Tigers Catching Options Without Bryan Holaday

Any plans for the Tigers to call up catcher Bryan Holaday when rosters expand in September have been sufficiently dashed. The catcher recently injured his thumb during a game in with Triple-A Toledo and will likely miss the rest of the season.

The news comes as a blow to the Tigers given Holaday’s status as the team’s third catcher. Third-string catchers are generally locks to be called up during September when rosters expand simply based on the beating catchers take. In other words, more depth is always nice.

Detroit will have to find different depth, at least for this season.

Holaday was hitting .205 in 46 Triple-A games, but put up much better numbers at the big-league level. The 27-year-old produced a .271 batting average and 12 RBI in only 16 games. The catcher spent last season as Alex Avila’s primary backup, but was sent to Toledo this time around thanks to James McCann’s emergence. It’s widely thought that Holaday has the inside track in terms of being McCann’s backup next season should Avila depart via free agency in the offseason.

Given that McCann, Avila and Holaday are the only catchers on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, a move will have to be made to add another. There is an open spot on the 40-man roster, but that spot is likely going to Kyle Lobstein, who is nearing a return from an injury of his own.

Regardless of who vacates a 40-man roster slot, Detroit will likely be in the market for a new catcher. There are a few in-house options, as well as the possibility that a number of players could hit the waiver wire once teams start expanding their rosters come September.

In terms of in-house options, Detroit already has both Manny Pina and Miguel Gonzalez in Toledo, but their respective numbers don’t inspire much confidence.

The 28-year-old Pina is a career .188 hitter in the majors. His Triple-A batting average (.239) isn’t much better.

Gonzalez has minimal big-league experience, but did collect two hits in nine plate appearances with the White Sox two years ago. However, he did strike out (three) more times than he did reach base. Gonzalez has hit an underwhelming .195 in 28 games with Toledo.

All told, the Pina/Gonzalez duo has ten games of major league experience.

If Pina or Gonzalez isn’t handed the role of third-string catcher, let’s be clear, Detroit isn’t going to give up much more than a PTNBL/cash for a catcher who likely will have to beat Holaday for a job next spring training.

That being said, there are players cut all the time. Both Eric Fryer and Taylor Teagarden were recently designated for assignment, and while neither is a world-beater, they are solid third-choice catchers.

Reserve catchers can become available at the drop of a hat given other team’s personnel decisions. When one becomes available in the coming months, don’t be surprised to see the Tigers pounce on one.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: Low-Buy Trade Targets to Improve the Bullpen

The Detroit Tigers have whittled their bullpen (in terms of reliability) down to four pitchers setting up closer Joakim SoriaAlex Wilson, Blaine Hardy,  Al Alburquerque and Neftali Feliz.

The rest have been maddeningly inconsistent. Bruce Rondon and Ian Krol seem like long-term pieces, however both have abnormally high ERAs (in albeit small sample sizes). Rondon’s is 9.35 in 8.2 innings while Krol’s is 6.14 in 14.2 innings.

If the Feliz’ arrival has shown the Tigers anything, it’s that quality relief options are available—and they may just need a change of scenery to thrive. Here are some low-buy trade targets the Tigers could look into in order to bolster the team’s bullpen.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Per the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, the Tigers have been watching Steve Cishek. This makes sense.

Cishek struggled mightily to start the year, so much so that he was sent down to Double-A to work things out. The former closer is back with the big league club, and seems to have figured things out. As a setup reliever since June 14th, Cishek has a 0.93 ERA and nine strikeouts in 9.2 innings.

The most unnecessary luxury on a losing team is a good reliever, so if Miami sells off pieces, Cishek may be out the door. He’s even more expandable considering how well A.J. Ramos has fared as a closer (1.55 ERA, 14 saves). This isn’t even to mention the presences of Sam Dyson (3.48 ERA), Bryan Morris (3.31) and Carter Capps (1.55).

It seems that the Tigers like to acquire relievers with closing experience to serve in a non-closer role. This has happened with everyone from Jim Johnson and Joel Hanrahan to Joakim Soria and Feliz. Cishek (94 careers saves) would fit the mold.

Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks

Yet another former closer who’s had troubles, former White Sox reliever Addison Reed would be the ultimate low-buy for the Tigers.

