While you were watching that Lions-Steelers trading touchdowns (or another NFL game), the Phillies announced this afternoon that assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner had stepped down to “pursue other opportunities.” It’s the second time he has done so in about a month; he declined an offer to return at season’s end, only to change his mind a week or so later.
The Tigers didn’t have an opening the first time he went out on the market. They do now, and he’s expected to fill it, industry sources told MLB.com.
Also expected to make the jump from Philly is Mick Billmeyer, who was a catching coach on the Phillies staff. He’s expected to be named bullpen coach.
Like the Tigers this past season, the Phillies used two hitting coaches this year, with Joyner supporting top hitting coach Steve Henderson. Joyner received a good share of credit in Philly for the emergence of Domonic Brown, who grew up from perennial prospect status to legitimate Major League hitter in 2013. He hit .272 with 27 home runs and 83 RBIs.
Joyner has been in the top job before, serving as Padres hitting coach from July 2007 to September 2008. After stepping down from the job, he spent four years as the lead hitting instructor for Major League Baseball’s international elite-level development programs, coaching players in Italy, Brazil and the Netherlands.
Ausmus didn’t join the front office in San Diego until after Joyner left, but they were teammates with the Padres in 1996.
Two days after Max Scherzer said on his Cy Young Award conference call that he’s open to a contract extension with the Tigers, both Scherzer and agent Scott Boras went into a little more detail Friday on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden. Long answer short, Scherzer understands why the Tigers would consider trading him if they can’t re-sign him, he’s open to re-signing, but they haven’t had any talks yet.
“When you’ve been traded before in your career, you get the business side of the game,” Scherzer said, “and you also get the payroll obligations that we have in Detroit. I get it. I get there’s an element where there’s a possibility where it would make sense for Detroit to trade me. But at the same time, I don’t want to be traded. I’ve got a great thing going in Detroit. We have a great team. I hope they don’t mess with it. I want to be a Detroit Tiger and hopefully get back to the playoffs and try to do the ultimate goal and win something for the city of Detroit.”
On talks with Boras and the Tigers about an extension, Scherzer said, “We’ve talked about it, an extension, just that we’re open to it. No actual dialogue has been talked or anything like that. I realize I got a good thing going here in Detroit. We’ve got a great team. We’ve got great guys around, I’ve got great teammates around me. And then we’ve got Miguel Cabrera. I mean, who would want to leave and actually want to face that guy? (laughs) For me, I like Detroit. It’s just gonna see how the business game works out and whether or not we go down that path.”
Boras, for his part, characterized the trade rumors as due diligence on Dave Dombrowski’s part.
“Dave is over there managing the crown jewels there. and I’m sure he’ll invite a number of people to come in and look at all of his diamonds,” Boras said. “But in the end. I don’t think Dave is in the business of anything other than what Mr. Ilitch’s goal is, and that is to win a world championship. And I’m sure it is Dave’s goal.
“It is very understandable, as you know, that when a great young player, one of the best pitchers in the game, is on a one-year contract and will be a free agent, these discussions are always had, whether they are public or not. And the reason they are had is that it is good due diligence on the part of any general manager to know what teams are willing to do, because it allows you then to know, if you want to make any other trades of any of your other players, who really is available from them. So, to me, it is a way to invite discussion on who is available on other teams so that you really know what you could do if you didn’t want to trade Max and you may want to trade others.”
Boras represents several other Tigers players, notably Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder, but Scherzer is the one Boras client among the starting pitchers. Rick Porcello’s original contract out of the draft was negotiated by Boras, though Porcello is currently represented by Jim Murray.
Nobody should’ve expected Max Scherzer to be a unanimous selection for Cy Young. For me, even getting 28 out of 30 votes was a surprise. The bigger surprise to me, though, was the amount of statistical work that some voters put into selecting many of these guys. While some strong supporters of sabermetric rail against the value of the win, I think some on that side have pushed to put too much weight on one or two advanced metrics, such as Fielding Independent Pitching.
Mike Berardino, for instance, considered 13 different statistical categories for his Cy Young vote, from wins to ERA, from FIP to xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching). And he came to the surprising but respectable conclusion that Anibal Sanchez was his first choice. Scherzer received his second-place vote.
