Detroit Tigers: Center Field Alternatives After Missing Out on Rusney Castillo

Regardless of how far the Detroit Tigers came in their pursuit of Cuban prospect Rusney Castillo, they missed out on adding the highly regarded center fielder. Castillo is heading to Boston. With Austin Jackson shipped out as part of the David Price trade, the Tigers are in need of a center fielder, if they don’t go after one to help their postseason run, then they will almost surely try to acquire one in the offseason. Here are some options.

Options for Right Now

The Internal Guys: Rajai Davis and Ezequiel Carrera

Detroit got spoiled by Austin Jackson—a superb fielding, centrally based outfielder who hit for some pop. Sure, he struck out a ton, but at least he contributed in other categories. The Tigers now face reality without their once-longtime center fielder. Any disapproval of his replacements’ play has been answered with the question “Well, would you rather have David Price or not have David Price?” and while’s it’s fantastic to have Price, the team could use a center fielder. I’m not saying the trade shouldn’t have happened, but Detroit need a center fielder, and his name isn’t Rajai Davis or Ezequiel Carrera. Both can cover miles of ground, but aren’t close to the defensive player that Jackson was for the Tigers.

Davis has filled in admirably in center, but his best position remains in left field. This gives Brad Ausmus flexibility in picking his lineup—flexibility that Detroit has relied on and will need to continue to rely on.

While Carrera isn’t as strong defensively as Jackson, he isn’t good offensively as Jackson or Davis. Yes, he brings speed, but his hitting hasn’t been on par with the rest of the lineup. A .220 hitting center fielder with speed might play on a young team auditioning players, but on a team with championship aspirations like the Tigers, it simply isn’t good enough.

In 24 games, Carrera has a total of three extra base hits—two doubles and a triple. Jackson accumulated four extra base hits alone over the course of three games against Diamondbacks.

*Note: I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece if the Tigers were still in first place in the division, but new additions or better play is needed to pass the Royals. It’s also nearing panic mode in “Tigerland.”

The Current Trade Market: Various

With the non-waiver trade deadline come and gone, players must now pass through waivers before being dealt. The bad teams get first crack at players, so because of that and other factors, it’s unlikely that a player would fall through the cracks. However a number of players have passed through waivers with no teams claiming them, and are available to be dealt anywhere. According to MLB Trade Rumors, these players include outfielders such as Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rios, Matt Kemp, Brett Gardner, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Each is a unique player, but all of them have one thing in common—they’re owed a lot of money.

In addition to being owed a collective 164 million dollars over the next six years, Choo and Granderson just signed deals with their respective teams this offseason. It would look bad for future free agents assessing their options to see that a team traded a player just months after signing him to a long contract. Choo has also played exclusively in both left and right field this year while Granderson has predominantly played right. Granderson has extensive experience in center; just ask any long-term Tigers’ fan, but his salary makes it hard to justify a reunion.

Rios falls in a similar boat defensively seeing as he hasn’t played centerfield since 2011. Plus, he’ll be 34 at this time next year and doesn’t have the power he once possessed.

The Dodgers’ trio of representatives on the list are harder to quantify trading. They aren’t exactly hitting the cover off the ball with batting averages of .247 (Ethier) .271 (Crawford) and .277 (Kemp). Ethier has played center field this year, but his batting line and hefty contract make a move unlikely. Crawford, on the other hand, isn’t a centerfielder. He never played the position extensively, as evidenced by the last time he was in center field—seven innings of a game six years ago while he was with the Rays.

Kemp may be the closest thing to a “goldilocks” fit. Not only does he play center (he’s won two Gold Gloves there), but if he can get his production near where it was during his accolade filled year of 2011, the Tigers would have another elite bat to hit in a lineup that features a handful of them. The red flag is that Kemp hasn’t played a full season since 2011 and is owed north of 100 million dollars over the next five seasons.

