Mailbag: Free agents, draft picks, Porcello, Rogers

While those of us who are Steelers fans are still taking in Sunday night’s Super Bowl win, this also marks the start of that awkward little stretch between the time football season ends (there’s still the Pro Bowl, I guess) and when spring training begins. If you look at baseball and football as the two big sports, this is the one time of the year when neither is going on, and it’s a little awkward. This is when we make news out of items like the truck carrying the Tigers equipment leaving for Florida. This is also the time when some of the Tigers pitchers who hadn’t made the trip to Florida yet head down that way — especially this year, since Tampa and the surrounding areas were a little crowded for that football game.

Anyway, we’re starting to get new questions coming in, and it’s much appreciated. If you have any questions, click here and send them along with your name and hometown.

I know the Tigers are pretty much set with their ’09 roster, but is there any chance they might try to make a run at one of the top remaining free agents if the price is right? Ben Sheets or Oliver Perez would solidify the rotation quite nicely, while a guy like Bobby Abreu would help solve the perennial search for a productive left-handed bat.
- Matt G., Palmyra, Va.

Most likely not. Dave Dombrowski said at TigerFest that he didn’t expect to be actively involved in the remnants of the free-agent market after signing Brandon Lyon, that they definitely aren’t looking for another starter, and that the positional roster is pretty much set except for the last spot on the bench. It isn’t simply a matter of the money it would take to sign Sheets or Perez; it’s also about what they have invested in Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis for the next two years and getting a return.

Any additional signing this winter will probably be a reliever, and probably to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. That said, it’s worth noting that the calendar has turned over to February, which is around the time Chad Cordero has been expected to start throwing off of a mound. That should get the wheels in motion for teams that have been looking at him.

I was reading about all the unsigned free agents. Do you see any of them signing with the Tigers when it gets close to spring training and the FA’s panic? I realize they most likely will not be able to afford a Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, Jon Garland, Ben Sheets, etc. But what about a less well-known player like Juan Cruz? I understand about the draft pick but is that all that would hold them back? Give up an unknown kid for a proven relief pitcher?
- Jerry, Points Unknown

Draft picks have become golden for a lot of teams, even before the economy turned sour, and this year’s free-agent market has only heightened that. Even if a club has to pay a good contract to a first-round pick up front, it has that player on the roster for six seasons without hitting the open market. And recent history shows that if that’s the strategy you’re going for, the right picks can get to the Majors in a hurry. The road for a standout college player to the big leagues, depending on the position, isn’t as long as it used to be.

Recently you noted that Ryan Perry could have a Verlander-Zumaya type impact for the 2009 Tigers. What about Rick Porcello? His exceptional sinking two-seam fastball would seem to be perfect for a setup role in the pen. I know that long-term he will be a starter, but is there any reason he couldn’t be the seventh or eighth inning guy this year?
- Rod S., Northville

Yes. The Tigers want Porcello to further develop as a starter before bringing him up to the Majors. You can argue that he can work on his pitching in a big league bullpen, and that’s a fair point, but it isn’t the same as starting work. Power pitchers, especially younger ones, tend to focus on a fastball and one secondary pitch as relievers rather than their whole repertoire. At this point, it wouldn’t be good for Porcello to fall into that mold.

With Kenny Rogers leaning toward retirement right now, what are the chances he will do what Roger Clemens has done and join the Tigers after the All-Star break?
- Samuel W., Grand Prairie

Very little. If the Tigers are in contention around midseason, it most likely means that their starting pitching has shored up. And while I think Rogers could come back in midseason if he wanted, I’ve had the impression the last couple years — while Rogers has weighed retirement — that he didn’t want to go that midseason route. I don’t know this for sure, but I think that if Rogers isn’t signed somewhere by the end of April, you won’t see him pitch again.

