possible. But I still think most of us will agree that we can make that offensive sacrifice for the catcher.

Perhaps most importantly, Gerald Laird is– not to put too fine a point on it– about ten squintillion times better for the Tigers than Varitek would have been. That is basically all we can ask for.

I just realized I’ve started two posts in a row with the phrase ‘As of right now’. That’s got to break some rule of good blogging or other. Curses.

ETA: This trade is now official. The other Tigers pitcher in the deal is 17-year-old Carlos Melo.

Will Jack Wilson get his tiger stripes?


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

As of right now, these are the questions we should all have:

–Will Jack Wilson get his tiger stripes?
–Do we really want to see Jack Wilson in tiger stripes?
–How awesome would it be if we actually got a uniform top that was tiger striped? Not a game alternate, of course, ’cause we don’t need one, but a warmup jersey or something.

Will Jack Wilson get his tiger stripes?
Nobody knows. Earlier today it was reported as a done deal, but by now both teams have denied it and Wilson’s agent claims to have not heard anything. This isn’t a deal that can go down without Wilson hearing about it beforehand, because he has a no-trade clause that apparently includes Detroit, so he would have to sign off on anything before it could go through.

As soon as the definite Wilson-to-the-Tigers rumor was shot down, the Dodgers-want-Wilson rumor started up again. Apparently now that too has been dismissed as false, to the extent that “Dodgers haven’t talked to the Pirates about him in months”. The Tigers and Pirates, however, both admit to actually being in talks; they’re just not, you know, DONE.

It could still happen. We would have to pay him $7.25 million in ’09 and either $8.4 mil or a $600,000 buyout in ’10. That’s a solid chunk of money for a guy who hit WORSE than Edgar Renteria last season (an OPS+ of 77 versus Edgar’s OPS+ of 84).

(I know many of you know this, but for the cats who might not: OPS+ is OPS– on base percentage plus slugging– adjusted for ballpark factors and measured against the league average, which would be 100. Thank you THT!)

The point is that they both sucked at the plate last season, but Edgar, the guy who had us screaming and rending our hair, was actually by some metrics a better hitter. Of course Wilson is supposed to be quite a bit better on defense and cats know we can never have too much good infield defense, but this brings us to the second question, namely

Do we really want to see Jack Wilson in tiger stripes?
Sigh.

Like I said before, it would be a lot of money for a guy who is really no great shakes with a bat– I mean, we’re talking a worse OBP than Edgar almost every single year of his career. You cats KNOW the kinds of problems we’ve had with guys sporting cruddy on base percentages. I am not looking forward to ADDING to that particular aggravation.

Then we come to the injuries. Wilson had a few of ’em last season: a strained calf, shoulder tendonitis, and a broken finger. Obviously I’m not too worried about the broken finger, and the strained calf shouldn’t be a big deal (especially since it happened back in April), but I do NOT like shoulder tendonitis. Wilson is going to be 31 in 2009, which is not incredibly elderly, but it’s definitely one of those ages where you have to start raising your eyebrow a bit at repetitive stress injuries.

I know that, ideally, he would only be around for a year, maybe two if the minor league kittens are taking their sweet time. His contract is perfect in that sense: a guaranteed year plus a buyout option year is pretty much exactly what we want. And, yeah, OK, he’d be cheaper than Edgar, who made $10 million last season and just signed in San Francisco for $18.5 mil over two years. But $7.25 mil is still a lot for a guy who would essentially be a defensive specialist.

He’s also spent his entire career in the Pirates organization (well, minus a few low-minors seasons in the Cardinals system). In the National League. Just for the record.

So, no, I really pretty much DON’T want him. I understand that we may end up with him, and there may not have been much alternative (Ramon Santiago at short, as much as I joke about it, is not really a viable option). But I don’t have to like it.

And as for the third question…

How awesome would it be if we actually got a uniform top that was tiger striped? Not a game alternate, of course, ’cause we don’t need one, but a warmup jersey or something.
WICKED AWESOME.

ETA: Just a quick edit to note that Khalil Greene signed with the Cardinals. Uh, I guess in case anyone was still thinking about him.

a day of many traumas


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

What a thoroughly absurd game to end a thoroughly absurd day.

Thirteen innings. A little over five and a half hours.
Forty-one hits total: 22 for the Tigers, 19 for the Racist Logos.
Twenty six runs total: 14 for the Tigers, 12 for the R.L.s.
Six total errors: 2 for the Tigers, 4 for the R.L.s.
A total of 526 pitches thrown: 271 for the Tigers, 255 for the R.L.s.
A total of 14 pitchers used, 7 for each team.