It was an excruciating call, but in the end I went with Sanchez because of his clear edge over Scherzer in ERA, FIP and xFIP as well as in the “luck” categories. Sanchez’s BABIP, for instance, was .307, slightly above league average, while Scherzer (.259) had the second-lowest BABIP of the seven. Scherzer also received this group’s best run support on his way to those 21 wins.
I could go on and risk boring you further, but believe me when I tell you I put a significant amount of time and thought into this process.
Chris Iott of MLive did something similar, putting together a spreadsheet on paper. Go from market to market, and I think you’ll find more examples.
So if people want to further the movement to discredit the win as a statistic, that’s certainly their right. I think it’s becoming less and less of a weighty stat, for what it’s worth. But the suggestion that Scherzer won because voters didn’t consider an advanced metric enough is just being melodramatic.
On the day Max Scherzer officially won the AL Cy Young award for his amazing 2013 season, he was prepared for the questions about 2014. With rumors building about the possibility of the Tigers trading Scherzer with a year left on his contract and potential free-agent stardom to follow, he didn’t want to take away from his celebration.
“The business side will take care of itself,” he said on his conference call with reporters. “My job is go out there and play baseball and pitch. All the business side tends to take care of itself, for the best.”
At the same time, he didn’t want to dodge the issue, either. And when asked about the possibility of contract talks with the Tigers this winter, he left the door open.
“I am open (to a new deal),” Scherzer said. “I love it here in Detroit. We’re capable of putting out a team that’s able to win every single year right now. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? I’m here to win and win a World Series. I realize I’ve got a good situation here in Detroit. But it also takes two to dance. …
“I don’t have any [anxiety] to get anything done, but if something does get done, I’d be happy to do it.”
That meshes with remarks that his agent, Scott Boras, made with reporters at baseball’s GM Meetings earlier Wednesday.
“They know Max likes it there,” Boras told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. “We would have to sit down and talk about their plans for the future. But when you have a player who likes playing where he’s playing and an ownership that has been what Mike Ilitch has been in Detroit, it’s certainly something we would listen to.”
I’m not at the GM Meetings this week in Florida, but MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor Richard Justice is. He was in the mix when Dave Dombrowski talked with reporters about Detroit’s offseason priorities. Long story short, Dombrowski confirmed the Tigers are chasing free-agent closers, while all but confirming they’re listening to trade interest on their starters.
“What are our immediate needs? We could use a closer, but we’re discussing those in free agency,” Dombrowski said when asked if he could trade a starter to address immediate needs. “We have six starters when you include Smyly. We’re not looking to trade them per se. We’re always open minded to see what works for us.”
Dombrowski declined to go any further into the trade possibility, though he reportedly told Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com that he expects Smyly to be in the rotation next year. On the closer angle, he gave every indication that they’ll fill the post via free agency, not in a trade.
“We need to address our bullpen a little bit,” he said. “We need to come up with a closer, and I think we will.”
So far, the Tigers have been linked in reports to interest in Joe Nathan, Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour. Also out there are Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney and Chris Perez, among others. I’m thinking they’ll come up with a closer, too, whether it’s Nathan or someone else. The bigger question arguably is how they see the rest of the bullpen. On that note, it’s probably not a coincidence that Dombrowski said losing Rondon for the postseason was huge.
“Getting him back, which we believe we will, and you have a closer, all of a sudden, it changes your situation a great deal,” Dombrowski said. “We think our bullpen would have been fine [in the postseason] if we’d had him back.”
One more note from Dombrowski’s session today: When asked about Nick Castellanos competing for the left-field job next spring, he gave it a tentative thumbs-up.
“Well, right now we’re giving him an opportunity to make our club,” Dombrowski said. “Left field was one spot this year where we really didn’t have that regular guy. [Castellanos] got a cup of coffee in September just to get him exposed to the big leagues. We’re thinking he has a chance to earn that spot or a lot of playing time out there. We have a complement of guys like Dirks and Kelly to go along with him. We like him. We think he’s ready to play.”
While Miguel Cabrera waits to find out whether he’ll be the first back-to-back American League MVP since Frank Thomas two decades ago, he can take credit for one bit of awards history. He now has more Tiger of the Year awards than anyone in franchise history.
On Tuesday, the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America voted Cabrera as Tiger of the Year for the second season in a row and the fourth time overall. As much as Max Scherzer meant for Tigers fortunes during a 21-3 season that made him the AL Cy Young award favorite, he couldn’t match what Cabrera meant to the Tigers’ third consecutive division title run.
