Detroit Tigers Spring Training Links: Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ausmus, Iglesias and Greene

Here’s the latest from the Tigers:

  • Jose Iglesias missed time due to a shin inury, but should be fine going forward.
  • Shane Greene was roughed up in his Tigers debut.
  • Justin Verlander is back to being his old self on the mound. I wrote about
  • Miguel Cabrera has been cleared to take grounders at first base.
  • Brad Ausmus seems to have found his way to Twitter.

And finally, Jack White was at the Tigers spring training facility.

 

Kingdome Crossover: Players the Seattle Mariners Could Have Drafted Instead of Danny Hultzen

The Seattle Mariners have made their fair share of blunders over the years, namely letting numerous players leave for little-to-no return.

This long, illustrious list includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jason Varitek, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rodriguez—you get the point.

The M’s missed a big opportunity in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Danny Hultzen was drafted third overall by Seattle and immediately became part of the “Big Three” pitching prospects along with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen showed immense potential, but has seen his career derailed by injuries.

The former first-round pick could still achieve the success he was projected to reach, but it will take time.

Hindsight is obviously 20-20 (stop me if you’ve heard that before), but the 2011 draft produced numerous first-round gems that the Mariners could have taken. Here are some of those players in order of draft position.

Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, 4th Overall Pick

Bundy, only 22, made his major league debut in 2012. He made two relief appearances for the O’s, totaling an inning and two thirds.

However, the former fourth-overall shows the potential to be a front-line pitcher, if not an ace in the major leagues.

If nothing else, Bundy’s name appearing in trade rumors should speak to his value. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles wanted Bundy in a trade for Matt Kemp while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported in July that Boston was interested in Bundy in a potential Jon Lester trade.

Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman: Washington Nationals, 6th Overall Pick

In a draft class loaded with talented hitters, Rendon has shown the most polish early.

The third baseman, who has also experience at second base, hit .287 in 153 games. The infielder also scored a major-league high 111 runs. In addition, he swatted 23 home runs, drove in 83 runs and swiped 17 bases.

He would have trouble finding at-bats with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager manning second and third, but teams can always use extra bats—especially quality ones like Rendon.

Archie Bradley, Starting Pitcher: Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th Overall Pick

Similar to Bundy, Bradley has future ace/front-line starter written all over him.

He’s been routinely ranked in the top ten prospects in the league and is probably on equal, and while his minor league numbers haven’t been overly impressive (4.45 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP in 18 minor league starts across three minor league levels) he still has a bright future.

Bradley is on similar or better footing than Taijuan Walker or James Paxton in terms of potential.

Francisco Lindor, Shortstop: Cleveland Indians, 8th Overall Pick

Lindor has skyrocketed through the minors and could be in Cleveland in the near future.

One of the top prospects in the game, Lindor is regarded as a top-notch defensive shortstop. He also managed a .273 batting average in 38 Triple-A, showing the potential to be more than simply a defensive wizard at the major league level.

His impending arrival also forced two-time All Star Asdrubal Cabrera out of Cleveland at the trade deadline. Incumbent shortstop Jose Ramirez could meet the same fate as Cabrera.

Javier Baez, Infielder: Chicago Cubs, 9th Overall Pick

Part of the Cubs’ first wave of impact prospects to make the majors, Baez shows tremendous upside. He has outstanding power and will drive in plenty of runs when he reaches his potential.

Baez can play either middle infield position and is part of a talented group of Cubs’ infielders that include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among others.

The infielder wouldn’t unseat Robinson Cano at second (duh), but he’d provide an upgrade over Chris Taylor and Brad Miller at shortstop.

Baez mashed 37 homers and drove in 111 runs in across multiple levels in the minor leagues in 2013.

George Springer, Outfielder: Houston Astros, 11th Overall Pick

While Rendon would have been blocked at multiple positions by the Cano and Seager, George Springer wouldn’t have been blocked in the outfield.

Part of the Astros’ next great team, Springer is a slugger in every sense of the word.

The outfielder swatted 20 home runs in a mere 78 games. He only hit .231 and struck out 114 games, but his power is undeniable.

Springer has a .303 career batting average in the minor leagues—or, in other words, he won’t be a .231 hitter forever. He’ll improve.

But instead of hitting bombs in Safeco Field as a member of the M’s, Springer will be hitting for the division rival Astros.

Jose Fernandez, Starting Pitcher: Miami Marlins, 14th Overall Pick

Jose Fernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball—a fantastic accomplishment considering he was only drafted in 2011.

The 22-year-old Cuban took home Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in his first season in 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright finished ahead of Fernandez in Cy Young voting that year.

The Marlins ace is one of the many exiting, young talents in Miami that have prompted the team to give Giancarlo Stanton a big contract and accelerate the rebuilding process so as to win as soon as possible.

Coming off of an injury shortened 2014, Fernandez will undoubtedly be Miami’s ace when he returns in 2015 and beyond.

