November 5th, 2009

Five Tigers file for free agency

As the veteran Tigers scribe Jim Hawkins likes to say, no sense waiting (yes, I recycled that line from my Twitter account, @beckjason). Five Tigers — Adam Everett, Aubrey Huff, Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney and Jarrod Washburn — filed for free agency Thursday, the first day players could do so. The only Tiger eligible for free agency who didn’t file Thursday was Brandon Lyon, and that’s more of a formality. His agent and the Tigers haven’t talked yet. Look for a free-agent roundup on the site tonight.

The Tigers have exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents through Thursday, Nov. 20. While those players can talk with other teams, they technically can’t talk contract terms or exchange offers, though agents seem to get around the contract terms part. Starting Nov. 21, it’s a free-for-all.

Also, the Elias rankings that determine compensation for free agents came out today. Polanco qualified for Type A status, meaning the Tigers would receive at least a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft, and possibly a first-round pick as well, if they offer him arbitration and he signs somewhere else. That leaves the Tigers with a decision to make whether they offer him arbitration, and I’m not sure the Tigers won’t take a chance and offer it. After all, if he accepts it, the Tigers have him for one year.

Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon both qualified for Type B status. If the Tigers offered them arbitration, they’d get a draft pick after the second round if they signed elsewhere.

Porcello named Tigers Rookie of the Year

In case you missed it (sorry, but blog program wasn’t working earlier today), Rick Porcello won the Tigers Rookie of the Year award today. It wasn’t really a surprise, but it was another moment to appreciate what he did this year after he surprised a lot of people by making the rotation out of spring training in the first place.

As reported many times already, Porcello is just the fourth pitcher since 1970 to put up a 14-win season before his 21st birthday, the last being Doc Gooden. What stood out to me, though, was the way he adjusted his game after a midseason slump and thrived down the stretch for it. He went 5-2 with a 3.07 ERA over his final 13 starts, allowing just 66 hits over 73 1/3 innings. Just 18 of those hits went for extra bases. He lost only one of his final eight starts, and his 5 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts in the AL Central tiebreaker gave Detroit a shot at winning the division before falling in extra innings.

Want to know what else was impressive about that stretch? Look at his ground ball to fly ball ratio. He had one of highest ground-ball rates in the American League for the season, but he was close to even for the final two months. He went from throwing sinker after sinker to mixing in more four-seam fastballs down the stretch, partly at catcher Gerald Laird’s suggestion, and batters popped them up.

Did the Tigers manage him well? Sure, and they deserve credit for it, especially pitching coach Rick Knapp. But this kid worked well with Laird and made adjustments, and he showed an aptitude well ahead of his time. He probably won’t get the credit he deserves for that when AL Rookie of the Year voting comes out next week — too bad, because the Tigers would’ve lost the division before Game 163 without him — but it’s going to be fun to look at this season’s AL rookie crop in a few years and see where Porcello stands.

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