Reed has a career 4.39 ERA, including a 5.92 number this year, but when you look at the numbers more closely, he comes off as a much better pitcher. The former closer’s FIP is a much-more-acceptable 3.84 this year. In other words, the Diamondbacks aren’t doing him any favors defensively.

Over the course of a year-and-a-half in the desert, Reed has nine losses and 35 saves (only three this season). His ERA in Arizona is 4.73. Going purely on those numbers alone, the D-Backs may be inclined to move him, especially considering the team’s depth chart.

Arizona is stocked with quality relievers, from closer Brad Ziegler to setup relievers Andrew Chafin (2.90 ERA), to Randall Delgado (2.93 ERA) and the duo of Daniel Hudson and Oliver Perez (3.32 and 3.46 respectively).

Reed isn’t even on the team’s big league roster. They’d probably be more than open to moving him, especially given his salary. Nonetheless, he’d be a good low-buy option for the Tigers, especially with his closing expertise (104 career saves).

Joe Thatcher, (Formerly of the) Houston Astros

Finally! A non-closer. Joe Thatcher was just designated for assignment by the Astros and is available. Not only is Thatcher wildly non-expensive, relative to his value, he’s also been consistent for Houston.

Thatcher has a respectable 3.79 ERA and an even more attractive 3.17 FIP. The former Angel has struggled of late (27.00 ERA in last five appearances, spanning 1.1 innings), but was dynamite before that. In 31 appearances prior to the struggles, Thatcher posted a sparkling 2.04 ERA.

Given his relative inexpensiveness and success, the Tigers should take a flier on Thatcher. His arrival would be another step towards having a strong bullpen.

Jean Machi, (Formerly of the) San Francisco Giants

It seems that the piece has now moved from struggling former closers to relievers that were recently designated for assignment. Joining Thatcher in the DFA category is now former Giants’ reliever Jean Machi.

Machi excelled in 2014 and 2014 for the Giants, posting a spectacular 2.49 ERA and a 2.93 FIP in 119.1 innings. He struck out 102 batters over that span while accumulating 10 wins. The four-year veteran would likely pitch earlier in games, a la Hardy, and would provide yet another dependable reliever in the Tigers’ bullpen.

Machi does have a 5.14 ERA this year, but his 4.20 FIP suggests he’s better than his high ERA. Despite those “struggles,” the right-handed pitcher has been filthy against lefties this year. Left-handed hitters have produced a miniscule .120 batting average against Machi. Other nasty numbers? Left-handed batters have posted a .241 OBP and a .160 slugging percentage. That’s good for a .401 OPS against. Those are p-r-e-t-t-y good numbers for someone on the waiver wire.

Since he’s been designated for assignment, the Tigers won’t have to pay much to acquire him. Which is nice when you don’t have a boatload of assets to trade.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Why The Tigers Should Sign Edwin Jackson

In an attempt to give their bullpen a different look, the Chicago Cubs have designated pitcher Edwin Jackson for assignment to make way for fellow reliever Rafael Soriano.

Jackson, who is a former Tiger, is on the open market after posting a 3.19 ERA (his FIP is an even more impressive 2.84) in 23 appearances. Over those 23 appearances, he’s tallied 31 innings and struck out 23 batters.

The Tigers should actively pursue a reunion.

Jackson, who pitched in his only All-Star Game as a member of the Tigers in 2009, was highly successful as a member of Detroit’s rotation, posting 13 wins.

Given Jackson’s track record as a reliever this season, and the Tigers struggles in both the rotation and the bullpen, he would make a lot of sense back in a Tigers uniform.

Whatever role Jackson takes up in Detroit—should he sign—he’d fill a need. He could slot in as part of the bullpen, suddenly giving the Tigers a shiny-new pair of dependable relievers in himself and Neftali Feliz.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Or, if Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon’s struggles prove too much, Jackson could slot into the rotation. That, in addition to the eventual return of Kyle Lobstein, would give Detroit a full rotation without Greene or Simon. This would allow Simon to move to the bullpen, a place where he found considerable success. Simon worked to a 2.78 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 148.2 innings pitched out of the ‘pen for Cincinnati from 2012 to 2013.

Either way, the Tigers bullpen would benefit from a move while the rotation could also stand to benefit as well.