The Dodgers are also in the thick of a pennant race of their own, and with Yasiel Puig as the only other starting caliber outfielder on the team, it seems unlikely that LA would part with any of their three contractual albatrosses.

Finally, there’s Gardner. From a skillset standpoint, the Yankee outfielder would fit perfectly in Detroit. He has played 333 games in center field over the course of his career. He is a threat on the base baths with 179 steals over nearly 750 games—and, to top it all off, he hits for power. Albeit power closer to that of Rajai Davis as opposed to Miguel Cabrera, but it would be an upgrade. But similar to Kemp, Gardner’s contract calls for a lot of money. The Yankee outfielder is owed close to 50 million over the next four years, not including a 12.5 million team option for 2019. The money and the fact that the Yankees trail Detroit in the wild card standings may make a trade near impossible.

Splurging cash on one of these previously mentioned outfielders would seem counterproductive—especially after trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister in cost-cutting moves. It would also seem odd considering the team will likely hand one/both of David Price and Max Scherzer a massive contract extension.

It’s unclear what Dave Dombrowski will do with the Tigers center field situation. Maybe Rajai Davis will prove he can play there full time. Maybe Ezequiel Carrera will hit. Who knows. But reinforcements via trade or Cuba are unlikely this season. If nothing is done, expect the Tigers’ GM to make a move for a center fielder this winter.

 

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

 

MLB Trade Rumors: The Tigers and Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp at his best is a near flawless player. An athletic and talented center fielder, he combines that with the ability to hit for average, serious power and tremendous base running /speed to make for a potent threat. Put it this way, Kemp at his best would challenge Mike Trout for the “best five tool player” award.

Everyone is aware of what Kemp can do. He put in a wonderful season in 2011 when he posted a .324 batting average, 39 home runs, 126 RBI and 40 stolen bases. Kemp not only led the league in the two traditional run scoring stats, homers and RBI, but he also led the league in runs scored, OPS+ and total bases. Also on his resume that year? A Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Wow this guy is excessively driving in the point of how good Matt Kemp is,” then we’re on the same page. Matt Kemp is good. Really good.

So why are the Dodgers considering trading someone who, when healthy, rivals Mike Trout?

This is why. Here’s a comparison of Kemp’s accolade-filled 2011 stat line compared to that of the last two years.

Matt Kemp 2011: 161 games played, 115 runs scored, 195 hits, 33 doubles, 39 homeruns, 126 RBI, 40 stolen bases, .324 batting average, 353 total bases.

Matt Kemp 2012 & 2013: 179 games played, 109 runs scored, 193 hits, 37 doubles, 29 homeruns, 102 RBI, 18 stolen bases, .290 batting average, 321 total bases.

The current Dodger’s injury form and the emergence of Yasiel Puig have doomed Kemp to expendability. Maybe not Puig by himself, but the general immovability of Carol Crawford’s contract means one or both Kemp and Andre Either must go. After all, you can’t play four outfielders in the National League.

The Dodgers, as with many contending teams, have very specific needs. Their only legitimate needs are at third base and possibly insurance at second base. The Tigers current third baseman is Nick Castellanos. Unless the Angels offer Mike Trout or Washington calls with an offer of Stephen Strasburg and/or Bryce Harper, you don’t trade the former top-prospect if you’re Detroit.

Los Angeles was reported to be willing to eat money to facilitate a Kemp trade. Theoretically, a trade similar to that of the Prince Fielder trade could work. LA would acquire Ian Kinsler to provide insurance at second base as well as playing third. However, even if the Dodgers ate significant money, Detroit would likely be taking back major salary in the trade. Something that would go against the previous Fielder trade as well as the Doug Fister trade.

If you take salary out of the equation, a package centered around Austin Jackson could get the deal done, but who else would be in that package is beyond me. The Tigers don’t have the equivalent of a massive, expiring contract in the NBA that they can shop. They simply don’t have a big contract to shop.

