January 2010

Zumaya follow-up: Bonus for games played

Forgot to blog it yesterday, but you probably saw it on the site that the Tigers avoided arbitration with Joel Zumaya with a one-year, $915,000 contract, up from the $735,000 Zumaya made last year. Well, turns out he’ll make a little more than that if he stays healthy for the bulk of the year.

Zumaya’s contract includes a $20,000 bonus if he pitches in 35 games this year. Why is this significant? Because Zumaya’s 29 appearances last year marked his highest total since 2006. It isn’t a huge bonus when you consider the overall contract, but it’s kind of unusual for an arbitration-eligible player, whose contracts are usually straight salaries. In this case, it’s a way to bridge the gap between the value of Zumaya over a full season and the risk of injury.

Leading on Valverde is relative

I don’t like the idea of suggesting a team is in the lead for a free agent. The scorekeeping is completely subjective until a player decides where to sign. A team can easily hide their best offer until the last minute. Heck, a player doesn’t even have to take the supposed best offer. Who leads then?

That said, every indication backs up the notion that the Tigers’ offer for Jose Valverde is the most lucrative one out there. If it’s a two-year offer, as some indications suggest, it would also likely be the longest. And depending on who’s saying what, there could be multiple teams competing with them, one team, or none.

The Cardinals were rumored to have a lesser offer of their own out there for him, but MLB.com Cardinals reporter Matthew Leach had a source tell him that was “news to me” and that there’s “nothing to it.” A tweet from Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reported another offer from an unknown team, but the extent of that is unknown.

So are the Tigers in the lead? Well, Valverde hasn’t signed yet. The two sides were still talking Wednesday, according to a source, but as logical a fit as it seems, it’s still not done.

Couple thoughts on Valverde

No question, the radio rumor of a two-year offer on Jose Valverde raised notice among Tigers fans. As surprising as it seems — hey, I’m one of those who have repeatedly pointed out the Tigers’ historic reluctance to go to multi-year contracts on relievers — there are two things to consider on that.

  1. Though the Tigers weren’t about to match the 3-year, $15 million contract Brandon Lyon signed with the Astros last month, they were at least willing to consider a two-year contract for him. They remained in talks on Lyon after it became clear he was only weighing multi-year offers.
  2. There’s a line of thought that if you’re going to give up a first-round draft pick to sign a reliever, you almost have to do a two-year contract to justify it. It lessens the risk of the reliever having a bad year or missing time and dropping his ranking in the Type A/Type B free agent list. I’m not sure I agree with that line of thought, especially if you believe Valverde is at the top of his game and would almost surely remain a Type A free agent if he stays healthy, but several observers around baseball suggested it.

Look for more about the draft pick on the site.

Hindsight: Tigers weren't really in on Podsednik

podsednik.jpgThe supposed Scott Podsednik sweepstakes ended Friday with the outfielder signing a one-year with the Royals for $1.75 million plus incentives. Considering Scotty Pods was rumored to be in the Tigers’ sights earlier this offseason, that set up the question of what happened with Detroit and the former White Sox speedster.

According to president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, there wasn’t really much going on in the first place.

“We did not really pursue that,” Dombrowski said Friday.

Though other teams viewed Podsednik as an option in center field — he’s expected to be the starter in center in KC — the Tigers didn’t see him that way. They didn’t see him much as an outfield option, and they weren’t looking for him to be a designated hitter.

For that matter, they aren’t looking for anybody on the market to be their designated hitter. If they add a hitter in the final weeks of the offseason, it’s going to be somebody who can play a position. That basically rules out any Jim Thome rumors.

“We’re not looking to add a DH,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve said that all along.”

They did say that at the start of the offseason, that they’re not looking for a full-time DH. They wanted that spot to remain open to rotate Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez when they aren’t in the corner outfield spots, allowing them to get some semi-regular time for Ryan Raburn and maybe others. Though the Tigers still wouldn’t mind looking for offense, they still hold that outlook at DH.

The Tigers could add a hitter, Dombrowski said, “if you’ve got the right situation. But it would have to be the right guy.”

Asked how hard it’ll be to find such a fit, Dombrowski said, “You look and see what’s out there.”

Valverde has four offers

UPDATE Friday: While there’s interest in Valverde from the Tigers and other clubs, it’s doubtful any club is going to approach Valverde’s current price if the $8 million per year demands reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney are accurate. Detroit isn’t going to spend that kind of money on a closer given its situation, and neither likely is Arizona.

Something else to keep in mind: While Octavio Dotel and Kevin Gregg might be logical alternatives to Valverde on the free-agent market, they’re all represented by the same agency. Like last winter, Beverly Hills Sports Council represents a lot of relievers.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Also, if you’re hoping the Tigers or some team could work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Astros to add Valverde without giving up the first-round Draft pick Valverde would require as a Type A free agent, it’s probably not an option. Houston is expected to seek the Draft picks — a first- or second-rounder from the signing club (Detroit would have to give up its first-rounder), plus a compensation pick at the end of the first round.

Just because the Tigers are one of the rare teams left with an opening
at closer doesn’t mean they’ll be able to close out a deal with the top
closer left on the market.

While the Tigers have shown interest
in Jose Valverde, a report from Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown and later confirmed by a baseball source suggests that
the big right-hander has four offers from teams looking for him to
become their closer. Two of those offers, Brown cites from an
unidentified source, are for multi-year contracts.