Seattle is blessed in the pitching department with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but adding Fernandez certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

C.J. Cron, First Baseman: Los Angeles Angels Anaheim, 17th Overall Pick

Cron can flat out hit. He may not be as dynamic as teammate Mike Trout, but he provides the Angels with another young player to build around.

The first baseman owns a .290 career minor-league batting average and can drive the ball out of the park. He slugged 11 bombs in only 79 games in 2014 and has the potential to do much more.

With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in decline, Cron will be counted on to help carry the Angels into the future. Don’t be surprised if Cron gets close to 40 home runs in a season at some point.

He would have been a nice fit at first base for the M’s.

Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher: Oakland Athletics, 18th Overall Pick

While Bundy and Bradley are future aces, Gray (like Fernandez) is already there.

Gray has a 2.99 ERA in 283 innings pitched and posted a 3.2 WAR in 2014. That 3.2 WAR was higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Anibal Sanchez.

Gray stepped in during his rookie season and started two playoff games for the A’s. Both times he went toe-to-toe with vintage Justin Verlander and didn’t blink, arguably pitching as well as the former Cy Young MVP.

Also like Fernandez, Gray would have been a nice addition to the M’s, but Seattle will have to settle for seeing him pitch against them a few times a year with Oakland.

Other Notable Names

In addition to the big names like Fernandez, Springer and Rendon, there were a plethora of players available later in the first round of the draft.

The Cardinals and Giants respective second baseman (Kolten Wong and Joe Panik) were taken 22nd and 29th overall. Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken with the 40th pick while fellow Red Sox youngsters, and current farmhands, Matt Barnes (19th), Henry Owens (36th) and Blake Swihart (26th) were also first-round picks.

While Danny Hultzen hasn’t reached the big leagues yet, the M’s clearly could have received more value out of all these players.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comunless otherwise noted.

You can view the piece over at Kingdome here. For everything else Kingdome of Seattle Sports has to offer, click here. You can follow Kingdome on Twitter here and subscribe on YouTube here.

Detroit Tigers: Bullpen Names to Watch

It’s no secret that the Detroit Tigers have had bullpen issues. Detroit finished below league-average in numerous bullpen categories in 2014, including saves and holds.

Additionally, the team’s bullpen allowed 4.35 runs per game, easily the worst among playoff teams. Lastly, the team had an Inherited Score Percentage (which, per Baseball Reference, is “the percentage of runners on base when pitcher entered the game who subsequently scored) of 33% – fifth worst in the league. In other words, one of every three runners that Tigers relievers inherited scored. This stat is especially bad when you consider that Detroit inherited 244 runners, seventh worst of all teams.

While the bullpen will be largely improved thanks to expected bounce-back seasons from Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria, the return of Bruce Rondon and the consistent presence of Al Alburquerque, there are other names to track as we inch towards Opening Day.

Angel Nesbitt

None of these pitchers are locks to make the roster like a Nathan or a Soria, making them all dark horses to a degree. However, Nesbitt may be the biggest dark horse of the group. Unlike the relievers that follow, the flame-throwing 24-year-old doesn’t have any major league experience.

What he does have is stuff, including a fastball that approaches 100 MPH.

Nesbitt posted an impressive 1.48 ERA at two minor league stops in 2014 while striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings. He also compiled 20 saves.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see him start the year at Triple-A in order to obtain more experience, but if he doesn’t start the year with the big club, look for him to get a call up at some point in 2015.

Josh Zeid

Once upon a time, Hunter Pence was traded from Houston to Philadelphia. In exchange for parting with Pence, the Astros received a package that included Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Domingo Santana… and Zeid.

Cosart has a cumulative 3.26 ERA in 40 career starts and was flipped at the last trade deadline to Houston for an additional haul of prospects, including two former top 100 prospects. Singleton is so highly thought of that the Astros signed him through 2021 despite having no big league experience. Santana made his major league debut last season.

Zeid debuted in 2013 with a solid season. In only 25 games, he posted a 3.90 ERA, recorded a save and struck out 24 batters in 27.2 innings. The former Astro has experience in the minors as a starter but has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since 2012. Despite a 6.97 ERA in 2014, there are numerous positives to be had with Zeid.

He shows promise as a lefty specialist after holding left-handed batters to a .178 batting average and a .275 OBP in 2013. He struggled mightily with lefties in 2014, allowing a .455 batting average and a .500 OBP. Nonetheless, his performances in 2013 show that he has potential to be useful bullpen arm for Detroit.

Alex Wilson

Acquired as part of the Rick Porcello trade, Alex Wilson may start the season with Detroit. The Tigers clearly could use some new blood in the bullpen and Wilson provides that. He posted a 1.91 ERA in 18 appearances for Boston in 2014 and proved to particularly useful against right-handed batters, limiting them to a .151 batting average and a meager .476 OPS.

Another transitioned starter, Wilson will likely provide Brad Ausmus with another weapon to use out of the bullpen, along with Nathan, Soria, Bruce Rondon, Al Alburquerque and Tom Gorzelanny.

Ian Krol

Similar to Wilson, Krol came over as a secondary piece in a trade for a starting pitcher. Krol was acquired with the since departed duo of Robbie Ray and Steve Lombardozzi for Doug Fister.