6 Comments

Jason– congrats to you and all the Steelers fans. You are right– this time of year is the pits… I guess its our pennance for the Fall when football and baseball are in full swing. As far as the super bowl, as a Lions fan, its nice to think that the only other team that’s historically as bad as the Lions could actually make it to the big game… perhaps some time in my lifetime? I’m not getting my hopes up.
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A few baseball comments:
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1) Bud Selig should be ashamed of himself: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3878964&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines
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2) It will be interesting if someone gets injured to see if the Tigers try and pluck a free agent at a bargain price… hoping this isn’t an issue but just in case…
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3) My money is on Larish for the last spot. He’s going to have to mess up big-time to lose that spot as they really need a LHB. Any word on how he did at 3rd in the Fall? If Inge struggles, could he push for playing time at 3rd?
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That’s all. Stay warm everyone…

The reports on Larish as a third baseman from the AFL were generally positive. He didn’t get much of a chance to play there early on because he was needed at first base while Marlins prospect Logan Morrison was injured, but he made up for it down the stretch. He did some extra work with Ryne Sandberg, one of the coaches down there.

Is he good enough to start there every day in the Majors? I think it’s too early to say. He’s obviously a big third baseman, and you would be giving up some range compared with Inge, but he can turn what he gets into outs. Could he share some time there, especially against certain right-handed pitchers? That seems like a more realistic question. To me, the biggest thing in his favor as he goes along is that he believes in hiimself as a third baseman, having played there in college.

Jason—
This is my first blog post…
I have been mulling over the Tiger’s lineup for next year, needless to say I am excited. However, I do believe that it needs some work. I firmly believe that Granderson is ready to be a middle of the order bat, but who will lead off for us?
I do have hope for Sheffield this year with his successful winter workout program, but I think that Granderson in the middle will incorporate a much more productive lineup. Because Shef’ wasn’t very reliable for us, how about switching him to lead off?
He can give us an extremely patient leadoff hitter who can work every opposing pitcher deep into counts. It can take the pressure from being a RBI producer to a scoring machine. He is an extremely smart base runner and can still give us 20 plus steals, plus his bat wiggle to start the game and the animosity felt by every pitcher he faces could take the other teams immediately out of their rhythm, especially if he dings one out of the park.
We can then back him up with one of the game’s best number two hitters in Polanco, then follow with Grandy’, Cabrerra, then Magglio the rest could be determined. I think that Cabrerra should always be protected by Mags’ because Miguel hits better when the pitcher has to pitch to him while Mags’ is a much better bad ball hitter than Cabrerra.
With this proposed middle of the order, the Tigs’ can and will compete with the revamped Indians and Yankees, maybe even make last years predicted offense come to fruition.

Go Tigers!!!

Congrats Jason on the Steelers win – gotta love these 4th qtrs – glad I wasn’t a fan of either team though as what a heart breaking way to lose.
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I hope your right about possible Tiger interest in Cordero for a mid year involvement. Although DD is signing everone on a 1 year deal so that other than Willis and Nate, he has basically a clean slate for 2010, I would offer Cordero a 2 year deal, around $750K + up to $750K bonus based on innings pitched and performance.
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JV continues to worry me about the possible arbitration route he seems to be heading. I had hoped his recent surprise about how committed the Tiger fans were in coming out to see the team this winter was a hopeful sign that he was maturing and recognising it doesn’t have to be all about himself.
JV, true leaders don’t care whether they are listed as #1 or #5. Contributing and helping others is all that counts.
Tom Singers article “Arbitration loss a harbinger of change” is an interesting read on the negative outcomes the arbitration process can have on a player and his team.
http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090201&content_id=3790376&vkey=hotstove2008&fext=.jsp

Welcome Magyar – I was busily typing whilst you posted.
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I like your idea about Sheff leading off. He had a better steal success rate to steal opportunities than any other Tiger batter last year. Definitely worth a try during spring trials.

I think Porcello has a shot out of Spring Traning don’t you?
Nik

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