Nate looked terrible. He threw over 60 pitches in 3 innings, he gave up 8 runs (all earned), he basically looked like a guy who starts to get battered and then just has no idea how to proceed. He is very, very lucky to not get a loss here, and he is very, very lucky that his offense was able to eat into Cliff Lee a bit. I don’t know what we’re going to do with him; I don’t know that there’s anything we CAN do with him, because it’s not exactly like we’ve got extra starters just waiting in the wings.

Casey Fossum got himself into, and then out of, remarkable amounts of trouble. He is after all the Fossum Possum, and, like the pale marsupials that almost share his name, he used his sneaky wiles, long hairless prehensile tail and innate ability to play dead to lull opponents into a false sense of victory that he could then snatch away from them. It worked, so it seems great NOW, but it’s not something I would get used to relying on.

Pretty much everyone got hits, blah blah, long game. Granderson went 5-for-7 with 3 runs scored and a couple RBI. Miggy and Inge both homered. It’s nice to see Inge go deep a couple of games in a row, especially since he’s going to be hitting while a catcher for the foreseeable future.

SPEAKING OF….

I thought that if I waited long enough, the rest of this deal would come out. I thought that if I waited long enough, the prospects we were getting in addition to Farnsworth would come to light, or the cash amount would become public, or something. ANYTHING. It’s just not there, though. This is a straight one-for-one trade, Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth.

Here’s the thing: I don’t object to The Farns on his own merits. He’s not The Pitcher That Will Save Us, not by any means, but he’s having a pretty solid year and he has good stuff when he’s on and not injured. If we had traded away some prospects, or a middle-level player and cash, or something like that for The Farns, I would probably be… well, if not exactly OK with it, at least mostly ambivalent about it.

And I know that Pudge is not what he used to be. I know that his power has declined every year he’s been with the Tigers. I am fully aware that he’s 36 years old and has been a major league catcher for 18 seasons, which is a LONG time for any ballplayer to be active at the pro level and is even worse for catchers, who take such a beating. I know that there was an extremely good chance that Inge would be the starting catcher next season.

But if you had told me, a few weeks ago, that Pudge Rodriguez could be had for the price of one Kyle Farnsworth, I would have laughed in your lying hallucinating face and told you to stop taking that pinstriped LSD.

I still want to say it now. Pudge for The Farns? The Farns for Pudge? Straight-up? Really? Honestly? Pudge Rodriguez, 14-time All Star, 13-time Gold Glove winner, 7-time Silver Slugger winner, 1999 AL MVP, 2003 NLCS MVP, for…. Kyle Farnsworth, zero-time anything? Oh, I know most of those ‘awards’ mean little if anything, but if you have a guy who’s accumulated THAT many of them, over that many years, I tend to think they’re indicating SOMETHING worthwhile as a whole that maybe they can’t indicate individually, y’know what I mean?

I heard Dombrowski’s ‘explanations’. They did not in any way explain this to me. This whole thing caught me by surprise, I’ll freely admit that, but once I had some time to sit down and mull it over, I realized that it was not that I objected, on the face of it, to trading away Pudge (still not a move I’m 100% behind, but we WERE going with Inge next year, I can at least sort of understand the rationale). And it’s not that I objected, on the face of it, to acquiring The Farns. I think we all saw tonight that we’re going to need as much bullpen help as we can get if we want to survive this second half.

Pudge for The Farns, straight-up? A Type A free agent (who, if offered arbitration, would get the team losing him a supplemental pick and a compensatory pick in the next draft) for a probably-Type B free agent (who only gets the team losing him one supplemental round pick)? No. This is not OK. THIS I cannot agree with.

Oh, it’s a great trade. I understand that. It is, from some perspectives, an amazing and flawless trade.

Unfortunately for us, those perspectives are the perspectives of Yankees and Yankee fans.

So I don’t know what Brian Cashman did to Dave Dombrowski in order to do this to him so brazenly. Hypnotism, maybe, or satanic rituals. Voodoo. Maybe good old-fashioned intimidation via horse head on the pillow and Jason Giambi smiling at the foot of his bed. Whatever it was that he did, we must not forget that he’s done it. We must not forget that terrible, evil behavior on the part of the Yankees FO is the only thing that can make this trade make any kind of sense.

We must not let them get away with it. I’m not sure what we can do, just yet, but we must not let them get away with it all the same.