It was hit and miss for Krol in his first go-around in Detroit. He came out of the gate strong with a 3.38 ERA in March/April and improved on that number in May with a 1.59 mark in 16 appearances. It went downhill soon after that. The former National’s ERA in June was 11.12. He only made 10 appearance the rest of the way, seven of which came in July. The reliever’s ERA in that month? 9.00.

Krol, along with Nathan and Soria, should have a bounce-back season. He showed promise early in Detroit and in Washington where he posted a 3.95 ERA in 32 appearances. Hopefully the adjustment period is over and Krol can go back to being a critical member of the Tigers bullpen.

Blaine Hardy

Plucked from free agency in 2013, Blaine Hardy had a solid first season in Motown. In 39 innings, he posted a 2.54 ERA, providing one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating year for the bullpen.

Hardy will look to continue his success in 2015. Although a roster spot isn’t a 100% guarantee thanks to a rough spot down the stretch (5.40 ERA over his last nine appearances), expect him to be with the Tigers at some point in 2015—regardless of if he makes the team out of Spring Training.

Joel Hanrahan

At the height of his prime, Joel Hanrahan was a two-time All-Star closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, converting 76 save in a two year span while turning in a sparkling 2.24 ERA. In four years with the Pirates he posted an ERA of 2.59 as a reliever.

It’s easy to forget those years he spent in Pittsburgh were from 2009 to 2012.

Hanrahan has had trouble recovering from injury as of late, but should he be healthy come the regular season, he’ll be a massive part of the Tigers’ success. Along with Nathan and Soria he would give Detroit three pitchers who have saved 40 games in a season, a rarity in today’s game. If all three pitch like they’re capable of, the Tigers could have a lockdown bullpen—something that hasn’t been muttered in Detroit for a long time.

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

Detroit Tigers: Internal Replacements for Victor Martinez

The latest from the Detroit Tigers is that designated hitter Victor Martinez has a torn meniscus and will undergo surgery next week.

V-Mart won’t miss the entire season due to the injury, but it could leave him out for an extended amount of time. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, players have returned from the surgery in one or two months. Knowing this, it’s likely Martinez will miss Spring Training.  

The recently released Dayan Viciedo represents one of the few free agent alternatives, other options on the market include the likes of Jason Kubel, Ryan Doumit and Nate Schierholtz. This list could change once teams start making cuts in Spring Training, but it’s what the Tigers have to work with at present.

Detroit may fancy their chances finding another J.D. Martinez in the early months of the season to provide cover, but the team may look to fill the gap internally, here are few options for the team.

James McCann

While not a candidate to be used every day as a V-Mart placeholder, McCann can provide the Tigers with value stepping in every now and again. The young catcher wouldn’t be a direct replacement in terms of being the DH, but he would allow manager Brad Ausmus to shift the team around.

McCann would start behind the dish in most scenarios, the catcher is one of Detroit’s better position player prospects and brings a defensive-minded mentality to the game. Additionally, he hit .295 at Triple-A, showing some potential as a two-way contributor at the big league level.

Starting McCann would allow the team to slide Alex Avila to first base, something that has been brought up before. When you also consider Avila’s health issues and the toll they’ve taken on his offensive numbers, some time spent at first makes sense.

Like Martinez, Miguel Cabrera is a question mark to start the season on the active roster. Avila could provide cover at first base while the former MVP recovers. Even if Cabrera is ready to go, they’ll likely be cautious with him—which means taking a good portion of the designated hitter at-bats that V-Mart is potentially vacating.

Starting McCann at catcher would be a win-win situation in the sense that Avila and Cabrera’s health would be preserved so that they can be their best offensively.

Corner Outfielder A, B or C

As of right now, Detroit has three quality corner outfielders on their roster. Three outfielders who would start for most teams—Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis. With the DH spot open, Ausmus and the Tigers could rotate the three between starting in the field and being designated hitter so they stay fresh.

With the return of Jose Iglesias and the arrival of Cespedes and Anthony Gose, it’s clear that Detroit will be a much improved defensive unit in 2015. Knowing this, the Tigers could start their strongest defensive duo in the outfield and not have to worry about losing the third’s bat as the remaining outfielder can slot in at DH. The situation also allows the flexibility for the outfielders to be utilized in situations where they thrive, like Davis who should probably start against left-handed pitching after mashing .356 against southpaws in 2014.

The Prospects

For all the unfair grief Detroit’s minor league system has gotten recently, they have some quality depth in the outfield.

The 6’6” slugging outfielder known as Steven Moya possesses phenomenal raw power that could translate into big home run numbers once he reaches Motown. In addition to him, the team will also be able to call on Tyler Collins, a more all-around type who is solid in most aspects of the game on both sides of the ball.

Both Moya and Collins got limited playing time in Detroit last season, but the two wild cards may be outfielders who have never worn the Old English “D” in a game. Daniel Fields has long been considered a solid prospect, but was hit with the injury bug in 2014. Because of this, former sixth-round pick was never able to establish himself at Triple-A Toledo last season and as a result wasn’t able to help the Tigers in any capacity. If he’s healthy this season, he may find himself in Detroit sooner rather than later.

