Laird represents a clear upgrade over Pudge Rodriguez, who by last season had regressed considerably – both offensively and defensively – since signing with the Tigers in 2004. The 29-year-old has excellent catch-and-throw skills, is adept at blocking pitches in the dirt and received high marks for his handling of the Rangers’ pitching staff. At the plate, Laird can more than hold his own, which is all he’ll need to do in Detroit’s power-packed lineup. Though he doesn’t walk much, he makes good contact and has enough power to hit 15 home runs if he plays regularly. Laird also comes with a reasonable price tag. He earned just $1.6 million last season and still has two years before he’s eligible for free agency.
In Everett, the Tigers have signed an old-school, defense-first shortstop. He won’t hit much, but that’s not what he’s being paid to do. Instead, he’ll provide far more range than Edgar Renteria did and at a fraction of the price. To put the Everett signing into proper perspective, it’s important to note that multiple sources had the Tigers on the verge of trading either Matt Joyce or Jeff Larish, two burgeoning power hitters, for Jack Wilson and his $7.25 million salary. Everett, on the other hand, will cost Detroit a base salary of just $1 million and no prospects (or draft picks, for that matter). While Wilson has been slightly better than Everett on both sides of the ball, he’s certainly no Alan Trammell. Examining both players’ lifetime stats below, it’s evident that Everett, if he can stay healthy after an injury-riddled 2008 (Tiger scouts worked him out prior to signing him and deemed him fit to play), is by far the more cost-efficient acquisition.
AVE OBP SLG FP RANGE
While the addition of Laird and Everett will significantly improve the Tigers’ defense, even more impressive was their low monetary cost. Combined, both players will earn approximately $4 million in base pay. That’s less than half of the $9 million the club paid Renteria for his subpar 2008 season. With this savings, the Tigers will be able to pursue a first rate closer – either Kerry Wood or J.J. Putz – and continue to lay the foundation for a revival in 2009.