Pudge Asked for the Trade

Dealing Cards.jpgNow this makes sense (from Bill Madden’s column in The New York Daily News):

How could [Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman] know the Detroit Tigers’ perennial All-Star and Gold Glove catcher had become disconcerted over the decision of his manager, Jim Leyland, to give an increased percentage of the catching role to Brandon Inge? It seems nobody had an inkling of this until Rodriguez, who is a free agent after the season, asked for a meeting with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski at the team hotel in Cleveland, at which he was the one who suggested a trade to the Yankees.

“They need a catcher and I want to catch every day,” Rodriguez reportedly told Dombrowski. “Why don’t you see if you can work something out?”

And here’s a zinger:

From Cashman’s standpoint, the Yankees had already been asking a lot of Jose Molina, a career backup, and there was also private concern that he might eventually break down. With Rodriguez coming in, those fears have been alleviated, but it remains to be seen how the Yankee pitchers, all of whom apparently love working with Molina, will interact with Rodriguez. Despite Rodriguez’s Hall-of-Fame credentials, his reputation is that he catches for himself.

Not surprisingly, we find out that Scott Boras was just being Scott Boras:

When Dombrowski got to the ballpark in Cleveland, he called Rodriguez into Leyland’s office at which time they made a courtesy call to Rodriguez’s agent Scott Boras, who, predictably, immediately started making demands for compensation to his client in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause. At that point, Rodriguez reportedly got on the phone and told Boras to butt out; that this was his wish and that everything had already been signed off on.

And that about wraps up that story. For now.

Three Reasons Not to Worry About the Tigers Bullpen

FireballXSmall.jpgOkay, we get it. The Tigers bullpen is to the team’s championship aspirations as an anvil is to a skydiver.

But what, pray tell, if it’s not?

I, for one, refuse to buy into the bullpen as Achilles’ heel conspiracy theory, and here are three reasons why:

  1. Healthy starters
  2. Dave Dombrowski
  3. Zach Miner

1. Healthy starters. Among the many problems last season, the one that stands out most prominently for yours truly is the regularity with which Jim Leyland had to go to his bully in the sixth inning or sooner. Not only did it wear a path from the dugout to the hill, it prevented the bullpen from getting the rest required to be fresh when it was really needed. Instead, by Aug. 1 the Tigers bullpen was spent and Joel Zumaya‘s return proved to be too little, too late.

Oh, we’re all concerned that the Tigers staff has lingering questions including Kenny Rogers‘ age and ability to pitch deep into games — and the season. There’s concern over Dontrelle Willis‘ declining stats the past two seasons and whether he’ll pitch closer to 35 rather than his actual age. And, let’s not forget Fungo-favorite Nate Robertson. Can he at last shed the Tough Luck Nate label and win some close games?

By all acounts, Jeremy Bonderman‘s elbow is sound and should be helped by the change-up he’s supposedly improved — if not mastered. That leaves Justin Verlander. So far, so good and let’s keep it that way.

In all, the only health concerns surround Rogers and he appears good to go. The healthy outlook of the starting five should mean more quality starts, more starts lasting into the seventh or eighth innings and a more-rested relief corps.

2. Dave Dombrowski. Let’s assume — for a moment — that the bullpen underachieves. Then what? I’m betting that Dave Dombrowski will find the right arms (or, I suppose, left arms) to keep the bullpen afloat until either Zumaya or Fernando Rodney get healthy.

By now hasn’t Dombrowski proven to Tigers fans that, with the exception of Neifi Perez, he’s pulled the trigger on the right deals for the Detroit Nine?

And let’s not forget that Dombrowski has a potentially rock-solid chip to parlay into bullpen depth: Brandon Inge. Whether it’s May 1 or July 31, Inge will be gone and you can bet in return the Tigers will have acquired the reliever they need.

And who knows, Francisco Cruceta might have resolved his visa issues by then and logging valuable work in the seventh and eighth.

If I had to have GM at the wheel in this scenario, I’d want it to be the Tigers’.

3. Zach Miner. I’m a Zach Miner Fan Boy. There. I said it. Miner, in my view, is the Tigers most versatile and under-appreciated pitcher. All he’s managed to do since he came to Detroit is eat innings and fill the roles of spot starter and middle-relief guy with aplomb. Sure, he cratered in the second half of the 2006 season — his first in the bigs — but according to Baseball Prospectus 2008:

Miner kept the ball down on the way to an effective [2007] season, posting a 2.3 G/F [groundball to flyball ratio] and allowing just 14 extra-base hits in 232 opponent plate appearances. Miner was also effective with runners on, stranding 24 of the 30 he inherited. Of the Tigers three garbagemen, Miner has the most upside.

(In their assessment of Miner, BP included Chad Durbin and Jason Grilli as the others in the Garbage Time Trio.)

Granted, it’s not a rousing endorsement but if nothing else, the Baseball Prospectus folks do their homework. If they thought Miner was a dog, they’d say it.

Bottom line: If the first two in my recipe fail to hold up their end of the bargain, I feel considerably better knowing that Zach Miner is around to start, mop up or close shop.