Dave Dombrowski’s reshaping of the team has been extremely cost cutting. He’s expunged the hefty, collective contracts of players such as Fielder, Fister and Jhonny Peralta and has replaced them with younger, cheaper players that still make the team legitimate contenders. The cost-cutting has gone so far that somewhat-expensive role players such as Jose Veras, Ramon Santiago and Brayan Pena have been replaced with even cheaper options like Ian Krol, Steven Lombardozzi and Bryan Holaday.

Acquiring Kemp would undo almost all of the work he’s done to get the team to its current state.

Detroit has reportedly been in contact with the Dodgers about the two-time All-Star, which given everything that I just stated makes a potential move curious. It may have just been tire kicking at its best, but if the talks were serious the Tigers would probably ask for the Dodgers to eat a lot of money. Like a lot in italics a lot.

The Dodgers reportedly now plan to keep Kemp, but should the Tigers remain interested there could be trouble.

Unless Los Angeles nearly gives him away from a salary standpoint, Kemp is going to occupy a large portion of Detroit’s salary going forward. This is all and well if the Tigers are able to sign Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer to long-term contracts, but if Kemp’s salary stands in the way of that, then Dave Dombrowski should stay away.

Kemp is going to bounce back and be a fantastic player, but he isn’t worth the risk of losing Miguel Cabrera and or Max Scherzer.

 

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

MLB Trade Rumors: Non-Tender Bargain Bin Free Agent Finds

Lost in the shuffle of the numerous (and I mean numerous, with italics) trades that occurred on Tuesday were the equally numerous number of quality players to hit the market after not being tendered contracts by their teams. They may have gotten a late start on the market, but there are many non-tendered players who could be quality pieces on a contending team. Here are some of the better buys.

  • J.P. Arencibia, C

The former Blue Jay hits the market with lots to offer as a catcher. He wasn’t the best to offer from a defensive standpoint. He led the league in passed balls last season and wasn’t necessarily the best in terms of caught stealing percentage, or the success at which runners stole on him last year. Only three “qualified” catchers finished with a worse percentage. Arencibia did provide some value with his bat. Despite a .194 batting average, the formerly highly-touted prospect amassed 21 home runs. Only Matt Wieters had more in terms of catchers across Major League Baseball. The now ex-Toronto player may have his deficiencies as a player, but as a bench bat with pop/backup catcher there is definite value. Teams like the Tigers, Rockies and Cubs could be fits.

  • Francisco Peguero, OF

Another formerly well-regarded prospect, Peguero failed to stick in the Bay Area and will look to latch on elsewhere. He was one of the Giants’ top prospects, but as stated couldn’t stay with the big league club. He has the potential to hit for average in the big leagues, but at this point a flier from someone is all he’s likely to get.

  • Sandy Rosario, RP

Rosario, the second Giant on the list, is a quality relief pitcher. Or at least that’s what his numbers suggested last season. The ex-Marlin posted a 3.02 ERA in 43 appearances while allowing a singular homerun. His strikeout-to-walk ratio wasn’t amazing with 24 punch-outs to 20 free passes, but he’s got the talent. It’s surprising that San Francisco would non-tender him after such a fine season, but if you go through the Giants’ depth chart, their entire bullpen is composed of quality relievers. Almost all of them have ridiculous numbers, so maybe they felt Rosario was surplus. Regardless, he’d be a cheap seventh inning option on most teams. Anyone with bullpen needs could target him.

  • Christian Martinez, RP

Martinez, like Rosario, didn’t work out in Florida/Miami and moved elsewhere to display his talents. That “elsewhere” was Atlanta. After an ok year 2010, Martinez was in fine form from 2011 to 2012. Over that span he compiled a 3.63 ERA over 100 appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio in that span was a whopping 123 to 38. The now former Brave didn’t appear much this season, making two appearances and posting a 7.71 ERA in that span. Should his form from 2011 and 2012 return, Martinez could be an electric strike thrower for a contending club. Also like Rosario, any bullpen-needy club could come calling. Bias aside, Detroit could be a nice fit.