The other wild card is Wynton Bernard, a former San Diego farmhand who dominated at Single-A Western Michigan last year. He put up an impressive .323 batting average and was added to the Tigers 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He may not be the top name on the list, but the fact that he was added to the 40-man roster suggests the Tigers think highly of him. It at least gives him an outside shot.

Conclusion

The likely scenario is that Ausmus rotates his outfielders. With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both question marks to be 100% to start on Opening Day, the team will need all the offense it can get. Utilizing all three corner outfielders is the best way to go about that. It would be surprising to see the McCann scenario deployed, or to see Collins or Moya make the roster and receive some at bats, but as it stands, the outfield provides the Tigers with the best source of offense at this point in time.

What do you think?

Which situation do you think is best way to go about replacing V-Mart? Is it one of the above or is it yet another alternate situation? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter either here or here.

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

Detroit Tigers: Why Tom Gorzelanny Is the Perfect Signing

The Detroit Tigers’ bullpen has been the team’s ultimate downfall in recent postseasons. From Jose Valverde’s implosion, to the unlikely events in Boston, to the meltdown against Baltimore, the Tigers have had their share of problems in the department of relief pitching.

Take the bullpen struggles and couple them with a newly-minted, but largely-untested, back of the rotation and you realize Tom Gorzelanny is the perfect signing for the Tigers.

He’s not the biggest name, and he won’t summon thoughts of Trevor Hoffman when thought of by the fans, but he’s still a quality addition—an addition that makes sense for the Tigers.

Detroit’s bullpen is bad. You can look at statistic A or statistic B, but the bottom line is that the unit was poor in 2014.

Gorzelanny wasn’t the top option on the market, and with another team may not have been valued as much. However, with the Tigers Gorzelanny is an impact signing.

When I say he wouldn’t have been valued as much with another team, I’m in no way knocking Gorzelanny he had a fantastic season last year, with a 0.89 ERA in 23 innings—it’s just that other teams have more pitching depth.

With the Tigers, Gorzelanny has the potential to make an impact as a reliever and a starter.

The former Pirate made his name as a starting pitcher with Pittsburgh, winning 14 games and posting a 3.88 ERA in his first full major league season. After that, Gorzelanny struggled and eventually moved to the bullpen as a swingman, making the occasional start while predominantly working out of the bullpen.

From 2011 to 2013 he posted a 3.67 ERA in 188 appearances, 26 of which were starts. The lefty struck out 240 batters in 262.1 innings during that span.

The genius of the signing is that Gorzelanny provides ample cover in the Tigers’ two potential problem areas: the bullpen and the back end of the bullpen.

Detroit’s bullpen will be a very different looking bunch in 2015. Two of the team’s most consistent performers, Joba Chamberlain and Blaine Hardy, aren’t likely to feature as prominently. Chamberlain is a free agent and unlikely to return, while Hardy struggled down the stretch and will face competition from the likes of the returning Bruce Rondon and Ian Krol as well as newcomers Alex Wilson, Josh Zeid and Angel Nesbitt.

Gorzelanny is the also the perfect deputy for new starting pitchers Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon.

Should either Greene or Simon struggle, they can shift to the bullpen and work on improving while Gorzelanny fills in for a few starts.

In addition, should Simon have trouble replicating his All-Star numbers from 2014 (which is completely possible given his second-half struggles with the Reds last year), manager Brad Ausmus can flip-flop the two. Gorzelanny has experience in the rotation, while Simon has had success in a relief role. He turned in a 2.78 ERA in 99 relief outings for Cincinnati from 2012 to 2013. He threw 148.2 innings over that span, striking out 115.

If Gorzelanny thrives as a reliever (as his track record would suggest) or does the same in a starting role, it will be a successful signing. Even if he does a little of both and posts respectable numbers, the Tigers will have made another shrewd signing. The transaction was especially shrewd considering Gorzelanny signed for a reported $1 million, much less than fellow pitchers Zach Duke and Andrew Miller fetched.

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

Detroit Tigers Fun Fact of the Day: Rajai Davis’ Batting Average Against Lefties in 2014

Detroit Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis hit .356 against left-handed pitchers in 2014.

It’s a fun fact, however southpaws probably don’t view it that way.

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

Kingdome Crossover- Seattle Mariners: Washington Nationals Players Serve as Reminder to What Could Have Been

As the Seattle Mariners watch yet another playoffs from their respective couches, they find themselves wondering what could have been. Or rather, how close they could have been had they acquired or retained certain players.

Nowhere is this more relevant than in Washington, where the Nationals employ four former Mariners and two extremely important pieces of their team that were this close to becoming Mariners. Here’s a look at those players.

Anthony Rendon

Widely panned as the best hitter in his draft class, Rendon was taken sixth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. The Mariners had the second overall pick that year. They took left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen, who has had his share of troubles thanks to a rash of injuries. Rendon, on the other hand, led the league in runs scored in 2014 (only his second season in the majors), hit 21 home runs, drove in 83 runs, swiped 17 bags and hit .287 with a .824 OPS.