Cabrera received 17 out of 25 votes, with Scherzer taking the other eight, according to newspaper reports.
The win moved Cabrera out of a tie for most Tiger of the Year honors in the award’s history, dating back to 1965. He was part of a group of three-time winners that included Denny McLain (1966, 68-69), Alan Trammell (1980, 87-88) and Cecil Fielder (1990-92).
Cabrera also became the first repeat winner since fellow third baseman Travis Fryman in 1995-96, and broke a five-year string in which Cabrera and Justin Verlander had been alternating years as winners.
Cabrera didn’t repeat his Triple Crown from last year, but he actually bettered his numbers in most of his averages while posting home runs and RBIs at a better pace. His .348 batting average was a career high and easily a Major League best for this season, making him the first right-handed hitter since Rogers Hornsby in the 1920s to win three consecutive league batting titles.
Cabrera spent much of the season’s second half on pace for a historic .350 average, 40 homers and 150 RBIs before abdominal and groin injuries finally sapped his power over the final weeks of the season. As it was, he still matched last year’s total of 44 home runs to go with 137 RBIs, one off his 2012 total, despite playing in 13 fewer games and playing injured in several more.
Not since Todd Helton and Carlos Delgado in 2000 had a Major League hitter batted .340 or better with 35 homers and 140 RBIs in the same season.
Cabrera either scored or drove in 196 of Detroit’s 796 runs for the season. In other words, one out of every four Tigers runs went through Cabrera. It’s lower than the 28 percent share he claimed on Detroit’s offense in 2012, but it was nonetheless impressive.
Cabrera’s 7.2 Wins Above Replacement more than doubled that of the next-closest Tigers position player, according to the formula used by baseball-reference, and topped Scherzer by half a win.
Cabrera will be presented with a trophy from the BBWAA Detroit chapter to recognize the award prior to a game next season.
The Tigers have declared their interest in a closer, and Joe Nathan is the most successful closer on the free-agent market this winter. Nathan is looking for a chance at a World Series ring, and the Tigers might be the closest contending team that’s looking for a closer.
The pieces are there for mutual interest. And according to Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com, the interest has already developed.
Nathan’s agent, Dave Pepe, isn’t commenting on teams’ inquiries or interest, and intends to keep negotiations in general as quiet as possible. He did, however, say it’s very early in the process with any team and nowhere close to a deal. If there are talks, they aren’t serious yet.
That said, the expectation is that these two sides are going to try. Morosi cited sources saying Nathan has the Tigers high on his list of teams. And Tigers manager Brad Ausmus’ comments on local radio a few days ago seemingly reflected interest on Detroit’s part.
“I am a Joe Nathan fan for sure,” Ausmus told Detroit Sports 105.1 FM last week. “But where Joe Nathan ends up is a little out of my control.”
The Tigers know Nathan well from his days with the Minnesota Twins, where he and Torii Hunter were teammates from 2004 to 2007. Nathan is 36-for-36 in save chances for his career against Detroit, allowing just 10 runs on 33 hits over 62 2/3 innings with 23 walks and 75 strikeouts. His only loss against the Tigers came on July 19, 2007, when Brandon Inge doubled in Neifi Perez in the 10th inning at the Metrodome.
He posted some of his best numbers this past season at age 38, going 6-2 with a 1.39 ERA and 43 saves in 46 chances. The stats sound a lot like his career against Detroit: 64 2/3 innings pitched, 36 hits, 10 runs, 22 walks, 73 strikeouts.
“We’re going to have a closer,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week. “We’re going to pursue somebody to pitch at the back end of the bullpen. Joaquin [Benoit] is in that group, but there are a lot of closers out there. It’s the one area where there’s a lot of guys. That is one area I think we need to address, with him or someone else, and then we’ll look at the rest of our club.”
A Rookie of the Year award would have been Jose Iglesias’ biggest grab of the season. Instead, awards season glory proved just out of his reach.
The slick-fielding Tigers shortstop ended up losing out to Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers for Rookie of the Year honors amidst a field of two highly-touted Tampa Bay Rays. It was not a surprise, but it eliminates the possibility of a Tigers sweep of the end-of-season player awards.
While Myers took 23 out of 30 first-place votes to run away with the award, Iglesias captured five first-place votes, 17 for second and four for third. He was left off of four ballots, but that didn’t really make a difference.
