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.

The Three-Team Jake Peavy Trade Revisited

Maybe you thought the Matt Garza trade was the biggest of the season. Maybe you thought it was one of the numerous big-name relievers changing teams that took the prize. Nope. This crown, for now, belongs to the Jose Iglesias/Avisail Garcia/Peavy trade that found the Tigers dealing with the Sox drawer.

The gist of it is this: the Tigers got a shortstop to fill in for Jhonny Peralta in the short term, as well as potentially the long term, Iglesias. The Red Sox found an upgrade to their rotation that they feel comfortable throwing out (pun intended) every fifth day. The White Sox also got a lot of prospects, something struggling teams need because, if you haven’t noticed, Chicago has tanked. They are by far the worst team in the division going forward. Put it this way, they’ve watched usual stinkers Cleveland and Kansas City leapfrog them while they have slowly sunk into the pit that is the basement.

This isn’t a Chicago bashing piece though. If it was, I’d just say look at the depth chart and ta-da, behold the issues. Outside of Chris Sale and some unproven youngsters, the future is bleak-ish. No, this is about the aforementioned trade involving both shades of Sox and the Tigers.

Initially it looked like a stop-gap trade. As mentioned above, Boston got a starter, the Tigers got a shortstop and the White Sox got prospects. All needs. All filled. Now it seems more than that. Peavy’s years in a White Sox uniform were marred by seasons of .500 records and an ERA in the mid fours. Now in Boston, he has settled in at the back of a talented BoSox rotation. He picked up four wins in an efficient 64.2 innings and was superb in his division series start against Tampa.

Iglesias has come back to earth. No longer is he ripping the cover off the ball with a .400 batting average like he was previously in the season. He’s hit .259 in his time in the Motor City so far, a number that isn’t horrible considering how much he contributes on defense and the fact that shortstop is generally an offense derived position.

When I said, “considering how much he contributes on defense,” I meant plays like this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui8yhI6eYX8

Ridiculous.

It’s a nice change of pace to have a star defensive player on a team comprised of offensive stars.

This trade has propelled both the Tigers and Red Sox to where they are now, in the ALCS. Maybe not directly, but they helped. Who knows where the Tigers would be if a suitable replacement for Jhonny Peralta wasn’t found? Where would Boston be if they had to stick with internal options? Or even worse, acquire a pitcher who flopped in the role and was in the bullpen by mid-August?

These questions will never be answered, but one question that will be answered in the coming weeks is who will the American League Champion be? The Red Sox or the Tigers?

Who do you think the champ will be? Tell me in the comments below.

The Mets Need to Trade RA Dickey NOW

It isn’t often that the reigning Cy Young winner is the subject of trade speculation the offseason after winning the award. But it also isn’t often that the reigning Cy Young winner is 38 years old and is in the midst of so-far unsuccessful contract negotiations.

Welcome to the Mets world.

Normally, a winner of the Cy Young award would be a player that a team, especially a rebuilding one like the Mets, builds around. But, despite being a knuckleballer, it’s tough to build around a 38 year old. Ergo the Mets need to trade him. Continue reading