Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Tigers need a Big Donkey

With only two days left before the MLB Trade Deadline, this is my last chance to wax poetic about what the Tigers need to do to maximize their chances of playing baseball in October. Fall ‘06 was too much fun to let this chance slip away due to paralysis by analysis. Staying pat should not be an option. I’m not going to waste your time by fawning over Roy Halladay who every team obviously needs. Despite the rookification of Rick Porcello, the rotation is still the hallmark of the team. Plus, come postseason, Edwin Jackson and Justin Verlander will be on the mound for four of seven games. I’m sure the Tigers can find one or two serviceable starters in-house to pitch the other games. What the Tigers absolutely need is a massive OPS infusion. They have been atrocious at the plate; so much so that it is tough to imagine winning the division without a significant upgrade. The latest stretch of futility is an 11-game streak in which the Tigers have averaged just 2.9 runs per game including five one-run efforts. That last statistic is disturbing especially considering the firepower within the division. The ChiSox are heating up and Minnesota still might have the best lineup in the division by the end of the year. If the Tigers have any chance of holding off Chicago and Minnesota, they will most definitely need more ammunition. That doesn’t mean Josh Willingham or Nick Johnson. If Mike Ilitch wants his cherished October-revenue, he needs to encourage Dave Dombrowski to think big; like 6’6, 240lbs big.

The Tigers need Adam Dunn like Nancy Grace needs a mute button. Dunn is an offensive powerhouse. He is having arguably his best season as a major leaguer for a Washington Nationals team threatening to become the worst team in MLB history. With or without lineup protection, Dunn is a top-tier run-producer. The Tigers currently boast the left field/DH/right field carousel of Clete Thomas, Marcus Thames, Carlos Guillen, Ryan Raburn, and Magglio Ordonez. Suffice it to say, there is plenty of room for Dunn.

Dunn would provide a massive boost to the lineup in a number of ways. He would rescue Miguel Cabrera from the lonely island that he currently inhabits in the middle of the order. After a strong start to the season, Cabrera’s production has tailed off. Pitchers have opted to take their chances with the rest of the Tigers lineup and it has paid off. He would also give the Tigers a powerful left-handed bat for the first time since Ted Williams wore a Tigers uniform in my dreams. Dunn isn’t just good because he hits home runs. The last thing the Tigers needs is a “home run or bust” player. Dunn is good because he gets on base; a lot! Since 2004, no player in MLB has more walks. In fact, Dunn is quietly putting together a HOF resume. Over the last five years, he has averaged 111 walks, 98 runs, 100 RBIs, 41 home runs, a .382 OBP, and a 133 OPS+. Those last two numbers—the two most important—are up considerably this season. It’s not hard to imagine the Tigers lineup not only improving but actually being potent with a Miggy/Dunn combo.

Rumors persist that the Nats are asking quite a bit for Dunn as they should be. Dunn’s salary might be the most reasonable in baseball. He is set to make $12 million next season. This isn’t a rent-a-player type deal. Dunn is one of the top run producers in MLB. It should hurt to acquire him. In my opinion, the Tigers will not make the playoffs with their current roster. Minnesota and Chicago are too good to keep at bay without making a move. Rick Porcello will not be as productive as he was during the first half. Starting pitching will not be able to carry this team by itself. Unfortunately, the bats will not just magically energize. Sometimes good-but-flawed teams need to pay the price at the trade deadline to make the playoffs. The Tigers are very likely in that situation. In my opinion, Adam Dunn is the answer. Plus, his nickname is “Big Donkey.” That’s worth a prospect or two in itself.

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