Jackson has been here before as well, in terms of being a midseason boost to a new team. As a starting pitcher, he provided both Chicago and St. Louis with a shot in the arm in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

During his first half-season in Chicago, Jackson went 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 75 innings. The next year, after moving to St. Louis at the deadline, Jackson went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in helping the Cardinals claim the World Series title.

In addition, Jackson would also be cheap. Provided the Tigers don’t claim him on waivers, he’ll only cost the veteran’s minimum.

Regardless of what role he would fill, Edwin Jackson would be a shot in the arm to a Tigers’ pitching staff desperately in need of one.

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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-7 Loss vs the Chicago White Sox

  • Two

The number of strikeouts by Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon in his first appearance of the year. The flame-throwing reliever struck out both batters that he faced. He’ll play a vital role in the Detroit ‘pen moving forward.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Rondon, Blaine Hardy, Alex Wilson and Joakim Soria. This seems to be part of, if not all of manager Brad Ausmus’ preferred group when the game is on the line. Joba Chamberlain lost the game for the team by allowing three runs in the tenth.

  • Three

The number of hits by both Jose Iglesias and Victor Martinez. It’s business as usual for Iglesias this season, but a positive sign for V-Mart, as he seems to be turning a corner.

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Seattle Mariners: Mark Trumbo’s Early (Lack of) Impact

The Seattle Mariners offense is struggling. Despite the offseason addition of Nelson Cruz and the presence of Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, the M’s offense is in a rut. Entering the week, only the White Sox and Phillies had scored fewer runs.

Given all these factors, the addition of Mark Trumbo would seem like the best early Christmas present known to man. Yeah… not so much.

Trumbo’s early impact, or lack thereof, has been staggering considering the slugger’s track record.

The former Angel was a massive hit for his hometown team, averaging 32 home runs, 94 RBI and a .251 average over three full seasons with the Halos. The M’s needed that Trumbo, not the one they acquired. The first baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter (he basically plays every “power” position on the diamond) had a rough go of things in Arizona. With the Diamondbacks he tallied 23 bombs, 84 RBI and 128 strikeouts in 134 games. Those aren’t that awful numbers, but when you consider the stats were accumulated over the course of two seasons, it encourages pause.

The Mariners certainly gave up some quality pieces to bring a player who once finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and appeared in an All Star game during his first two seasons.

Out went Welington Castro, Dominic Leone and minor league prospects Gabriel Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer.

(It should be noted that reliever/swing man Vidal Nuno made the move north with Trumbo in the transaction, so the M’s upgraded their bullpen to some extent).

Losing Castillo is the most prominent negative here. Yes, Leone had his moments last season in relief, but he struggled this year and Nuno is likely an upgrade over the now-former Mariner.

Seattle’s catching situation is pretty straight forward. Mike Zunino is the starter and Jesus Sucre is the backup. However, Zunino is hitting .158 with a .230 OBP while Sucre is scuffling with the bat. His batting average, OBP and slugging percentage are all .043. He owns the rare distinction having an OPS under .100. Yes, that’s right, Jesus Sucre’s OPS is .087. Yikes.

So why is this being mentioned? Because Welington Castro happens to be a career .251 hitter, who at his best hits somewhere in the .260-.270 neighborhood.

Why he was dealt for a struggling Trumbo is puzzling.

Trumbo put up half-way decent numbers (9 home runs, 23 RBI, .805 OPS) in 46 games in the desert prior to the trade—however, Seattle was already well-stocked in the first-baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter areas. In fact, they had a log jam on their hands. Logan Morrison was/is entrenched at first base, while the pre-Trumbo corner outfield/DH candidates included Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano and Dustin Ackley. James Jones has also received at-bats in the outfield.

Adding Trumbo to this mix makes sense if the Trumbo in question is the one who suited up for the Angels. However, sacrificing an above-average offensive catcher (Castillo) and two prospects for the Trumbo who suited up for the D-Backs is, in layman’s terms, a bad deal.

Losing Castillo hurts catcher production, while adding Trumbo to a position where there is a surplus only rubs salt in the wound. While Zunino is clearly the starting catcher, he’s struggling with the bat, as is his cover, Sucre. Sacrificing offensively behind the dish is fine trade-off when you acquire pre-Diamondback Mark Trumbo, but sacrificing behind the dish for a player who hit entered the week hitting .179 as a Mariner… well, then you have some problems.

