Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Roar May Be Back in Detroit

The Tigers had a great start to the Winter Meetings Monday, first obtaining catcher Gerald Laird from the Texas Rangers then signing free agent shortstop Adam Everett. The price for Laird was stiff – minor league right-handers Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo. Moscoso, 25, had an excellent 2008 campaign, splitting time between High A and Double A. In 86.2 innings he used a 93-94 mph fastball along with an average curve and changeup to strike out 122 hitters while posting a sterling ERA of 1.94. If Moscoso impresses his new team out of the gate, he could be in Arlington by the All Star break. However, one note of caution with Moscoso is his durability. He underwent shoulder surgery in 2005 and has never pitched 100 innings in a season. Melo, only 17, is more of a long-term project. He has yet to pitch in North America, though he already boasts a mid-90’s fastball and at 6’3” 180 pounds he projects to add even more velocity as he matures. His offspeed stuff is still a work in progress.

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.

.246 .298 .355 .976 4.21 (Everett)
.269 .312 .375 .978 4.68 (Wilson)

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.


pamela said...

Looks like Wood is not going to Detroit, supposedly in talked with the Indians. Maybe Hoffman is heading to Detroit? Do they really want to trade prospects to get JJ Putz when Hoffman is available via free agency?

Infield Chatter said...


Thanks for your interest and your comment. Obviously, the Tigers have landed none of the Wood/Putz/K-Rod troika. I don't see them signing Hoffman after last year's Jones fiasco (do they really need another 40-something closer who pitches to contact) and I think Fuentes will sign with the Angels. That said, I think they should pursue both Beimel and Juan Cruz, with Cruz closing unless either Zumaya or Rodney steps up.