Thursday’s game is at 12:05 pm EDT for reasons that are murky and unknowable to me at the moment. Lunchtime with Rod and Mario, nom nom nomalicious. It will be Justin vs. Dr. Fausto Carmona. I’m hearing that The Farns might not make it to Cleveland in time for the game. No big deal, right? I mean, it’s not like we used much of the bullpen…. tonight… thus rendering them… unavailable… for tomorrow… I…. oh…. well. Guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, eh? Go Tigers!

ETA: Todd Jones to the 15 day DL with the ever-vague ‘shoulder soreness’. I suppose we had to figure something like that was going to happen.

Pudge for The Farns; excuse me, my brain has exploded


photo by Samara Pearlstein

Apparently the Tigers have just traded Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth.

Of all the unexpected moves we could have made, this had to rank near the top.

Brandon Inge is the starting catcher. We knew it might come to this next year; I don’t think any of us expected it right now. I don’t think INGE expected it right now. Goodness knows that he’s more capable of catching every day and not falling apart than Pudge is, at this stage in their respective careers, and even with Inge’s anemic batting average he’s currently OPSing a hair over Pudge, but. Pudge is still… you know, PUDGE, and capable of playing quite well, and is more USED to catching every day than Inge is, plus he’s much more used to dealing with pitchers and has a much better sense of how to handle opposing lineups. With a lights-out rotation this is less of a big deal; when your best starter is Armando Galarraga, you have to wonder if you really want to get rid of that kind of veteran.

We have a shaky bullpen, but was it really THAT shaky? Is The Farns really the piece that’s going to put us over the edge into contention? I don’t expect so.

Was this really the most we could have gotten for Pudge? I know that he’s old and generally averse to taking walks, but in a world without catchers on the market, dealing with a team whose catcher is DLed for life… really, Kyle Farnsworth? I love The Farns in a ‘wow that dude is crazy ha ha remember the fun we had with him when he was beating up Royals?’ kind of way, but… really, Kyle Farnsworth?

Kyle Farnsworth, when we already have TWO injury-prone hard throwers in the bullpen? I just… REALLY?

There may be more to the deal; I don’t know right now. This is just what I’ve heard.

I would assume this is some sort of crazy joke, but it’s not April 1. If it turns out to be untrue or if the deal turns out to be something else, I will of course update this space for you, the presumably equally stunned readers.

I am having some trouble processing this, mainly because… because… um…

HOLY FREAKING CATS WHAT DID WE JUST DO

long have we waited: goodbye to Grilli

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Finally, the question we have all had for so long (Why is Jason Grilli on this team?) has been answered (He’s not).

Jason Grilli has been traded to the Colorado Rockies for Zachary Simons, an A-level relief pitcher.

THANK CATS.

Far be it from me to loudly rejoice in someone’s departure from the team, but wow, we’ve been waiting for this with Grilli for a long, long time. It’s not necessarily that he was dreadful, although he certainly has at times been that. It’s more that other relief pitchers at a similar mediocre level have been released and traded and DFAed and sent down while Grilli has stuck to the roster like the world’s only goatee’d limpet. Some of those other guys were seemingly better and some had other things going for them that Grilli did not, like left-handedness or vague pretensions to consistency.

WHY was Grilli allowed to remain on the team, at the big league level, for so long? It’s still a mystery. The current going theory has to do with the possession of incriminating photos of team front office personnel. It makes as much sense as anything else.

Simons may or may not eventually turn out to be a good prospect. The real reason this deal got done was to make room on the roster for Francisco Cruceta, he of the problematic visa. New blood in the bullpen; can it really be worse? I don’t know. I tend to think an infusion of Cruceta and an excision of Grilli can only serve to shake things up and hopefully snap the bullpen onto a new, less stress-inducing track.

It’s hard to imagine that Grilli’s performance will improve in the thin air of the Colorado Rockies, but maybe those NL batters will be sedate enough to give him a little boost. Whatever has gone in the past, I can say that I really do wish him all the best out there in that weird unnatural timezone. I will always remember him at least a little fondly for this if for nothing else.

I’m sure people are going to come screaming out of the woodwork now saying things like, “Aaaaahhhhh but his numbers this season haven’t been bad aahhhhh rrrarrrrrgghhh I love Jason Grilli he’s my BFF yaaaahhh go Tigers go Tigers love kittens rainbows aaahhhrrraahhh how can you be mean to Jason Grilli you don’t know anything about baseball rar rar rar I eat your face!” To these people I say, preemptively, “Bite my blog.”