  • Mitchell Boggs, RP

No, the next player isn’t a former Marlin or top prospect or ex-Giant. He’s Mitchell Boggs. Folks will remember him from his days as a Cardinal when he helped the team to a World Series triumph. He posted ERAs of 3.61, 3.56 and 2.21 over three years, totaling out to a combined ERA of 3.08 in a little over 200 innings pitched. The Georgia native struggled in 18 games in St. Louis this season, seeing his ERA balloon to an unhealthy 11.05. He soon moved on to Colorado where he posted a much more respectable 3.12 ERA in nine appearances. It seems 2013 may have been a fluke. If so, teams in need of pitching will, and should, come calling.

  • Ronald Belisario, RP

Everyone is apparently non tendering decent relief pitchers. For whatever reason, the Dodgers have decided to move on from Belisario. Outside of a fluky-looking 2010 season, the career LA pitcher seems to be a solid pitcher. He compiled a 2.04 ERA in his rookie year in 2009, a 2.54 ERA last season and a decent 3.97 ERA this past season. He’s probably good for anywhere from 60 to 70 appearances in a season. That being said, in the right situation, Belisario could be a devastating pitcher. Let’s all hope Oakland doesn’t sign him, or anyone on this list. Goodness knows Billy Beane doesn’t need the relievers.

  • Chris Coghlan, OF

See here gang, someone who isn’t a relief pitcher! Former Rookie of the Year Coghlan was non-tendered by the Fish after failing to re-create the promise he showed when he won the award. After hitting .321 in his inaugural season, he regressed to .268 the next year before dipping to .230 and .140 the next two years. Last season wasn’t horrible as he posted a .256 line, but it wasn’t enough for the Marlins to keep him around. A rebuilding team like the Astros could be ideal for Coghlan. If he regains something near his ROY numbers he could be moved to a contender mid-season.

  • Ryan Webb, RP

Just as quickly as we left relief pitcher behind we’re back, this time with former Padre Ryan Webb. The one-time New Orleans Zephyr is no stranger to being moved around. San Diego acquired him from Oakland as part of a package of prospects for outfielder Scott Hairston. After flourishing in the NL West for two years, he was traded again, this time with fellow reliever and current free agent Edward Mujica for Cameron Maybin. With Mujica gone and Webb being dealt for Maybin, he (Webb) is the one of the last remaining links to the Miguel Cabrera trade. He and a .200 hitter in AAA sum up all that’s left in South Beach. Take that back, a .200 AAA hitter is all that’s left from Miguel Cabrera. Well done Marlins’ front office! Webb posted a 2.91 ERA last season over 80 innings. There will be takers out there. It’s only a matter of who those takers are.

  • Garrett Jones, 1B/OF

Another non-reliever! (Fireworks go off simultaneously in the background.) Jones is the latest reclamation project on this list. He isn’t without his warts, but for someone who is a solid bet to hit 15-20+ homeruns in a season, he’ll likely find work. He was slightly below average at first base in terms of runs saved, but run saving ability in the outfield was horrendous. A first base/DH job in the AL could apply to him. Like Coghlan, he could find work on a struggling team before being flipped to a contender midseason. Worst case scenario, he’s a powerful bench bat that occasionally platoons in the field, think Jonny Gomes or Mike Carp. A team looking for this kind of platoon would be ideal. Jones hits righties to a tune of .271 compared to the .193, showing he displays against southpaws. Like Webb, he’ll have a gig next year. The question becomes where?

  • Tommy Hanson, SP

Another pitcher on the list… but at least he’s not a reliever! Hanson showed ace-like potential when he burst onto the scene with the Braves in 2009, but after seemingly plateauing as a quality middle-of-the-order starter the next two years, he struggled in 2012. Posting a career high (and not in a good way) ERA of 4.48. After that, he was shipped to Anaheim where the Angels thought he could fix their rotation issues. That didn’t pan out as the ex-Atlanta starter went 4-3 with a 5.42 ERA. LAA (as acronym happy or lazy folks call them) has moved on. Hanson still has the potential to be a quality big league starter; he just needs the right fit.

