Thursday, November 01, 2007

Tigers transformation to Marlins is almost complete

The Tigers were quick to acquire the shortstop that would enable the club to finally move Carlos Guillen to first-base permanently. Acquiring Edgar Renteria dually shores up the infield and effectively removes the Tigers from the A-Rod Sweepstakes. With the Yankees and Tigers out of the picture, it looks like A-Rod will either go to the Dodgers, Cubs, or Angels. Scott Boras can’t be too pleased with an audience of three teams. That seriously reduces his bargaining power. Nonetheless, the Tigers picked up Renteria in almost the exact same way they did Sheffield last season. They did it quick—even quicker than the Sheffield trade—and had to part with some pretty good prospects. Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland clearly look for familiar players who have helped them win in the past. It’s no coincidence that Sheffield and Renteria were both members of the ’97 Florida Marlins in which Jim Leyland was the Manager and Dave Dombrowski was the General Manager. Unfortunately for them, the number of productive ex-’97 Marlins who are left to acquire is basically zero. That means the Tigers will have to get creative next off-season. I’ll be looking forward to that especially with another ex- Marlin (Pudge) and his $13 million coming off the payroll.

My first reaction to the trade was basically the same reaction I had to the Sheffield trade last season. It seems steep. Although, Sheffield is more important and came at a cheaper price. Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez are big-time prospects. Jurrjens was considerably more advanced than Hernandez but both were known commodities around MLB. The Tigers have a surplus of pitching in the organization with Andrew Miller and Rick Porcello still waiting to get into the starting rotation. Losing Jurrjens stings in the sense that it immediately downgrades the overall talent level in the minors but it won’t affect the Tigers chances of winning a World Series in the near future. The Sheffield trade—giving up Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett—brought the same dynamic. The Tigers lucked-out when Sanchez suffered a serious elbow injury for the Yankees but considering Sheffield's health--or lack thereof--the winner of that trade is still uncertain. Losing prospects like Sanchez and Jurrjens is especially difficult for Tigers fans because for 20+ years, there wasn’t but one or two players who were as good as either. We’re not used to seeing the “future” traded away. Any time a player like Juan Encarnacion, Gabe Kapler, or Justin Thompson came along, the Tigers held on to them like they were gold. Fortunately, the Tigers have legitimate “prospects” now and equally fortunate is the fact that the Tigers are good enough to be able to trade away those prospects without incurring years of regret. The Tigers traded away John Smoltz 20 years ago and—because the organization was run into the ground—it has been a notorious trade ever since. Even if Jurrjens turns into the next Smoltz, or Hernandez becomes the next Torii Hunter, fans will be too busy cheering for the Tigers in October to dwell on a trade gone awry.

I’m remorseful to see Jurrjens and Hernandez go; Jurrjens especially. He has great command, a 95-MPH fastball, and the confidence to match. I think he’ll end up being a pretty good pitcher. However, you have to give to get. The Tigers needed a bona fide shortstop and the price for one of those is clearly not cheap. My concern is that Renteria isn’t a top-tier shortstop. The Tigers didn’t just seek anyone to replace Guillen. The goal was to come close to replacing Guillen’s power and/or drastically improve the position defensively. I’m not sure Renteria does either. His career OPS+ is 97. He has had three above-average seasons in 12 years. He is extremely inconsistent from year to year as you can expect anything from an OPS+ of 77 to 130. He is coming off the second-best season of his career as he posted an OPS+ of 125. His best season came in 2003 in which he produced an OPS+ of 130. He followed that with two miserable seasons.

I don’t mind giving up prospects for a proven commodity. The current depth in the Tigers system allows for that trade-off. However, in this instance, I do at least slightly mind giving up Jurrjens and Hernandez for Renteria. According to Bill at The Detroit Tigers Weblog, the Tigers picked up 2 to 2.5 wins by essentially replacing Guillen’s defense and Sean Casey’s bat with Renteria. Two wins isn’t anything to scoff at but given Renteria’s unreliability from year to year, a two-win improvement is no guarantee. Plus, it’s not like the Braves had all the leverage in this deal and the Tigers had none. The Braves were actively trying to unload Renteria because Yunel Escobar—a promising, young shortstop in the Braves organization—was ready to take over. Given Renteria’s unreliability and Escobar’s pending promotion, it seems a little much to give up Jurrjens and Hernandez.

If I were a Braves fan, I would be elated with this deal. Not only does Escobar get to move into the shortstop position on an everyday basis, but the Braves also picked up a top-of-the-line pitching prospect and a centerfielder who has been drawing rave reviews ever since he stepped foot in the minor leagues. Players like Renteria are relatively easy to find. This trade isn’t going to cripple the Tigers. The chances are actually very good that this trade will have a net impact of zero or slightly positive. That said, I don’t think there is any doubt that the Braves got the better end of this deal.

After quickly acquiring Sheffield early in the off-season last year, the Tigers were done with major acquisitions despite some speculation to the contrary. The same could be the case this year at least offensively. Although, the recent revelation that Joel Zumaya might miss at least half of the 2008 season makes finding a good-to-great relief-pitcher a high priority. Said injury might increase the odds that the Tigers will make a run at Mariano Rivera. The Tigers have long been rumored to be searching for a left-fielder but the combination of Marcus Thames and Timo Perez apparently seems somewhat manageable to the front-office. Plus, with the payroll at an all-time high (well over $100 million) and the increased need to find bullpen help, I think the offense is pretty much the way it’ll look on opening day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cliff Floyd as the left handed bat in the OF????


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