Positional log jams aside, the Mariners are probably wishing they had Rendon’s bat in their lineup.

Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg is the one player on this list who Seattle didn’t have on their team, or could have drafted. Yet, he still represents one of the biggest, “what ifs?” in Mariners’ history.

Simply put, Seattle and Washington were both awful in 2008. Both had a legitimate shot at the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft – at the time, widely believed to be Strasburg. Seattle won four of its last six to finish 61-101 while Washington lost five of their last six to finish 59-102. The Mariners already have two of the best starters in the league in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, plus talented youngsters James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. If Strasburg drafted by the M’s and in that rotation, the Mariners’ playoff drought would be a thing of the past.

Doug Fister

The first of many former M’s on this list, Fister was traded from the Emerald City to Detroit along with David Pauley for Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells, Chance Ruffin and minor league prospect Francisco Martinez.

Since then, Fister went on to pitch fantastically in his 2 ½ years in Detroit, posting 32 wins—20 more than his total in 2 ½ years in Seattle— and turning in an ERA under four in every season. He also posted some absurd strikeout-to-walk ratios. Down the stretch in 2011 he struck out 57 batters while walking five over 70 innings.

The players Seattle got in return?

Wells would post decent power numbers in his brief time in Seattle before getting pushed out of a crowded outfield and finding himself with three different organizations not named the Seattle Mariners in 2013. He drove in a singular run in 53 games. Martinez was eventually traded back to Detroit for a PTBNL while Ruffin recently retired. Furbush was the only solid player Seattle got back. He’s provided a dependable reliever, but is buried in a deep bullpen.

Detroit would later send Fister to Washington, but the current Nationals pitcher is just another reminder of what could have been for Seattle.

Matt Thornton and Rafael Soriano

Seattle isn’t short on relievers at the moment, but Thornton and Soriano are two more examples of players who got away. Thornton, a former first round pick of the Mariners, was dealt to Chicago in 2006 for outfielder Joe Borchard. He went on to enjoy a long stint in the Windy City before moving to Boston midway through last season. He won a ring with the Red Sox and split 2014 with the Yankees and Nationals, posting a cumulative 1.75 ERA over 64 innings. For his career, Thornton has a 3.43 ERA in 670 appearances and an All-Star appearance to his name.

Soriano is the more sorely missed of the two. While Fernando Rodney has been superb as the M’s closer, and the has gotten by with a string of quality closers, Soriano has been superb in his career.

Upon leaving Seattle he moved to Atlanta, in a trade that will be addressed later, and in two years posted ERAs of 3.00 and 2.57 before taking over the closer’s role in 2009 and turning in a 2.97 ERA with 27 saves. He was traded to Tampa Bay and promptly led the league with 45 saves. He pitched to a tremendous 1.73 ERA and finished in the top 12 in Cy Young and MVP voting. After a year in Tampa he moved to the Yankees where he had a slight down year with a 4.12 ERA in 42 games before bouncing back to save 42 games and post a 2.26 ERA in 2012. He placed 20th in MVP voting that year. He then signed with Washington where he has accumulated 75 saves over the past two seasons with a collective 3.15 ERA.

Since leaving the Mariners, Soriano has appeared in 469 games, posted a 2.84 ERA and recorded 203 saves.

Now we get to the trade that was mentioned earlier.

The Mariners traded Soriano to the Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez.

Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who’s ERA over 20 starts and 98 innings was 7.16. You heard me correctly, 7.16! Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who let righties hit .340 off of him. Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who allowed lefties to hit .330 against him. Yes, that Horacio Ramirez.

The Mariners traded away a reliever who would become one of the game’s finest at his position for a back-of-the-rotation starter who posted an ERA over seven in nearly 100 innings.

Yikes.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Another Mariner traded away for relatively nothing, Cabrera was lost to Cleveland in “The Great Highway Robbery/Fleecing of 2006.” Cleveland traded Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez to Seattle in two different trades. Seattle gave up Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera respectively.

Cabrera would go on to establish himself as a premium two-way shortstop, culminating with a 2011 season in which he hit .273 with 25 home runs, 92 runs driven in, 17 stolen bases and a .792 OPS. Cabrera would make two All-Star appearances in Cleveland before moving to Washington at this past trade deadline. While he isn’t a threat to hit anywhere near 25 homers, he still provides pop and solid defense for a middle infielder.

In Conclusion

It’s easy to sit and think, “what if this?” or, “what if that?”, especially with the Mariners. But the reality is that Seattle has a history of letting players go too early, as well has just missing acquiring players who could turn into important cogs. Those players go on to become impact players elsewhere. There are quite a few former Mariners and almost-Mariners in various MLB cities playing vital roles to their teams. The Washington Nationals just happen to have more than most. For the Mariners, it’s a reminder of what could have been.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

You can see the piece in it’s entirety on Kingdome of Seattle Sports here.