The Mark Trumbo acquisition will be a win for the Mariners if the slugger can regain the form he displayed with the Angels, however if he continues his downward trajectory, the M’s may soon come to regret the trade.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 7-1 Win vs the Chicago White Sox

  • 18

The number of hits by the Tigers. It’s almost as if the Tigers took out there frustration of a long losing streak on the White Sox pitchers, specifically John Danks, who allowed 11 hits.

  • Nine

The number of innings thrown by Tigers starter David Price. The former Rays pitcher allowed five hits, a run (it was earned) and two walks. Price struck out eleven.

  • 10

The number of hits by the bottom of the Detroit order. James McCann and Jose Iglesias both had three hits while Josh Wilson chipped in with four hits. The trio drove in four runs and scored two.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 4-3 Loss to the Chicago White Sox

  • Seven

The number of innings thrown by Tigers starter Kyle Ryan. Ryan allowed only three hits, a walk and two runs (both earned) while striking out four. He gave up one home run.

  • Two

The number of holds by Tigers’ relievers Joba Chamberlain and Blaine Hardy. Both recorded one out in bridging the gap to Joakim Soria, who promptly blew the save.

  • Nine

The number of hits by the Tigers. They also added two walks, but couldn’t muster more than three runs.

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5 Stats to Know from the Detroit Tigers’ 4-1 Win over the Chicago White Sox

  • Three

The number of hits by Tigers’ designated hitter Victor Martinez. After going yard against Chris Sale, this three-hit effort seems to have V-Mart trending in the right direction.

  • 1

The number of outs recorded by Tigers’ closer Joakim Soria in his eleventh save of the season. Soria struck out all four batters that he faced.

  • 116

The number of pitches seen by both teams. Fun fact.

  • 00

Kyle Lobstein’s ERA on the season. Justin Verlander’s rotation replacement has pitched well so far this season. This is good news for the Tigers given Shane Greene’s struggles and Verlander’s (soon-ish) return from the DL.

  • Two

The number of strikeouts by outfielder J.D. Martinez. The slugger’s averaged dropped to .220 after the game.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 7-6 Loss to the Chicago White Sox

  • Four

The number of RBI by designated hitter Victor Martinez. V-Mart only had nine RBI on the season entering the game, and had only totaled more than a single RBI once. Wednesday’s showing was an encouraging sign for Martinez as he showed signs of breaking out of his slump at the dish.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Al Alburquerque, Tom Gorzelanny and Angel Nesbitt in a combined two innings of work. The trio seem to be among manager’s Brad Ausmus’ preferred pitchers out of the bullpen.

  • Six

The number of hits allowed in 0.2 innings pitched by Joba Chamberlain. The former Yankee took the loss while allowing four runs (all earned).

  • One

The number of home runs by Victor Martinez—yet another positive sign for the Detroit DH.

  • Three

The number of hits by Tigers catcher James McCann. McCann went three-for-five with two strikeouts on the day. If he continues to turn in displays like this, he’ll start to take more at-bats away from Alex Avila.

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Detroit Tigers: Success with Roster Turnover the Reason Team’s Championship Window isn’t Closing

Since the Detroit Tigers started their run of success, they’ve everyone will tell you some combination of these next seven statements about the Detroit Tigers.

  1. Their bullpen is dreadful.
  2. Their defense is bad too.
  3. They’re not built for the future.
  4. They’re top heavy.
  5. They spend money at a rate that isn’t sustainable.
  6. Their farm system is “barren”.
  7. They have no minor-league depth.
  8. The window is closing.

The first two statements are indicative of the team’s shortcomings over the past few years, but this season they are vastly improved. Detroit has solid a bridge to closer Joakim Soria consisting of Tom Gorzelanny, Joba Chamberlain and Alex Wilson. Additionally, Angel Nesbitt, who has pitched well as a rookie along with fellow youngster/flamethrower Bruce Rondon (once he returns from injury) will be vital bullpen cogs moving forward. Throw in rebound candidate Al Alburquerque (10.29 ERA at present, career 2.82 ERA entering the season) and you have a solid bullpen.

