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.

The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

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

MLB Thanks: It’s Not Thanksgiving, But it Certainly Isn’t Too Early to Say Thanks to Baseball Part 2

I have to give thanks to my team, the Detroit Tigers, thanks for a tremendous season.

Another bit of joint-thanks goes out to the Chicago White Sox. They’ve done a tremendous job of not making the playoffs recently. I’m sure AJ Pierzynski is thrilled with the fact that he’s been to the World Series more as a color analyst than as a player. And he hasn’t retired yet.

Thanks to R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets for reestablishing America’s belief in the knuckler. Continue reading

MLB Free Agent Predictions Revisited

(Just a fair warning, get ready for a bunch of bahooey)

Here is a condensed, explanation-less list of my free agent predictions in early November:

  1. Albert Pujols to St. Louis
  2. Prince Fielder to Chicago (Cubs)
  3. CJ Wilson to Washington
  4. Jose Reyes to the Mets
  5. Jimmy Rollins stays in Philly
  6. Michael Cuddyer staying in Minnesota
  7. Aramis Ramirez in Miami
  8. Mark Buehrle back with the White Sox
  9. Edwin Jackson with the Yankees
  10. Johnathan Paplebon with Boston
  11. Carlos Beltran in Bean Town
  12. David Ortiz in Oakland
  13. Hiroki Kuroda in LA with the Dodgers
  14. Heath Bell in San Diego
  15. Carlos Pena in Seattle
  16. Roy Oswalt in a Rangers uniform
  17. Coco Crisp back in Cleveland
  18. Kelly Johnson in Miami
  19. Grady Sizemore in the Emerald City
  20. Erik Bedard, ditto
  21. Paul Maholm in Toronto
  22. Chris Capuano in Pittsburgh
  23. Ramon Hernandez in Cleveland
  24. Jason Kubel in Chicago
  25. Ramon Santiago with the Tigers
  26. Jamey Carroll in Minnesota
  27. Clint Barmes in Queens
  28. Kerry Wood back with the Cubs
  29. Frank Francisco in Oakland
  30. Jason Marquis with Anaheim
  31. Joel Pinero in a Mets uniform
  32. Jonathan Broxton in Toronto
  33. Bruce Chen in Seattle
  34. Brad Penny in Cincinnati
  35. Rafael Furcal in St. Louis
  36. Aaron Harang in Baltimore
  37. David Dejesus in Cincinnati
  38. Jeff Francis in KC
  39. Jamie Moyer back with the M’s
  40. Casey Kotchman back with the Rays
  41. Josh Willingham in Colorado
  42. Bartolo Colon in Miami
  43. Ryan Madson in Philadelphia
  44. Francisco Rodriguez with the Marlins

I got six of the predictions correct. That’s seven percent of them right. I can count them on my two hands. Point is, look how smart I am!

Jimmy Rollins, Ramon Santiago, Jamey Carroll, Rafael Furcal and Jeff Francis were my only answers that warrant a “ding” noise on a game show.

Outside of that I had Albert Pujols back with the defending champs, the Prince in Chicago with the Cubs (to be honest I am perfectly OK with getting that one wrong, seeing as, you know, he’s  a Tiger now). I had Jose Reyes staying in New York as the Mets cornerstone. I stated that guys like Michael Cuddyer, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Jonathan Paplebon would never leave the cities they have spent their careers in and that their teams would do everything they could to keep them. Well, turns out Paplebon is in Philadelphia, Buehrle and Bell are in South Beach and Cuddyer is a member of the Rockies.

I then had moves that were similar to what the teams did to address a need, it’s just they didn’t take my oozing-with-credibility advice.

See Edwin Jackson with the Yankees. The Yankees needed pitching and I thought Jackson was a decent investment. Turns out they went and got Michael Pineda and Kuroda instead.

I had David Ortiz going to Oakland. Turns out the A’s might be interested in Manny Ramirez. (Key word is might.)

I had the Cubs getting Jason Kubel to play a corner outfield spot for them when in fact they went out and got David DeJesus.

Brad Penny to the Reds was another failed prediction as reports are that he could be going to Japan.

I was also oblivious to the fact that the Rays and Phillies would find replacements for Ryan Madson and Casey Kotchman with free agents. Which screws up an eleventh of my predictions right there.

I did all right with middle infielders, which means nothing at all.

I also didn’t partake in the Yu Darvish predictions because of the fact that he might become a free agent due to the posting process.

Fielder’s signing completely blew me out of the water. As did the Bell and Buehrle going to South Beach. I thought the Marlins would overspend on some guys, just thought it would be Bartolo Colon and Aramis Ramirez.

So there you have it. I am terrible at picking where free agents will sign. Here’s to next year when I go for a big improvement at 9 for 50.