Willis and Cabrera putting on the stripes?


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

As of right now I don’t think the deal has been finalized, but the word on the digital street is that Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera are headed to Detroit for 6 players.

The Freep says that, so far as they know at the moment, the package of Tigers going to Florida consists of Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz, and Burke Badenhop.

Let me be the first to say: Dude. WOAH.

This is… unexpected, to say the least. I (and many of you, I assume) had got the impression that Cameron Maybin was Untradeable, and that Miller was in a similar boat. As early as YESTERDAY I had heard this. Now we find out that (probably) both have been traded. I’m wondering what caused the turn-around. Was the hardline stance Dombrowski had with regards to these guys just a front to drive up their value as potential trading chips, or was the hardline stance mitigated because Dombrowski honestly believes that a combination of Willis and Cabrera thoroughly trumped even the stars of the Tigers minor league system?

I tend to think it’s the latter. Maybin and Miller are both very very young and have the POTENTIAL to be excellent. Yes. Very true. But Dontrelle Willis is a 25 year old two-time All Star and Miguel Cabrera is a 24 year old murderer of the baseball. These are guys who are very young and have REALIZED their potential to be excellent. This is probably what Dombrowski was thinking.

Maybe he was also thinking about the age-related issues facing the Tigers for next season and beyond. We do have a lot of rapidly aging bats under contract for the coming season; we’re talking about guys who are good ballplayers, even great ballplayers, but who are starting to fall prey to the ravenous jaws of Time. The Tigers have been pawing at the edges of World Series success the past 2 seasons. So close. Sooooo close! (argh. also, sigh.) Maybe NOW is the time for them to take that final step.

By signing Cabrera the Tigers got the power bat (sadly a righty) that they declined to jump for in ARod, with 8 fewer years on his body. Maybe 7 or 6.5 if you say that the extra weight Cabrera’s put on in recent times is wearing him down. He’s still one hell of a hitter. He hasn’t batted under .300 in 3 seasons, his OBP has been over .400 the past 2 seasons, and his SLG percentage hasn’t dropped below .560 in 3 seasons. Please recall that HE IS 24 YEARS OLD.

Now, Cabrera has primarily played third base the past couple of seasons. Before that he spent most of his time in the outfield. Where do we play him? Obviously I am deeply concerned about the fate of Brandon Inge here. But maybe a more far-ranging outfield position would help whip him back into shape, or would at least give him further motivation on that front? This will be a trying time for Brandon Inge fans, and I encourage my brethren to keep their spirits up, as our scrap-tastic patron midget would want.

If our elderly players manage to spend most of the 2008 season in one piece each, just IMAGINE what our lineup will look like. Just look at the NAMES. Granderson. Polanco. Cabrera? Magglio. Sheffield. Guillen. Pudge. Who-the-heck-ever else. Drool. DROOOOOOOL.

And then we have Dontrelle Willis. Dontrelle Willis, a great pitcher who had a bad year, numbers-wise. Every AL fan is aware of our obvious superiority, and we generally believe that the NL is easier on pitchers’ ERAs. Willis had a 5.17 ERA for the Marlins last season, which is worse than Jeremy Bonderman, who spent every first inning last year curled up in a tiny ball on the mound being eaten by fire ants. Willis’ WHIP was 1.597 which is… pretty bad. This does not inspire confidence, but it is of course possible that he just had a down year.

One of my main concerns with Willis is his delivery. Oh, I know he’s been fairly durable thus far in his career, but that is one seriously whacked-out leg kick. Even more than the Injury Bug, I fear the Complexity Bug. The Complexity Bug attacks players who have batting routines or pitching deliveries that are unusually complex. The more complex a motion is, the more separate parts there are that have to go consistently right to make the entire motion successful. The more parts you have, the greater the likelihood that one will go wrong. You see what I mean here? It’s possible that, last season, there was some weeny thing in Willis’ delivery that was juuuust far enough off, and he just needs to get his ‘feel’ back to retain his glorious former skill.

At the least the Tigers have picked up a guy who can definitely start, and cat knows, after the rotating 5th starter bull dung this past season, we needed that.