Iglesias, who impacted two division winning teams thanks to a midseason trade from to Boston to Detroit, was vying to become the first Tiger to win the writers vote for Rookie of the Year honors since Justin Verlander in 2006. No Tigers position player has won it since Lou Whitaker in 1978.
From the day the Tigers introduced manager Brad Ausmus and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski talked about his pitching staff in terms of six starters, not five, you figured this was coming.
“We have some pieces we need to fit together,” Dombrowski said last week, unprompted. “I mean, we do have six starters at this point. People are aware of that, with [former fifth starter turned reliever Drew] Smyly being available to start.”
Once front office members gather for MLB’s General Managers Meetings, it usually becomes apparent how things like that get solved. That came Monday from CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, who reported that the Tigers have told teams they’re open to listening to trade offers for Max Scherzer or Rick Porcello.
The Tigers listening on prominent players is nothing new. Dombrowski has said for years he’ll listen on most any player on the roster. The only players who have been labeled untouchable in that regard over the years are Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. It would not be a shock for the Tigers to listen to offers on Doug Fister, either.
That being said, the GM meetings are the same spot where rumors picked up about Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson being available for trade four years ago. Both were dealt a month later at the Winter Meetings in a deal that brought a youth infusion and helped open up some payroll space for other moves that offseason, such as Jose Valverde’s signing and the season of Johnny Damon.
Scherzer and Porcello are in vastly different situations. While Scherzer will head into his contract year as likely the reigning Cy Young award winner and potentially the top free agent on the market next winter, his high-strikeout form refined for consistency, Porcello has two years left ahead of free agency and a vast amount of room for growth at age 24.
Just what the Tigers can draw for either is the question that will mark the difference between listening and acting. Any team that entertains the idea of trading for Scherzer has to determine its chances for re-signing him when free agency is just a year away. On the flip side, trading him this offseason would allow the acquiring team to get a compensatory draft pick if he does sign elsewhere in a year.
The Tigers had six starters this past spring and were widely believed to be open to trading Porcello, but never drew the kind of interest that would spark serious talks. That was before a refined curveball and more consistent fastball command meant a big step forward in Porcello’s development, from a jump in his strikeout rate to a drop in his batting average allowed. His 3.53 Fielding Independent Pitching was easily the best of his five-year career.
If the Tigers can address some immediate needs, such as bullpen or middle infield, and help add some young talent, it might take them beyond the listening stage.
Jim Leyland stayed out of the Tigers’ hiring process for his replacement, as he said he would. All he said on his way out at his press conference last month was that he felt like Lloyd McClendon was ready to manage again.
McClendon didn’t get the chance to manage in Detroit. His opportunity in Seattle seems no less satisfying for Leyland.
“Oh, I’m thrilled. There’s no mixed emotions,” Leyland said Wednesday evening in a phone conversation, having just returned from the Tigers organizational meetings. “It’s a great opportunity for him with a lot of big arms out there. I think they have a great chance to get good quick.”
Short of McClendon getting a chance in Detroit, the result was about as well as Leyland could have hoped.
While Leyland talked only once with Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski over the course of their hiring process, and that time only at the end, he didn’t talk much more with McClendon. They chatted twice by his count, though he has been in touch more since the Mariners made their hire.
“I’ve been through that process,” Leyland said. “It’s hard to stay calm during that process because you’re on pins and needles. A lot of times, these things take time.”
While Leyland was finding out about Ausmus’ hiring and driving to Detroit for meetings, McClendon was interviewing for a second time in Seattle. He found out about the M’s job soon after McClendon did.
“Things really worked out great,” he said. “Gene’s back in Detroit [as Ausmus' bench coach]. Mac got a manager’s job. The Tigers got an outstanding guy. I’m happy. You just hope that the other guys all land on their feet, but it really worked out good. I think Dave made a really good hiring and Brad made a very good hiring, and Mac’s managing.”
Leyland, meanwhile, is consulting for now. The Tigers’ newest special assistant was part of their organizational meetings for three days, which gave him his first chance to talk with Ausmus since he got the job.
“We had several quick conversations,” Leyland said, “and it was really good. I just left it like, ‘Look, Brad, I’m available anytime. If you have any question, feel free to call me anytime.’ I really enjoyed it. I was really impressed with him. When we left today, he said he’d be calling me.”