In terms of the defense, the additions of Anthony Gose and Yoenis Cespedes, coupled with the subtraction of Torii Hunter, the return of Jose Iglesias and the improvement of Nick Castellanos have left the Tigers with a strong defensive unit.

What’s significant about almost all of the aforementioned players is that general manager Dave Dombrowski brought them in an attempt to shore up the bullpen and defense. That’s been the Tigers model since their magical World Series run in 2006, reload and reshape.

The Tigers have gone from a team with a powerful lineup with no real weakness (2006) to one with the best rotation in baseball (2013), to this year’s team which excels at defense while still bringing the pop offensively.

They’ve been dependent on one major offseason acquisition/bat (Magglio Ordonez) before turning to another player brought in from outside the organization to lead the team (Miguel Cabrera).

They’ve also moved from one ace (Kenny Rogers) to another (Justin Verlander) before repeating the process again (Max Scherzer to David Price).

They’ve achieved all this with a perceived “weak” farm system. But regardless of prospects, the Tigers have continued to sustain success. They won their fourth straight AL Central title last season and are tied with the New York Mets for the best record in baseball over the course of the young season.

All good things have to come to an end, but Detroit’s window won’t be closing any time soon because of their ability to sustain success. They rarely deploy homegrown prospects, instead deciding to flip them into better, more established players. For as much as certain mainstream pundits like to go after the Tigers system, the belief is clearly not shared throughout the rest of the league. If it was, then the Tigers wouldn’t have been able to pull off trades for the likes of Price, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister. Throw in players like Devon Travis and Drew Smyly excelling elsewhere and the Tigers “system” doesn’t look quite as bad other writers make it out to be.

This continual roster reshaping/reloading has firmly jammed Detroit’s championship window open. They’ve continually dealt for top talent while bringing in replacements of equal value when that talent grows old, ineffective or too expensive.

Dombrowski turned Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, both of whom were All-Stars in Detroit and the on the verge of massive contracts, into Scherzer and Austin Jackson. Scherzer would go on to win a Cy Young award in Detroit while establishing himself as one of baseball’s best. Jackson, on the other hand, provided stellar defense in centerfield before growing too pricey relative to his production. He was one of the key pieces in the Price trade.

Rick Porcello was also shipped out before he grew too expensive, he brought back Wilson as well as Yoenis Cespedes, who has provided good defense while hitting .310 and driving in the same number of runs as Cabrera (17).

All in all, the Tigers aren’t as fiscally irresponsible as you might think.

The Tigers are rarely on the side of the deal that yields prospects for one player thanks to a history of trading prospects. Recent acquisitions Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene have joined a lit that also includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jhonny Peralta, Jose Iglesias, Delmon Young and Soria. The most significant player traded in all of those deals? Avisail Garcia, who hit .244 for the White Sox last year.

Detroit has continued to tinker with their team while not being afraid to cut their losses if an experiment fails. Furthermore, the team isn’t afraid to make bold/unpopular moves to further success.

Jeff Baker was acquired by Detroit in August 2012 for the stretch run, but due to ineffectiveness, was traded before the month was out. The Tigers ate money to move on from Prince Fielder despite their being seven years left on his contract. Robbie Ray, the still-developing centerpiece of the Doug Fister debacle was moved in a three-team trade to bring in Greene.

Bringing in Greene and Simon to replace Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello is certainly bold, as is dealing fan-favorite Granderson and replacing him with an unproven Jackson. Even bolder is the decision to deal nearly every prospect of note in the system (at the time) for Cabrera.

However, the moves seem to have paid off. Scherzer was essentially replaced in kind by Price, so swapping out the now over-paid Porcello and Drew Smyly for the comparatively cheaper duo of Simon and Greene is a win considering how well Simon is pitching this year and the potential Greene has shown. If Cabrera continues his current career trajectory he’ll be discussed in the same discussion as Hank Aaron… so that trade worked.

The team will do whatever it takes to win, and continue winning. They mortgage their future by swapping out prospects for veterans. However, when that future comes, they simply trade excess players and more prospects for new parts in order to maintain success.

Pundits will tell you that the Tigers will decline and be a very bad team soon, but they’ve been saying that for a while now. The Detroit Tigers have perfected their model and stayed competitive for nearly the last decade. Who’s to say it won’t happen for another decade?

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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.