Daniel Hudson, former frontline starter for Arizona, was non-tendered and could have been a hot commodity on the market in the same vein as Hanson, but it looks like he’ll be back in the desert.

  • Lou Marson, C

Like Webb, Marson was one of the last parts of a major trade left with his team. Carlos Carrasco is the only player left in Cleveland from the Cliff Lee trade. Offensively, Marson isn’t amazing. One can tell by his career .219 batting average. What the ex-Indian does bring is solid defense. In 2010 and 2011 he threw out a respectable 38 percent of runners attempting to steal. That rate plummeted to 14 percent in 2012. The plummeting rate and waning offense led to only three games with Terry Francona’s squad this past year. A team looking for a defensive-first backstop could find value in Marson.

  • Chris Getz, 2B

Getz has a pretty wonky stat line. He has driven in 111 runs over the course of his career. During the same time he has exactly three home runs. Regardless, the former White Sox player would provide a solid bench bat on most teams. After failing to successfully hold down the Royals’ second base job, KC saw it fit to non-tender Getz. The Mark Teahen trade brought Getz to KC in 2009 after a few years in Chicago. Teams looking for infield depth could take a flier on the veteran second baseman. He has little experience playing third and short, but will predominately play second.

Check back later for more non-tendered players with value.

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

MLB Trade Rumors: Non-Tender Bargain Bin Free Agent Finds – Lou Marson

Like Webb, Marson was one of the last parts of a major trade left with his team. Carlos Carrasco is the only player left in Cleveland from the Cliff Lee trade. Offensively, Marson isn’t amazing. One can tell by his career .219 batting average. What the ex-Indian does bring is solid defense. In 2010 and 2011 he threw out a respectable 38 percent of runners attempting to steal. That rate plummeted to 14 percent in 2012. The plummeting rate and waning offense led to only three games with Terry Francona’s squad this past year. A team looking for a defensive-first backstop could find value in Marson.

 

Check back later for more non-tendered players with value.

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

The Cleveland Indians Should Have Pulled the Trigger on A Certain Asdrubal Cabrera Trade

It’s been tossed around that Cleveland is shopping their shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. It is also common knowledge that Arizona wants to trade their own star player, Justin Upton. It’s equally common knowledge that the Diamondbacks really want a shortstop. And what’s even more plain to public perception is the Texas Rangers’ desire to find a power bat to take Josh Hamilton’s place.

That seems like decent grounds for a trade, right?

The supposed proposed trade would have sent Cabrera to Arizona, Upton to Texas and rising stars Mike Olt and Trevor Bauer to Cleveland.

What on Earth is wrong with Cleveland?

I know that it’s a three-team trade, so everybody has to be on board with it, but come on, make this trade. Continue reading

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

Poof! There Goes A Contender!

How one off-season trade has sent the Orlando Magic crashing and tumbling towards the basement and eventual lottery.

First, I should start off by mentioning that the Magic are 2-1 as I write this. I know they have a winning record, but they’ve played three games. They’re serving as kitchen-store lighting at the moment, also known as a flash in the pan. If the season goes really well for the Magic, then the joke’s on me, but on paper and for the future the Magic look anything like their name.

Dwight Howard got traded. I think everyone down to the foul pole at Safeco Field knew it was coming. The question then became, “ok, well what can they get for him?” Continue reading

Silencing the Tigers’ Haters

Much has been made of the Tigers’ “inconsistent” play as of late, as well as the fact that they aren’t in first place in a “weak” division.

This is all irrelevant. Or, unwarranted rather.  The Tigers have, if not the best, then one of the best records in the league since the end of June.

