Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hot Stove Thoughts

Sorry for the postings being so sparse. I’ve grown a bit weary of all the offseason complaining and squabbling that’s been going on around the blogosphere, which has left me wishing it was April. There are times where I feel that everyone else has succumbed to the darkness and that I am the lone remaining beacon of hope. And yet, the Winter Meetings seem like they were such a long time ago. I’m almost starting to forget that Curtis Granderson ever existed. Still, I have a duty as a blogger, and to that end, I will weigh in on the recent deals and rumors regarding the Tigers:

Closer: It appears we have one now. The Tigers have
agreed to sign Jose Valverde for two years, $14 million with a $9 million option for a third year. Valverde is a Type A free agent, which means the Tigers give up their first round pick (#19 overall) to the Astros, though they still have the two supplemental picks they got from losing Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney. I have yet to read a whole lot from the mainstream media, but the Tigers bloggers sure aren’t happy, though a lot of it stems from their belief that relief pitchers are overrated. Personally, I’m not sure what my perception on closers is anymore. I’m not exactly with the “pop culture” view that they’re worth millions, but I’m not exactly with the blogger belief that any average Joe off the street should be able to come in and easily get the last three outs of a ballgame either. My baseball guru says that mentality is more important than stuff (which, according to him, is how Mariano Rivera gets 500 saves with only one pitch; additionally, he thinks Joel Zumaya would make a good closer if he ever stays healthy because he has that mentality), although he believes that in an ideal world, all relief pitchers would be unnecessary because starters would finish their own games like they did back in the day (Remember, he’s old school). And I don’t think the mentality issue should be overlooked, no matter what the numbers and sabremetrics say. You can’t quantify psychology. The Tigers have a bazillion relief prospects in their system right now, but I don’t think any of them are ready. Letting them take their lumps at the major league level and force-feeding them (as some have suggested) may lead to lightning in a bottle, but it also runs the risk of destroying them and then a promising “closer of the future” merely becomes a burned-out casualty. Not everyone can do what Rick Porcello did. Ryan Perry could probably do with one more year of seasoning. I’ve heard some people trying to promote Daniel Schlereth as the closer. This is someone who walked 15 people in 18.1 innings last year. Unless he really impresses in spring training, it’d probably be best for him to start the year in Toledo or Erie (letting Bobby Seay and Phil Coke be the two lefties in the ‘pen). I believe Joel Zumaya has the ability to close now, but with his injury history, sending him out there with no safety net would be unwise. Therefore, it was clear to me that a stopgap was necessary. Now, two years and $14 million is a little bit more than a stopgap, and I believe that Valverde could have been had for less, but as it stands right now, it’s hardly a crippling move. I don’t really know a lot about Valverde, since he’s spent his entire career in the National League (really, the only memory I have of him is Brandon Inge hitting a game-winning two-run homer off him, and I would imagine that would skew my perception just as stuff like that does with Zack Greinke). However, he could probably be traded once one of our closer candidates is ready. Also, Valverde’s numbers look a hell of a lot more attractive than the man the Tigers were talking to at the Winter Meetings: Kevin Gregg. At the very least, those of you who fall under the category of “jaded” and “cynical” can just pretend that Valverde is the relief pitcher the Tigers would’ve drafted with that #19 pick.

Hitter: Shortly after the Valverde deal was announced, rumors picked up about the Tigers possibly being interested in Johnny Damon. Dave Dombrowski
shot down those rumors the following day (though Jason Beck doesn’t seem quite convinced, judging by his tone). I can’t say I was disappointed to hear that. Johnny Damon may boost the offense a little, but he’s not getting any younger and his defense is terrible (Seriously, the man’s gotta have the weakest throwing arm in the Majors). Plus, I’d never be able to look my baseball guru in the eye ever again. As far as someone else...well, the free agent market just doesn't look that attractive. Pretty much the only ones left are aging DH types (and while many of us desire a productive DH, bear in mind that once you reach your late 30s, your production can decline suddenly and sometimes rapidly; signing anyone like that would be a gamble).

Arbitration: I don’t like it. I’m not very well-versed in it (though I take reassurance in the fact that quite a few high-profile bloggers don’t entirely understand it themselves), but I understand enough to know it’s a messy and ugly process, one likely to leave both player and team looking bad. Therefore, I’m not likely to comment on it unless it becomes extremely prominent and to that end I hope the Tigers come to quick and satisfactory resolutions with their four remaining arbitration-eligible players (signing Verlander long-term would be a nice bonus).

Minor Leagues: Remember Mike Rabelo?
He’s back.

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