Detroit Tigers: Could the Team Reacquire Doug Fister?

The Detroit Tigers will likely lose Max Scherzer to free agency. While the team will receive a draft pick as compensation for once after losing picks to sign various free agents in years past, Detroit will still have to replace one of its Cy Young winners.

I looked at some options the team has, internal and external, yesterday.

However, the best option may be somewhere in between the two. Granted the pitcher plays for another team, but he is a former Tiger. That pitcher would be Doug Fister.

Coming off a phenomenal season in the nation’s capital in which Fister posted a 16-6 record, a 2.41 ERA and a 98/24 strikeout to walk ratio in only 25 starts, the Nationals could look to move him. Not only could they capitalize on the superb numbers the former Tiger and Mariner posted, but they also have numerous players heading for free agency that would take prominence over Fister in terms of needing to be signed.

The good news for Detroit, as well as other teams in the market for a starter, is that Washington probably won’t re-sign Fister when his contract expires after next season. He’ll be close to 32 and likely commanding somewhere north of $10 million a year. That and the need to re-sign Jordan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond will push Fister out of D.C.

The other good news is that Fister is historically undervalued in trades. Detroit acquired him from Seattle for Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells and minor leaguer Francisco Martinez. In turn, Washington acquired him for Ian Krol, Robbie Ray and Steve Lombardozzi.

With the exception of Furbush and Krol’s April to June performances, none of those six made any serious contributions to a Major League team last season.

Re-acquiring Fister won’t be easy. Washington might actually do something crazy and ask for a return that befits a pitcher of Fister’s status. Should the Nationals go that route, it would make it difficult to accomplish.

The Tigers have an elite team, but not one with exceptional depth at any single position. By the same token, Washington doesn’t have too many glaring needs.

The Nationals may need a second baseman should Asdrubal Cabrera depart and therefore could be interested in Tigers’ prospect Devon Travis. The 23 year-old second baseman is Detroit’s fourth best prospect according to MLB.com and has a bright future, but is blocked in Detroit. Ian Kinsler will man second base for at least the next four years while shortstop will be Jose Iglesias’ job potentially for the next decade.

Even if Cabrera is retained, the Nationals will need a long-term solution. Acquiring Travis and keeping Cabrera would allow the former to develop while the letter holds the fort down as a stop-gap solution. The Tigers have recently shifted Travis to center field in an attempt to get him to the big leagues sooner and to avoid a log jam with the glut of middle infielders Detroit has, namely Kinsler, Iglesias, Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez and Andrew Romine. The center field experiment with Travis could end quickly if the team finds a more experienced center fielder who can make an immediate impact.

Regardless of how that situation would play out, Washington would likely need more than just one prospect to let Fister go. Detroit could offer one of their many young starting pitchers i.e. Kyle Lobstein, Robbie Ray, Kyle Ryan, Buck Farmer or Drew VerHagen, though I’m not sure how receptive Washington would be to that idea.  Ryan and VerHagen only have two Major League starts between them and of the remaining three, Lobstein was the only one to post passable numbers. One of the few young and expendable players left on the roster is Perez, a 23 year-old with the potential to be a solid two-way player. However, if Travis is included in the deal, it would seem overkill to ship out Perez as well. Unless, of course, Washington thinks he’s a suitable solution at second until Travis is ready should Cabrera leave.

The problem with any Tigers/Fister reunion is that Detroit doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. If Washington goes the historical route and seriously undervalues Fister in a trade, the Tigers are in business. If not… who really knows? Tigers’ General Manager Dave Dombrowski has pulled crazier stunts before.

 

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

 

Detroit Tigers: How to Replace Max Scherzer

Changes are coming for the Detroit Tigers. Don’t worry, they won’t be wholesale. The team will still stick to its identity—superb starting pitching and a slugging, star-driven, high-scoring offense. While the bullpen, and to a lesser extent, the bench will likely be bolstered, there is yet another item that will force general manager Dave Dombrowski to make a transaction or two—replacing Max Scherzer.

The writing on the wall may have been the fact that the former Arizona Diamondback turned down a contract extension worth $144 million over six years. Since then, the public opinion thinks Scherzer will be playing for a different team come spring training. That may be public perception in Detroit’s front office as well. Dombrowski, in theory, has already acquired a replacement to take Scherzer’s spot on the front line next to Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. That would be David Price. The fact that the Tigers’ acquired Price mere months after Scherzer turned down the contract could be coincidental, but at the very least served as a backup plan to losing Scherzer.

Here are some options Detroit will have to fill the potentially vacant spot in their rotation.

The Internal Guys

Detroit has a plethora of internal options. A plethora. However, none of the internal options pitched like Cy Young winners, or anywhere close to it. Outside of Scherzer, Verlander, Price, Sanchez, Rick Porcello and the departed Drew Smyly, the Tigers used five other starting pitchers in 2014. That group consisted of Robbie Ray, Buck Farmer, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan and Drew VerHagen. It’s hard to judge them too harshly. Four of the group are only 23 (Lobstein is the resident greybeard at 25) and none of the five pitched in the big leagues prior to the season. As hard as it is to judge the group, it’s equally as hard to find a front runner in terms of claiming a rotation spot. Lobstein appears to be the leader in the clubhouse. He made the postseason roster as a long reliever, and save a disastrous start in Minnesota, pitched well enough to keep the Tigers in games. However, the former Rays’ farmhand only managed to reach the seven innings pitched plateau once in his six starts. If he can last longer in games and stay effective, he should be the frontrunner of the internal options.