The division is another thing entirely. Yes, the Tigers sit two games out of first place Chicago, but on the year, Detroit has a 7-5 record against the Sox. That’s tied for the most wins the Tigers have against any other club this year. The other two teams the Tigers have seven wins against are Minnesota and Kansas City, which Detroit is a combined 14-6 against. Which brings us to this point, of the 40 games left, twenty six of them are against those teams. Six more of those scheduled games are against the Angels, who Detroit has won three of the four meetings with this year.

So add it all up, and the Tigers, if all goes as it has been going, should end up with the division title. This would in turn remove them from the wildcard-playoff-shtick. Continue reading

MLB Trade Deadline Roundup

First off, Happy Birthday to my Aunt Joyce. Last year I promised that I would mention her birthday here, and because I’m a man of my word, I am. So, Happy Birthday Aunt Joyce!

Today is the baseball trade deadline. It’s one of the Holy Grails of sports. A day when the deals go by fast and furious and without a Vin Diesel reference. Oops.

Anyways, since the MLB Network has been so kind as to air a trade deadline special, I’ll just run through the trades in the order that they show them, use it as a framework almost. Continue reading

Can the Pittsburgh Pirates Keep It Up?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 11 games over .500. When was the last time you were able to say that?

Not only are they a game ahead of the Reds for first in the NL Central, but they had more All-Star representatives than perennial contenders Boston and Milwaukee.

The Pirates’ pitching has been their strength. They have given up the second fewest runs in the entire National League and hold hitters to the third lowest batting average in the same league. So we know their pitching staff has been fantastic. AJ Burnett and Erik Bedard have meshed in well with a good group of starters as well as an excellent bullpen.

Like I said, we know their pitching is good and is going to be there, but what about the offense?

I mean, no offense, but… Sorry, had to throw that in there.

The point is that the Pirates need more help at the plate. Pittsburgh isn’t getting a ton of help coming back from injury. Alex Presley is the only notable position player on the DL. So help is probably going to have to come from outside the organization.

That being said, the current offense isn’t too bad, that’s saying if you add a piece or two. The Bucos probably need corner outfield help as well as help at first base. The team, though, isn’t short of good bats. Neil Walker, Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas and Garret Jones aren’t bad hitters. It’s just that they don’t belong in the middle of the order. Put those guys in the top two spots, or perhaps the six through eight spots, in the order and you’ll be fine. It’s finding bats for the middle of the order to pair with Andrew McCutchen that’s the dilemma.

Justin Upton. Just going to throw that out there.  Go ahead, be taken aback by it. It’s surprising to me too that the Diamondbacks, on the heels of a playoff season, would consider moving the 24 year-old slugger. Yep, they really would consider moving a player that has nearly 100 career home runs, steals, driven in north of 300 runs and has won Silver Slugger and a Fielding Bible honors by the age of 24. Crazy, I know. But supposedly, the Snakes want to contend next year and are willing to move Upton for Major-League-ready prospects. The Pirates could dangle prized pitching prospects Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon or even perhaps AAA outfielder Sterling Marte, who has shown good potential.

Now, all three aren’t going to Pittsburgh in any deal unless maybe Arizona sells the rights to its entire farm system in the move, but one of the pitchers and some lower tear prospects as well as a controllable player like the recently demoted Jose Tabata could interest Arizona. I know it’s a lot, but Arizona might jump at a proposed deal of say Cole, Tabata and a lower-level prospect for Upton and maybe one of Arizona’s many starting pitchers.

But I don’t think Justin Upton solves it all for the Pirates. They need another bat. A PTBNL type bat to pair with Upton and McCutchen. By “PTBNL” type bat, I mean someone like a Delmon Young or a Ryan Ludwick. Somebody on a shorter contract who, if they play to their potential, can give you 20 homeruns and 80 runs batted in over the course of an entire season.

The Pirates need someone like that if they get Upton to add length to their lineup. As stated, the bats that the Pirates already have, like Neil Walker and Garret Jones, are better suited hitting towards the bottom of the order, not carrying the lineup in the thick of things.

So drink it all in baseball fans, the Pirates are winning, but they might need some offensive help to keep it up.