Now I know just how far wishing and hoping alone can take you. It takes you to January 11th, and no further. Seventy-nine days short of the goal. I told you January was a dangerous month. Back when I did my offseason preview, I said I would be willing to take on starting pitchers if and only if they were a clear upgrade to what was already in place. One of the types of pitchers that I specified as NOT being a clear upgrade was an aging veteran. Another was an injury reclamation project. Brad Penny fits both these descriptions. I’m not saying that he wouldn’t be an upgrade (The 2006/2007 Brad Penny would be. I can’t argue with that). He’s just not a clear one (though I still don’t like his numbers against AL teams, and I’m not talking about his stint in Boston; I’m talking about his entire career). Things might work out and they might not. Even if they work out, however, I’m just not sure he’d be enough to get the Tigers over the top (if there is one). And I don’t feel like he’s worth the turmoil that’s happening now. We won’t know the full fallout until tomorrow at the earliest, but it stands to reason that Armando Galarraga gets the short end AGAIN. Precisely what will happen is yet unclear, but it’s obvious that at the very least, he’s going to have to pitch like a Hall of Famer if he even wants a chance at a rotation spot, which I think is asking too much of anyone. Now, I know there is actually a rather sizeable population on the blogosphere that think Phil Coke won’t pan out as a starter, but Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are so married to the idea that Coke would probably have to have an ERA of seven in July before they’d even consider removing him from the rotation.
Beyond that, opinions as to Galarraga’s fate are all over the place (I hate the fact that he’s out of minor league options because it’s making it so frustrating and complicated). Some writers are just ignoring him. Some think he will compete but someone would have to pitch horribly or be injured in order for him to take a spot. Several people on Twitter are making jokes about it, which I find distasteful. Most of the people at Bless You Boys think he’ll be shifted to the vacant long relief slot in the bullpen (This is undignified, but it does keep him with the team. At the same time, long relief seems to be the kiss of death for Tigers starters. Usually when a starter goes down with injury or ineffectiveness, they bypass the long reliever and just call someone up from the minors), with a few here and there believing he’ll be traded. Jason Beck doesn’t seem to be subscribing to either of these theories, though he does list them as options for what the Tigers can do with him. He says that Galarraga has no trade value right now, and he’s skeptical of the long relief idea because the arbitration raise he’s due to get would be that of a starter’s salary and therefore it would not be cost effective to have him pitching out of the bullpen (This really doesn’t make sense; I can’t imagine he’d get that much more than a million, which is what Brad Thomas is being paid, and it’s not as if the Tigers don’t have payroll flexibility). Beck doesn’t say it outright, but he strongly hints that he thinks Galarraga will be released sometime during spring training because his contract is not guaranteed. That would be devastating to me. One scenario that isn’t addressed by anyone (except very briefly by John Wagner, who covers the Mud Hens for the Toledo Blade) is trying to sneak him through waivers and outright him to Toledo. Since it would be the first time he was outrighted, he’d have to accept the assignment. Now, I say that, and yet I don’t think that would work. I just don’t think he’d make it through waivers without someone claiming him, unless he was injured or his spring training was terrible. Anyways, I don’t know who to believe. I know not to believe Dave Dombrowski. Remember, last Monday he proclaimed that the rotation was “pretty well set.” I was skeptical of that comment, and I was right to be skeptical about it because the Brad Penny rumors started up the very next day, which means he flat-out lied about the rotation, and I don’t appreciate that. I’m not asking him to be completely transparent and honest, but there’s a difference between lying and being non-committal. What he should have said was something along the lines of, “We’d be comfortable with the rotation we have now, but we’re exploring our options.” I wouldn’t have liked hearing that, but at least it would have been closer to the truth. Right now I’m just hoping for some sort of miracle to happen and for Galarraga to find himself back in Detroit’s rotation. As bad as I feel right now, he’s got to be feeling ten times worse. I know you all think I’m silly for empathizing with him, but when you’ve fought so hard for so long and put so much energy into supporting someone who’s constantly on the bubble and being torn down by critics and naysayers that when he doesn’t get a fair chance at redemption, it’s like your goddamn heart’s been ripped out. The only time I’ve felt worse than this was when Pudge got traded away (and to this day, that experience has left me extremely skeptical of guys who “replace” players I like, though I will admit that Austin Jackson worked out well; however, I like Galarraga better than I liked Granderson, and that’s saying something because I was very fond of Granderson). Whether I feel better or worse tomorrow depends on what happens once this signing is official.