November 30th, 2009

Brandon Morrow and Shawn Kelley?

Those are two players SI.com’s Jon Heyman hears the Tigers wanted from the Mariners during their trade discussions for Edwin Jackson, a desire which the Mariners apparently didn’t like.

The Tigers aren’t talking on their trade discussions, but given their history and the fact that the Tigers are looking for young pitching and young players, such a package has logic. Morrow went one pick ahead of Andrew Miller in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, and the Tigers were believed to have interest if he fell. As it was, they didn’t decide on Miller until the last minute. With the power fastball, he fits the profile of the Tigers’ ideal pitching target, someone with good stuff who needs work after a disappointing season. He also won’t hit arbitration until next winter.

Kelley has closing experience in the minors and had a better second half in his rookie season than his first half. Detroit has no shortage of relief prospects, but Kelley is ready now.

Ramirez to replace Granderson? Probably not

The continued trade interest in Curtis Granderson raises the question of who would replace him in center field. But contrary to published speculation, Wilkin Ramirez isn’t the answer.

From a pure athletic standpoint, Ramirez might be the closest Detroit has to Granderson that’s Major League ready. He was arguably Detroit’s fastest player as a spot player over the summer and late-season pinch-runner. His power potential is big, to the point that he would project more for an RBI producer.

He is not, however, a center fielder. He never has been, save for two games in center at Triple-A Toledo this past season and some time there in winter ball for Licey this offseason. The Tigers considered moving him to center in the lower levels of the farm system once they determined he was not a third baseman, but team officials felt he was a better fit in left field, where he made 11 errors in 95 games this year. The physical tools are there, but his instincts are a work in progress.

So if not Ramirez, then who? Ryan Raburn was Granderson’s backup in center for most of the year, and started there on a few occasions when Granderson had a game off, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a full-time center fielder. Clete Thomas was a regular in center at Erie and Toledo in 2007 and ’08, and maybe could fit in a platoon, but he was overmatched at the plate down the stretch this year. Prospect Casper Wells has the ability to play center field in the big leagues, according to some, and he definitely has the desire. Whether he could do it every day is another question; he would have to prove himself to the Tigers to do it.

Ideally, a Granderson trade would bring back a center-field prospect in return, but given the teams with reported interest, that doesn’t appear likely.

The other option would be to add a veteran center fielder, maybe someone like Mike Cameron, with whom the Tigers were linked in trade talk last summer as someone to play CF against lefties. That, however, would beg the question: If a Granderson trade frees up money to fill other needs, what good is it if you have to spend money to replace Granderson?

Let the debate over Tram and Lou resume

Back from Thanksgiving break to find that the Hall of Fame ballot is out, and the debate over who deserves to get in. If you’re among the many Tiger fans who see Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker as deserving Hall of Famers who haven’t gotten a fair shake — or in Whitaker’s case, didn’t get a good look at all in his lone year on the ballot — you have company.

Joe Posnanski blogged over the weekend about a small group of players who received 15-20 votes in their only year on the ballot — enough to claim a group of support, but not enough to make it to next year’s voting. Lou Whitaker not only leads Posnanski’s list, but draws comparisons to Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. Fittingly, if you go to Whitaker’s page on baseball-reference.com, it lists Ryne Sandberg as his most similar player. It’s a good read, and not just for the Whitaker discussion.

While Keith Law doesn’t yet have a Hall of Fame vote, he has his opinions on who’s deserving. He points to Wins Above Replacement as one stat to consider among hitters, and notes that Whitaker is high on the list. In fact, at No. 54, he’s the highest-ranking position player to have been eligible for the Hall and not get in. Among players who are eligible, Law makes his case for Trammell, who isn’t far off on that Wins Above Replacement list at 67th. He sees the situation much like a lot of Tigers fans, that Trammell gets penalized for being in Ripken’s shadow.

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