November 18th, 2009

A tip of the cap to Mike Hessman

hessman.jpgMike Hessman was a Toledo Mud Hen for five years. He joined the club back when they had a prospect named Curtis Granderson in center field, a slugger named Marcus Thames and a first-base mix of Chris Shelton and Carlos Pena.

Now, Hessman is a free agent at long last, and it appears his time as a Mud Hen is over.

Baseball America’s full list of minor league free agents is out, and while the Tigers don’t have a lot of them, they include some familiar faces. Brent Clevlen is one, and with a full outfield of prospects ready to come up from Double-A Erie, Clevlen’s Toledo tenure is likely at an end as well. He spent three years with the Hens, but could never quite seem to strike the balance between hitting for contact and hitting for power.

Macay McBride is also a free agent, though his baseball future seems to be in question. His injuries haven’t allowed him to pitch in a game since he left the Mud Hens season opener in 2008 after one inning.

But make no mistake, the biggest name heading out of Toledo is Hessman, whose 140 home runs as a Mud Hens are easily a franchise record. By comparison, nobody in Detroit this year has that many homers as a Tiger. He’s a familar, welcome face for many fans at Fifth Third Field, and he’ll be missed.

hessman2.jpgStill, this is a bittersweet parting, because it finally gives Hessman the chance to find a better opportunity elsewhere. There was talk last winter of an opportunity to play in Japan, but with Hessman on Detroit’s 40-man roster, that wasn’t going to happen. No idea whether that’s still a possibility, but if it is, it can be a lucrative one. Many Triple-A veterans make more money playing overseas or in Mexico.

If Hessman ends up staying in the States, he can look for an organization that might give him a better chance at a call-up to the Majors, even in just a spot role. He didn’t get any time in Detroit this year after the Tigers outrighted him out of spring training.

Hoping for the best for him. He’s a good guy and he deserves to see what opportunities he can get. Whatever happens, it’ll be odd going to Toledo and not seeing him there.

Here’s the full list of Tigers minor league free agents:

RHPs Nate Bump, Ruddy Lugo, Patrick Stanley
LHPs Ryan Ketchner, Macay McBride, Kris Regas, Jason Waddell
C Dane Sardinha
IF Mike Hessman
OFs Brent Clevlen, Jeramy Laster, Maiko Loyola

Nothing going on with Tigers, Smoltz

Once again, John Smoltz is on the open market, and questions of a return home to Michigan naturally follow. Again, however, that doesn’t appear to be happening.

While several teams have expressed interest in Smoltz, including some clubs examining him as a closer, the Tigers aren’t one of them. They’ve been in touch with agent Keith Grunewald, but those talks are in regards to shortstop Adam Everett.

The Tigers had some interest in Smoltz last offseason, but weren’t going to outbid the Red Sox, who signed him to an incentive-laden one-year deal for the chance to start in Boston by summer. He struggled with the Sox and was released in August, but found some success again in the National League with the Cardinals down the stretch.

Leyland places 6th in AL Manager of the Year voting

Jim Leyland received two third-place votes out of 28 ballots for American League Manager of the Year from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, for whom Leyland has been outspoken in admiration, won the award with 15 first-place votes. Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire was the runner-up, following by World Series champion Joe Girardi, Seattle’s Don Wakamatsu and Texas’ Ron Washington.