March 30th, 2009

As the roster turns

Josh Anderson is a left-handed bat, and he’ll be on the Tigers’ bench. That does not necessary mean he will be the left-handed bat off the bench.

There’s a key point to be made about Monday’s trade. While Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said that Anderson will be on the roster — he’s out of Minor League options, so they wouldn’t have made the trade if they didn’t plan on it — Dombrowski would not say that Anderson takes up the last spot on the roster. That means if the spot Marcus Thames has held for the past few years wasn’t in play before, it certainly appears to be now. And Jeff Larish would seem to be the other one in line for it.

As has already been written elsewhere, players without guaranteed contracts can be cut by April 1 and be owed 45 days’ salary in termination pay — or basically one-fourth of what they were slated to make — rather than the full season. Thames is scheduled to make $2,275,000 this year as part of a one-year contract agreement reached back in January to avoid arbitration. On a team with payroll considerations and lots of guaranteed contracts that can’t be cut, it’s hard to say that it wouldn’t be a factor, especially if all the evaluations are equal.

There’s very likely no way that Larish can match the pure power numbers Thames has put up in his role over the last few years. He ratio of a home run every 13.52 at-bats over the last three years ranks fourth in the American League. There’s absolutely no way that Larish can match Thames’ actual power and raw strength. But he has Minor League numbers that project him to hit for power in the Majors, he’s shown a knack for hitting off the bench, and he’s a left-handed bat for a team that has a predominantly right-handed lineup.

While you can’t rule out a trade, Thames himself has pointed out his situation: He has been on the block at various points over the last three years without a deal. He has also been rumored on the market for much of this Spring Training without much developing. And Dombrowski termed the chances of a trade involving any Tigers outfielder as possible, but not likely.

If the Tigers believe that Larish can provide them with enough of a power spark at the plate, especially in pinch-hit situations, then they could face a very difficult decision: How much is it worth for them to put him on the team? Plenty has been written over the last few years about a power hitter like Thames not having a regular role. But how about possibly not having a roster spot?

There’s only one big upside to Thames being out of the picture in Detroit, and me no longer getting emails asking to guess what Thames would hit over a full season is not it. It’s the fact that Thames could end up in a better situation for him in terms of playing time. Whether he could compete for that elusive starting job is uncertain this late in camp, especially when teams haven’t stepped up and traded for him already. But a long-awaited chance at more playing time, a platoon or more, couldn’t happen to a better guy.

Tigers get Josh Anderson

The Tigers swung a trade for a speedy left-handed hitting outfielder, acquiring Josh Anderson from the Braves for reliever Rudy Darrow. Anderson lost out on Atlanta’s CF competition and is out of options, so he’ll open the season on the 25-man roster.

That pretty much solves the OF logjam. Dave Dombrowski said that another trade involving one of their outfielders is “possible, but not likely.”

Good sign for Bonine

Sorry for no post yesterday. Needless to say, it was a crazy day.

Back to action today with news on reliever Eddie Bonine, who is now set to make the start for the Tigers in their Spring Training finale Thursday against the Blue Jays (Edwin Jackson is starting a Minor League game that day). Jim Leyland wants him pitching no more than two innings that day. While Leyland hasn’t said anything about whether he’s on or off the roster, this should be a good sign for his chances. He’s written down to pitch on the day the Tigers break camp, and he isn’t being stretched out for any return to starting duty in Toledo.

Leyland has been effusive in his praise for Bonine the last couple days, particularly as a reliever. The manager called him a “totally different pitcher” out of the bullpen compared to starting, in large part because he throws harder in shorter work. He has also made better use of the knuckler he threw at times last year. And a harder-throwing Bonine with a knuckler (actually two now, a harder version and a slower one) has a chance to be a pretty effective middle to long reliever, possibly in a big role if Zach Miner is summoned to the rotation.

Other news …

  • Nate Robertson is now set to pitch Tuesday against the Nationals after Rick Porcello’s outing is done. That puts two of the primary starting candidates pitching on the same day. “Hopefully it’ll take up most of the game,” Leyland said of their innings.
  • Still no word on when Zach Miner will pitch again. 
  • Leyland reiterated that his preference would be to have Armando Galarraga pitch the home opener April 10. “But I’m not sure if that’s going to work out,” Leyland said.