Monday, December 05, 2005

Leadoff man, anyone?

I have a couple complaints about what the Tigers have done in free agency up until this point. It has been widely known and publicized that the Tigers need to improve their starting pitching and bullpen. What is also widely known and not so-widely publicized is the deplorable lack of efficiency at the top of the order. The Tigers made a play for B.J. Ryan, Billy Wagner, and Kyle Farnsworth. They came up short but they didn’t want to overpay for the second year in a row for a closer (Troy Percival). That’s fine. I’m not bothered by that. The Tigers made a play at Beckett and came up short. They still have a few pitching targets in Burnett, Javier Vazquez, Carl Pavano and possibly Matt Morris and Kevin Milwood. They’re doing what they can and I’m OK with their efforts in the pitching department. However, I am irate that the Tigers haven’t addressed the number one problem that hijacked this team last season; top of the order production. There are/were three excellent leadoff men that were available in free agency or through a fire-sale this off-season. The Tigers should’ve gone above and beyond the next highest offer for all three and take the first one that accepts. Rafael Furcal, Johnny Damon and Juan Pierre are three game-changing leadoff men. The Tigers have a lineup stacked full of undisciplined power-hitters. The one thing that would ignite this offense over any other would be a leadoff hitter that gets on base and has speed. The Tigers dropped the ball big time on this. Everyone wants to talk about upgrading the pitching and the bullpen which is understandable. There isn’t a team in MLB that doesn’t want to upgrade pitching. The Yankees have a $200 million payroll and they constantly bring in more pitching. The Tigers lost last year for many reasons but the most glaring deficiency was the stagnation of the offense on what seemed to be every other night. When you invest that much money in power hitters like Pudge and Mags, you have to make sure that you’ve done everything possible to get your money’s worth. Without excellence from the leadoff position, the Tigers will be spending empty money on the offense.

The Tigers are foolishly trying to spend their money just to get “something”. After coming up short on every available closer’s list, the Tigers tried giving $13.5 million dollars to Bobby Howry. Why reach for your 5th or 6th closer option when you can go all out for a premier leadoff hitter/centerfielder? The Tigers have made it clear that they are willing to spend whatever it takes to make this team a winner. Is there any doubt that Furcal, Damon or Pierre would improve this team by leaps and bounds over what Howry would bring to this team? The Marlins are begging for someone to take Pierre. Aside from giving up Verlander, the Tigers should offer the farm. It has become clear that free agents aren’t going to go out of their way to come to Detroit. The Tigers either need to offer free agents more money or make bold trades. Also, the Tigers have already found out that the only way to sign big name free agent players is to wait until everyone else has signed and then overpay. If they know this already, why don’t they just overpay for someone they really want rather than settling for whoever is left come January? Basically, I’m saying the Tigers should outbid everyone else on someone like Johnny Damon and the do the same for Trevor Hoffman. It comes down to what they’re willing to pay. There is no salary cap in MLB. The Tigers say they’ll spend whatever it takes to put a winning product on the field. Everyone wants to complain about overpaying for Pudge and Mags but what does it matter? There is no cap! They should spend as much money as possible for the players that will help this team. This team is only a couple players from being a viable contender. The Tigers should do whatever it takes to bring in Damon or Pierre, sign Hoffman, and then make a play at Matt Morris. That would make the Tigers a very dangerous team next year. The only thing stopping those things from happening is the money that the Tigers have already said they’re willing to spend. My guess is that the Tigers won’t even consider a centerfielder due to the amount of money it would cost. I guess they weren’t really willing to spend whatever it takes after all. No surprise there. The NHL started back up so Illitch’s fa├žade about “doing whatever it takes” ends. It’s all about the Red Wings, right?


Anonymous said...

I think with a healthy Palanco and a developing Granderson they will be fine at the top of the order. Granderson I think is the key as he seems to be the perfect #2 hitter with speed, power, and good eye. Problem with him is he strikes out too much. Where I'm mad is what to do about a third baseman. They need power from that position and they intend to stick with Inge which defies logic. Inge is a reserve or a catcher. He's a good fielder but 10 homers a year at 3B isn't going to take this team to the next level. After they get a starting pitcher a trade for a 3B is in order. Maybe Pudge and a prospect for Troy Glaus?

Jake said...

I agree that things are ok with the #2 spot. The problem is with the leadoff position. You can't just throw in some random dude like they've been doing. The leadoff man's job is to get on base. There isn't anyone on the roster right now that can do that well enought to merit batting leadoff.

I don't think the Tigers are being creative enough. They could solve this problem in a number of ways. Take for instance your comments on the need for a power hitting 3b. Why didn't they make a play for Furcal and move Guillen to third base. That way, they'd get solid production offensively from the 3B spot as well as improving the infield defense AND get one of the premier leadoff hitters in the game. That would've hit three birds with one stone. Furcal was pricey but some times it's worth it. Furcal would've fixed a boatload of problems for the Tigers. I hate to see opportunities pass by like that.

Anonymous said...

You comment about what the Tigers have done in free agency. It's precisely the opposite. They haven't done anything. With that said, I appreciate they aren't giving $11M per year to Burnett, or $13M per year to Furcal. I don't want to see them trade any of their top prospects for big dollar contracts and marginal players. What is the situation with Garciaparra? Is he a FA or is he under contract? They could sign him to play SS and then move Guillen to 3B. The only issue is the potential health concerns of both those players.

Jake said...

Yes, the Tigers haven't done anything. My complaints are with the comments that Dombrowski has made among others. I'm not too satisfied with the way they've gone about things so far. I agree you don't want to pay someone who's old and possibly on the downside of their career like Percival. Someone like Furcal is a different story. He's young and he's good. When was the last time the Tigers signed a free agent that was young and good? It's pretty much been old and not as good as they used to be. If the latter was coming as a bargain than that would be OK but the Tigers have been overpaying even for the old and not as good as they used to be guys.

As for Nomar, he is a free agent. Nobody is going to get Nomar for cheap. His agent will pit a couple teams against each other and come up with someone to overpay. I'd rather have Furcal than Nomar although Nomar might come slightly cheaper. $13 mill is steep for anyone let alone Furcal but as far as I know, the Tigers didn't even go after him. We'll see how this all works out but I have a feeling the Tigers will enter next season with nothing more than a journeyman bullpen guy and one starting pitcher. Let me just say that the 2005 team needed a lot more help than that. This team needed two major additions at a minimum. From the way the Tigers are approaching things, there won't be any major moves.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about Nomar being expensive. The indians are talking about signing him as a "utility" guy. If he comes pretty cheap I think he is worth the risk. But by no means should they pay a fat salary to a guy who has looked a bit shaky the last couple of years. But mayb egive him a two year deal with performance incentives and let the chips fall where they may. I kind of like that idea.

And again, Millwood or Morris would be a nice solid addition. I really hope they can at least get that. But really I hope they either deal Pudge for power or make some other move that would add fear to opponents. They have the hitting, it's just that two guys hit per game over the longhaul. That has been very frustrating to me.


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