Now, we did give up an AWFUL lot to get this deal done, but we just got 2 blockbuster players who are both relatively young. I would be a LOT more annoyed if we had given up all this young talent to get one or two older players, no matter how good. That said…

I know everyone is going to be talking about Maybin and Miller and the other young pitchers. But if it turns out to be true that this trade included Mike Rabelo, I am seriously kind of concerned about that. I know. I KNOW! Mike Rabelo! But think about it. What on earth is our catching situation right now? We have Pudge, whose bones have been slowly liquefying month by month for a couple years now. We have Vance Wilson, if he doesn’t show up for Spring Training with both his arms amputated at the elbow or something, and even if he’s fully recovered from his surgery come April, he’s not exactly a spring kitten himself. We have… uh….. Brandon Inge? (egads, no)

Pudge needs a backup. Period. Pudge needs a GOOD backup, because whoever backs him up is going to end up playing on a fairly regular basis even if Pudge somehow (magic? fairies???) makes it through the entire year without injury. Mike Rabelo was a shockingly good backup. I was always worried about our catching situation, but now I am near frantic over it.

Don’t tell me James Skelton is the answer. The kid is TINY and inexperienced (‘though both, of course, may and probably will change: he is also very young). Nobody above him in the system has much of anything that impresses me. We’ve already discussed the issues with catchers on the market this offseason.

I hope that Mr. Dombrowski has something in the works to address this problem as well. Right, Dave? Right?

Anyways. Wow. The Tigers are looking to contend next season, that much is clear. There is no looking to 2009 or beyond in the Tigers front office. They believe we can win now, and, lucky for us Tigers fans, they are apparently willing to do whatever they possibly can to make that happen.

UPDATE: Matt has the minor league angle covered for this move. Check it out to see what we really gave up to get this kitten done.

Signing Joneses (Jacque and Todd)


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

The Omar Infante era has ended. Celebrate or weep as you see fit.

The Tigers made two big(ish) moves yesterday: resigning themselves to another year of Rollercoaster Jones, and trading Omar Infante to the Cubs for Jacque Jones and some cash.

The Todd Jones deal was kind of inevitable. With Joel Zumaya in pieces on the floor, we knew we needed a closer of some sort. Jonesy likes Detroit (he had a chance to test free agency this offseason and ultimately chose not to do so). Leyland seems to like Jonesy. Barring injury, we pretty much know what to expect from him: not a lot of strikeouts, a ton of guys put on base, a lot of heart-attack style 9th innings. Obviously the Tigers decided that they were prepared to deal with all that again.

Despite his messy, messy pitching style, Jones and his walrus mustache did manage to scrape out 38 saves on the year. The save statistic is a heinously flawed one, but it’s heinously flawed across the board, and I reckon it’s at least a little telling that guys like Jonathan Papelbon and JJ Putz had 37 and 40 saves respectively. Jonesy’s ERA is LOADS worse, but in the end he did manage to actually close out a respectable number of games. He has a much smaller margin for error than some of those big K guys do, but it seems that he knows that about himself and, at least some of the time, knows how to handle it.

And hey, it’s a one-year deal. That’s OK. If it had been a multi-year deal it would NOT have been OK, but we don’t even have to contemplate that sorry thought because the Tigers front office isn’t completely bonkers. One more year of rollercoastering… if you have a pre-existing heart condition, make sure you stock up on your meds come April, ’cause you’re going to need them.

The Jacque Jones deal doesn’t seem like a bad one. As much as I secretly suspect that Omar could pull a Carlos Pena and rake with his bat as soon as he leaves, unlike Carlos he just wasn’t ever going to get that chance here. The fact that Neifi!!! was given preferential playing time says volumes… not necessarily about Omar’s actual talent level, but about Leyland’s willingness to play him, for whatever reason. So if we weren’t using him anyways…

…we gave up basically nothing to get Jacque Jones. He’s a left-handed bat, which we needed. He can play left field, which we needed, and he won’t have to play every day since he’ll probably platoon a lot with The River Thames and maybe Raburn, which will cut his injury risk down. He had a weirdly unbalanced 2007 (terrible first half, great second half) with poor power, but the power outage at least was an anomaly for him. He usually hits around 20 home runs a year and slugs around .450, while last season he hit 5 home runs (urgh) and slugged .400. He did also cut down his strikeouts significantly last year, so it just looks like a very un-Jacque-Jones-ish season overall.

I do have to admit that when I initially heard about this trade, my very first thought, before anything else, was, “Oooo, that’ll be our third JJ in 3 seasons!” Jason Johnson, Jair Jurrjens, Jacque Jones. Seriously, the first thing to enter my mind. I have no excuse.

I’m relatively happy with both these moves. The Tigs didn’t have to give up anything objectionable to get them both done, and while neither is going to rocket us into AL Central Domination territory, they should both have at least a small positive effect. Thumbs up, Dave Dombrowski.