Outside of Lobstein, it’s hard to get a read on things. VerHagen and Ryan only started a game apiece while Farmer struggled immensely in two starts. (Ryan threw six shutout innings in his only start. After that he was limited to bullpen work where he pitched well. He may find it easier to make the team as a reliever than as a starter.)

Ray is the wild card of the bunch. The centerpiece of the return received for Doug Fister pitched exceptionally well in his first two starts. Over 11.1 innings he limited the opposition to one run on nine hits. His strikeout to walk ratio was 7-2. If he can pitch close to that mark for an entire season, then Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus should hand him the job outright. Then again, if Ray pitches like he did the rest of the way it will leave the door open for other pitchers. After those two sparkling starts and a brief, two out relief appearance in Boston, Ray’s ERA jumped nearly four runs from 0.75 to 4.70 after surrendering seven runs in 3.1 innings to Texas. It only got worse from their as he posted an 11.12 ERA in three August starts, giving up 14 runs and 20 hits in only 11.1 innings.

If Scherzer’s replacement is an internal option, it remains to be seen who it will be. Lobstein and Ray (should he turn it around) seem like they have the inside track. Still, it’s hard to evaluate a group of young pitchers.

The Free Agents

Outside of Scherzer, the other marquee free agent starting pitchers are Jon Lester and James Shields. Signing either would cost a similar amount of cash to Scherzer, plus the loss of a draft pick, so re-signing Scherzer would seem the most prudent play out of the three.

Still, if the team opts for another free agent to fill the void, or perhaps split time with an internal candidate, there are plenty of options. Options that, on the whole, come with a caveat. That caveat is that most starters available on the open market are either reclamation projects/ buy low candidates or pitchers looking for a big payday.

If the Tigers aren’t willing to commit anything close to Scherzer money on anyone other than Scherzer they should look for a cheaper option. A cheaper option that is more reliable than a buy low candidate. Signing someone like Jason Hammel or Roberto Hernandez would make sense. Neither will wow you with their numbers, but neither will completely implode either. They’d keep the Tigers in game as well as providing decent rotation depth. If the Tigers want a pitcher with a little more experience and one who could win them more games, Jake Peavy would be ideal. He’s no spring chicken at 33, but has been in plenty of pressure situations and knows the division well thanks to his time in Chicago. He won’t be cheap, but he’ll be cheaper than Scherzer.

James Shields could be an interesting target. First off, he’s cheaper than the other two premium starters on the market—Scherzer and Lester. Secondly, signing him away from Kansas City would be a major blow to Detroit’s biggest division rival.

The Trade Market

Their likely won’t be many pitchers of Scherzer’s caliber on the trade market. Knowing this, Detroit could look for a controllable, young, middle of the rotation type to fill the need. The Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson would make sense. Given the fact Tampa may not want to get into a situation with him where they pay him gobs of money and decide to move him instead—a la Scott Kazmir, David Price, James Shields, et al.

San Diego’s Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy would also be pitchers to target. Ross has flourished as a starter in San Diego while Kennedy seems to have rebounded from a rough 2013. Before 2013, the former Yankee farmhand won 36 games between 2011 and 2012. One of Cincinnati’s may starting pitchers could also make sense.

In Conclusion

The simplest may just be to re-sign Scherzer, but should Detroit go another way, Dave Dombrowski will have plenty of options.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers Off-Season: How and Why the Bench Must be Improved

Bench

While the bullpen is, and will continue to be the biggest blemish on the Tigers’ roster, the bench isn’t spectacular either. More depth and quality will be needed in late-inning situations. Yes, the Tigers lineup is fantastic, but sometimes the bottom half of the lineup pales in comparison to the top half. And, as such is much easier to retire. This was brought into focus in the ninth inning of the second and third games of the ALDS against Baltimore as the bottom half wasn’t able to carry out or continue rallies with the game on the line. The Tigers need better hitters off the bench. Whether they arrive via waiver wire, the trade market, free agency, or what have you, help is needed. Dave Dombrowski has to be particularly active in fixing this during the offseason to improve the team’s chances for next year.

Dombrowski has become adept at plucking hitters out of relative obscurity and then watching them become contributing members on the team. He found Quintin Berry, who ended up being a godsend thanks to his added burst of speed into a slow lineup. Swiss army knife/utility specialist Don Kelly was another find. Matt Tuiasosopo was yet another find who provided Jim Leyland with a power hitting alternative off the bench in the legendary skipper’s final season. However, the greatest find may be that of JD Martinez. The former Astro was picked up by Detroit and, after fixing some mechanics with his swing, turned into a legitimate, middle of the order bat.