It wasn’t
immediately clear whether one of those offers came from Detroit, but
the Tigers have interest. Still, it’s easier to see one on a one-year basis than a long-term contract.
Besides the well-founded concerns over payroll and president/general
manager Dave Dombrowski’s historic reluctance to sign relievers to
multi-year deals, the Tigers have several young relievers with closer
potential either ready for the Majors (Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth) or
on the verge of it (Cody Satterwhite, Robbie Weinhardt).

Regardless, this suggests it won’t simply be a waiting game without competition for Valverde on the market.

Dombrowski
has a policy of not commenting on contract negotiations, specifically
with free agents. He suggested earlier this week that he’d be “content”
with his relief options if they didn’t sign anyone else, but he also
said they’re “open-minded” about finding ways to improve.

Tram, Morris fall short on Hall ballot

Not that it’s going to be a shock, but the Hall of Fame debate over Alan Trammell and Jack Morris will go on for at least another year. While members of the BBWAA elected Andre Dawson to the Hall, Trammell and Morris again fell short.

Morris continued his progress in balloting with a noticeable jump in votes. He garnered 282 votes, or 52.3 percent of the electorate. Trammell’s support remained in its usual range with 121 votes, good for 22.4 percent. A candidate needs to be selected on 75 percent of all ballots to be inducted.

Thus, the 1984 World Champion Tigers remain without a player in the Hall of Fame. Their only member in Cooperstown remains their manager, Sparky Anderson.

Gammons on Trammell: Have to had seen him

MLB.com’s newest analyst/columnist, Peter Gammons, gave his Hall of Fame ballot and his reasoning for his votes. That isn’t new, and certainly his inclusion of Tigers great Alan Trammell isn’t. Still, I think his explanation for picking Trammell was as well-put as anybody:

Darrell Evans used to say that every throw Trammell made was perfect to
catch, and amidst the four Gold Gloves, Trammell was the ultimate in
consistency in the field. His numbers put him in the top 15-20
shortstops who ever played, he should have been the MVP in 1987, he was
the dominant player of the 1984 postseason, and this year Joe Sheehan
changed his mind and voted for Trammell. There are times when you have
to have seen a player, and Trammell was one of them.

Of the 13 MLB.com writers eligible to vote for Hall of Fame, four of them voted for Trammell. Five voted for Jack Morris. You can read their individual reasoning here.

Leyland, Sizemore slated for Mud Hens Fandemonium

The Tigers haven’t announced the final list of players for their upcoming winter caravan and TigerFest, but one lead-up event already has its slate set. The Mud Hens will hold their annual Fandemonium event, this time in conjunction with hockey’s Toledo Walleye, on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at the new Lucas County Arena in downtown Toledo.

Once again, Tigers manager and Perrysburg, Ohio native Jim Leyland is on the roster of guests. His third-base coach, Gene Lamont, is also on the list. All of the listed players were key contributors at some point in Toledo during the season and have a chance to make the big club in Detroit: second baseman Scott Sizemore, Eddie Bonine, Jeff Larish and Don Kelly. Mud Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager is also scheduled to take part.

This year’s event is again a buffet dinner format that will include a baseball or hockey celebrity at each table, a speech from Leyland, a Q&A session and a live auction. Dinner tickets cost $20 for adults and $15 for kids age 12 and under. For those who want to skip the dinner, there’s an $8 general admission ticket that includes Leyland’s speech, the Q&A session, live auction and Walleye player autographs.

Tickets are available at mudhens.com or by calling 419-725-HENS.

Postscript on Capps

The Nationals’ deal with former Pirates closer Matt Capps became official this morning, reportedly a one-year contract worth $3.5 million with another $425,000 available in performance bonuses.

Dave Dombrowski said Monday they weren’t actively talking with Capps. It’s interesting given the terms for which Capps eventually signed, but the other numbers you have to remember are the stats Capps put up last year (career-high 27 saves, but a 5.80 ERA, 73 hits in 54 1/3 innings).

Second-guessing the [ex-]Tigers' offseason moves

Is it better to not make a move than to make a bad one? Well, that’s all up for opinion, and many have theirs.

Lost in some of Monday’s catching-up from the holiday was a Foxsports.com piece from Dayn Perry listing his picks for the five worst deals of the offseason. No, the Tigers’ decisions didn’t make the list, but three former Tigers did, including both of last year’s late-inning relievers turned free agents.

Brandon Lyon’s three-year, $15 million deal with the Astros from last month’s Winter Meetings topped Perry’s list. Perry goes so far as to call Lyon’s 2009 season “lucky” and chastise Houston for betting that he’ll stay lucky for the next three years. I wouldn’t agree with that, but with a three-year contract for a relief pitcher, you had to figure he was going to be on the list.

Right behind that was the Diamondbacks’ end of the trade for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, mainly for the fact that Jackson is arbitration-eligible and closer to free agency. Still, Perry gushes over new Tigers reliever Daniel Schlereth for “a dominating minor-league dossier and the makings of a shutdown reliever at the highest level.”

Both of those moves topped the Milton Bradley trade in Perry’s eyes. Fernando Rodney’s two-year, $11 million deal with the Angels ranked just beyond that in fourth. Perry cites Rodney’s declining strikeout rate and injury history. I’d suggest the strikeout rate was a small price to pay for better command, but that’s just me.

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