December 13th, 2013
Danny Worth spent several years waiting in the wings for a utility infield role with the Tigers, blocked by veteran Ramon Santiago. With Santiago’s contract up, 2014 was going to be Worth’s best and last chance. Instead, Worth’s opportunity is likely going to have to come someplace else.
With the Tigers needing a spot on the 40-man roster for Joba Chamberlain, they designated Worth’s contract for assignment on Friday. Detroit has 10 days to outright, trade or release him, and teams will get two days to put in a waiver claim on him.
The move completes a nightmare year for Worth, which began with him making his best case yet for the utility infield role. He was the final cut of camp, losing out to Santiago for the job, then added injury to his troubles when he injured his heel lunging at first base on a ground ball at Triple-A Toledo.
Worth made it back after more than a month out, but never regained his standing. Hernan Perez got the opportunity to fill in at second base when Omar Infante went on the disabled list in early July, and Worth didn’t make it back to Detroit until September. He played in just three games as a fill-in before a separated shoulder ended his season.
Worth might have had a chance to fit into the roster picture for 2014 in a utility role had Perez taken over the starting job at second base. The two big trades, though, brought over two crushing blows to Worth’s standing: Ian Kinsler arrived from Texas to take over at second base, and Steve Lombardozzi came over from Washington with the capability to play second base and some shortstop.
From that point on, Worth’s days were numbered. In some ways, he might be better off having the outright come now instead of at the end of Spring Training.
The 28-year-old Worth is a .242 (53-for-219) lifetime hitter in the Majors with 10 doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs. His strength is his defense, notably at shortstop but effectively all over the infield thanks to a strong arm and relatively sure glove.
The Tigers’ one-year contract with Joba Chamberlain became official on Friday, with a $2.5 million base salary and another $500,000 in performance bonuses based on appearances. The story on the site addresses the project ahead for Chamberlain and Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones as they try to get the former Yankees star back to his old form.
It’s an upside attempt, no doubt. Given the short-term status and salary, however, the deal raised the question whether the Tigers actually preferred a potential $3 million deal with Chamberlain over their $4 million option on Jose Veras, for whom the Tigers traded two prospects to acquire on July 30.
It’s a tricky comparison, given that the Tigers declined Veras’ option more than a month before signing Chamberlain. The way Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers front office plans out offseason moves, however, it was worth wondering.
Credit Mike Stone of 97.1 FM for raising the question to Dombrowski on the conference call announcing the trade, and credit Dombrowski for answering it.
“Yes, we did,” Dombrowski said. “No offense to Jose Veras, because he’s a solid guy and we liked him and we had a chance to bring him back. We like Joba. We like his abilities. We had our choice with a lot of guys out there on one-year deals, maybe even a two-year deal in a few cases. We’ve liked him in the past. Our scouts like him.”
For what it’s worth, it does not appear the Tigers pursued Veras for a lower salary after declining his option.
If you go by career numbers, there are similarities. The earned-run averages are almost identical — 3.84 for Veras, 3.85 for Chamberlain. Veras has way lower ratios on hits and walks per nine innings, and a higher strikeout rate.
For these two players, though, it’s not a straight statistical comparison. It’s a comparison of situation. Chamberlain’s peak is/was better than Veras’ peak, but Veras’ last 3-4 seasons have obviously been better than Chamberlain’s injury-shortened recent work. The Tigers clearly are taking their chance on getting close to the peak, whatever the odds, rather than the recent and not the average. That would seemingly back up Dombrowski’s notion that he was seeking a support reliever to back up Rondon as the primary setup man, not displace him.