The Tigers need more production off the bench. Dombrowski isn’t going to find a JD Martinez in every transaction, but he should be actively looking for bench bats.

Yes, the Tigers’ starting lineup is fantastic, but their bench is comparatively futile. With the exception of Kelly, who has a knack for showing up in playoff games, there isn’t much to scare opposing managers or pitchers. Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera is light-hitting at best and is known more for his speed than anything. Andrew Romine and Eugenio Suarez manned shortstop for Brad Ausmus in 2014. With defensive wizard Jose Iglesias returning from injury next season, and neither shortstop’s play screaming “KEEP ME!” Detroit could look for a better hitting infielder. Another middle infielder, Hernan Perez shows the potential to be a solid two-way player, but if he wasn’t ready to play full time in the big leagues, or if he was unable to unseat Romine or Suarez, he certainly won’t surpass Iglesias next season.

Dombrowski needs to give Ausmus more pop off the bench. Catcher is an area where this could be achieved. Bryan Holaday hit .231 this season and the team might seek an upgrade to backup Alex Avila.

Avila is in a different situation. The Tigers’ starting catcher, who suffered yet another concussion during the season ending loss to Baltimore, should be moved into a backup role, or at least a platoon. This would not only minimize the inexplicably severe beating the he takes and preserve his health, but also allow Detroit to find an offensive upgrade. Avila grades out as a good defensive backstop, but hasn’t been able to replicate his offensive output of 2011 when he drove in 82 runs, garnered MVP votes and earned Silver Slugger and All Star honors.

Acquiring a new catcher to partner with Avila would be prudent. The job may go to James McCann. The Tigers’ top catching prospect is a defensive-minded backstop who also hit .295 in AAA. He’s no Victor Martinez offensively, but the .295 line is an encouraging sign from a player thought to reach the Majors because of his defense.

If catching reinforcements are looked for externally, Russell Martin or Evan Gattis would be ideal fits. Martin, one of the best at his position in the game, grades out favorably defensively and provides pop (47 home runs over the last three years) and the ability to hit for average (he hit .290 this past season). Detroit may lose yet another first round draft pick if they sign Martin, but if the former Dodger is the missing piece in terms of winning the World Series, then there should be no hesitation.

Gattis’ calling card, meanwhile, is his bat. The Braves’ slugger hit 22 home runs in only 108 games for Atlanta. Pairing him with the comparatively defensively superior Avila would be perfect. While Gattis’ bat can provide extreme power, his defense isn’t anything special. Platooning him with Avila would make his defensive deficiencies less of a sore thumb. Plus, Gattis has shown that he can be productive without playing every day. This partnership would also save Avila some physical punishment behind the plate. Gattis won’t come cheap in terms of what the Tigers will have to give up to acquire him, but the second year player isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016 at the earliest and won’t hit free agency until 2019. He made a little over $520,000 last year. This is exactly the kind of player a team looking to save money like Detroit needs—an extremely productive hitter who can play a large role without costing much. He also has played in left field for Atlanta. He’s not Gold Glove worthy playing there, but he does have the experience. Something that would come in handy if Brad Ausmus needed to wedge in an extra bat in a must-win playoff game.

Lastly, the Tigers could, at the very least, use some depth in the outfield. Rajai Davis can get by defensively in center field, so an alignment of JD Martinez, Davis and Torii Hunter (if he returns) in the outfield wouldn’t be bad. In fact, it may win them the division again, but it probably won’t deliver a World Series. Signing an impact center fielder may be out of the question. Colby Rasmus is the most enticing option on the market, but the former Blue Jay may be more appealing, and better suited, to more of a rebuilding team like the Cubs or Astros than Detroit. Speaking of the Astros, Houston’s centerfielder, Dexter Fowler, would present a quality target. It may take a lot to pry him away from the Lone Star state, but the former Colorado player would mesh perfectly in Motown with his mix of speed and pop. Other potentially available center fielders such as Desmond Jennings, Denard Span or Peter Bourjos would all be attainable as well as being logical fits in the Tigers’ lineup.

Bringing in a new, starting caliber center fielder would be advantageous in numerous ways for Detroit. First, it would fix any issues defensively at the position. As much as Rajai Davis fits the profile of an old-school center fielder in terms of speed, he’s predominantly a corner outfielder. Having a center fielder who is more accustomed to playing the position defensively would provide an upgrade. Pushing Davis to the bench or into a role where he would potentially spell the aging Torii Hunter would greatly improve the pinch-hitting options. Throw in a healthy Andy Dirks, a couple of scrap-heap/waiver wire pickups and more polished versions of Stephen Moya and Tyler Collins and the Tigers all of a sudden have a plethora of outfielders who could contribute. Injuries and slumps are about as common as the changing of the seasons, so having too many options is a good problem to have.

The Tigers’ offense has long been deemed one of the best in baseball—maybe the best. But over that span the team hasn’t had the most fearsome bench. The bullpen will need some help too, but changing the bench could help make the difference in finally winning a World Series.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.