Thursday, April 02, 2009

Spring Wrap-up

It's been an eventful last few days and I haven't had a chance to comment on all the comings and goings so I'll give a brief wrap-up here.

Sheffield Cut

I was surprised to see the Tigers eat Gary Sheffield's $14 million contract but I think it was a good move. He is still a useful hitter when healthy but when he gets hurt he stays in the line-up and does not produce. The result last year was a pedestrian .726 OPS for a full-time designated hitter. With Sheffield gone, they no longer have to use up one of five bench spots on a man who can't play a position.

Marcus Thames will be the primary DH but he won't play as regularly as Sheffield. This allows them to use the DH spot to give Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, and Miguel Cabrera a rest once in a while without taking their bats out of the line-up. When Thames is not in the line-up, Jeff Larish and recently acquired Josh Anderson will get playing time and I expect both to get plenty of opportunities.

There was a chance Sheffield would make a come back this year in his contract season but with his age and injury history, it was not probable. I think they are better off trading the high risk high reward for increased roster flexibility and more opportunities for younger players.

Josh Anderson Acquired

I still don't know what to make of this deal. They traded Rudy Darrow who is only a marginal relief prospect but how much did they gain? Anderson has tremendous speed, something the team lacks. He is also a solid defender who can play all three outfield positions. He makes a good fifth outfielder and I'm looking forward to watching him pinch run in key spots late in the game.
He makes good contact but has no power and does not draw walks so I'm hoping he isn't used too often or in the lead off spot.

The acquisition allows them to give Clete Thomas, who I think has more upside, regular at bats in Toledo. If the need arises for an outfielder to play more frequently, Thomas would be a better choice than Anderson.

Closer by Committee

Jim Leyland is talking about bullpen by committee with Fernando Rodney getting the first opportunity. I know many Tigers fans are not happy with Rodney closing but I don't think the alternatives are any better. Brandon Lyon has been pretty bad this spring and there is not anyone else who has closed before. It doesn't really matter who closes for this team. The bullpen is going to be a problem regardless. I'm just hoping a couple of relievers catch lightning in a bottle.

One thing for certain, is that they can't rely on Joel Zumaya to give them innings. Anything they get from him has to be considered a bonus at this point. The new young fire baller is Ryan Perry
who had a great spring and will be heading north with the team. He is a potential future closer and might close on occasion this season but I wouldn't expect him to actually acquire the role until next year at the earliest. I'm definitely excited to see him pitch though.

The Starting Rotation

We talked all spring about who would win the job of fifth starter. It turned out that they needed to fill two spots as Jeremy Bonderman is not ready to go yet and won't be for at least a few weeks. Zach Miner, who many felt should have been number five all along, gets one spot. Young Rick Porcello gets the other. I think these are the right choices. Of the healthy pitchers on the staff, they rewarded the five best starters.

I think the rotation should be better than last year but they still need to get Bonderman back. I don't think they can contend without a healthy Bondo. It's not surprising that he needs time as his surgery was serious and extensive but. The good news is that it is surgery from which other pitchers have successfully returned. There is no need to panic yet but if it drags on too long, the Tigers could be in trouble.

Nate Robertson was sent to the bullpen and may eventually get released if he does not perform.
I have not given up on Robertson. I think he has chance to be a decent reliever but he will likely have a short leash.

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