Double-D Cookin' Up Some Hot Stove Fun

Are you kidding me?When Mike first broached the possibility of Dave Dombrowski‘s blockbuster this afternoon late this morning by forwarding me Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal I thought it must’ve been some posturing and cheap talk.When I nosed around ESPN.com and saw Peter Gammon‘s blog entry saying there was some validity to it I let my mind wander a bit as to what the lineup would look like.When fellow teacher and baseball coach Paul Diegel e-mailed with news his buddy told him the deal was happening (Maybin and Miller straight up for the two), I knew it was too good to be true, and put those pipe dreams to bed.By the time I left work this evening and turned on sports yappers it was apparent there was still some smoke billowing up from these smoldering trade talks.And finally, when I heard Steve Phillips on WXYT say it was pretty well done I darn near drove off the road.I do realize the ramifications of this deal – a farm system left as barren as an 85-year-old post-menopausal woman – but I also realize this deal isn’t quite the same as that Smoltz-Alexander deal of 20 years past. For starters, Dontrelle Willis (25) and Miguel Cabrera (24) are nowhere near as long in the tooth as Doyle Alexander (37) was in 1987.Sure, the Tigers gave up a ton of prospects, but they did so for two bonafide Major Leaguers who haven’t yet reached their prime.I got no beef with the deal especially since it probably means Brandon Inge is on his way out of town. You aren’t really going to pay him $6-million+ a year to be a super-utility guy, are you? But hey, it’s not my money. If Mr. I gives the greenlight to this, then have Inge work as a catcher every chance he gets so he can take over for Pudge Rodriguez next year. With the offense that would be around him, Inge can return to his light-hitting catcher role for all I care.For his next move Dombrowski will no doubt try to move Inge, Marcus Thames, Chad Durbin, and Ryan Raburn for whatever prospects he can find. Certainly he needs to reload his minor-league pitching somehow.Of course my main questions walking away from this deal are as follows:Are there any other Dombrowski-era Marlins worth acquiring (what with Gary Sheffield, Nate Robertson, Edgar Renteria, et al)?How many times will Willis (a .508 sluggling percentage last year) pinch-hit this year?

Rogers Gambling with His Legacy in Detroit

Each day, the Kenny Rogers situation gets more and more bizarre, doesn’t it?How did the Tigers end up holding the bag after Rogers claimed “Motown or nowhere” for 2008? Surely Scott Boras has a role in it — but given how badly the A-Rod thing appears to have blown up in his face, he might not want to press his luck with Rogers’ future.But seriously: how did we get here?Almost two years ago Tigers fans wondered loudly what the Tigers were thinking when they signed 41-year-old hot head Kenny Rogers for two years.A year later, Rogers — improbably — was the toast of the town. His three dazzling 2006 postseason starts will be etched in the memories of Tigers fans for decades.Unless they aren’t.Detroit fans, I believe, are among the best at forgiving and forgetting with athletes that blaze a trail out of town and return as a member of the opposition. (Remember Grant Hill‘s return? Brendan Shanahan‘s? Joey Harrington‘s? Ahem.)This time, though, I think even Detroiters may be forgiven if they greet Kenny Rogers the Ranger or Mariner or Athletic with the same vitriol they (and I) dished out at the 2005 All Star Game. (If you want the skinny on Rogers’ potential suitors, read Ian‘s top-notch post.)From toast of the town to mere toast in less than a year? That’s what happens when you roll the dice on your legacy — a legacy that was not much to speak of (or speak of positively) before 2006.As the days pass and Rogers doesn’t sign with the Tigers, Dave Dombrowski is doing the wise thing by kicking the tires on plans B, C and, quite possible, a plan D.For Rogers, though, the clock is ticking on his place in Tigers history.Roll those dice, Kenny. But don’t be surprised if your chance of returning to Detroit comes up snake eyes.

The Monday Report

My son woke me up at 5:45 this morning so I had some time to catchup on my reading and thinking…

  • Call me naive, but I thought the Kenny Rogers thing would be a slam dunk, even with The Scott Boras Factor. Now that Rogers, who turned 43 on Saturday, is testing the market — the market for a mid-40s pitcher coming off a season virtually lost to serious injury that is — one has to wonder if the Tigers have used up the patience they reserve for dealing with Boras. From everything I’ve read, most still expect a deal to get hammered out. And I tend to think so too if only because Dave Dombrowski doesn’t seem to be a cut-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face kind of guy.Speaking of Rogers, I thought I’d stumbled upon major news over at Yahoo! Sports when I read in this Tigers rumor:

    According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Tigers and free agent lefty Kenny Rogers have parted ways.  

    If you read to the story referenced in the piece you’ll see that nowhere does it say Rogers isn’t coming back. Perhaps a little fact checking would help.I’m intrigued by the Dontrelle Willis thing but can’t fathom what it would take to acquire him (for starters, Brandon Inge, perhaps?). Sure seems like a drastic change of course going from re-signing Rogers to dealing for Willis.Ah, but you gotta love the smell of hickory on the Hot Stove.

  • Our man Ian Casselberry notified me of the Omar Infante-for-Jacque Jones trade this afternoon. I think it’s safe to say Ian and I were both underwhelmed by the move. As Jon Paul Morosi suggests, this is likely a stop-gap solution until Cameron Maybin is ready for prime time, all the time. If that’s the case, I supposed I can live with it.

Still, you have to believe that somewhere in the Dominican Republic, Timo Perez is wondering what he has to do to become more than a September call up.But probably not in those words.

  • If you missed it, Joel Zumaya turned 23 on Friday. Here’s hoping his birthday wish was for health and wellness. And, while the Lions were stinking up University of Phoenix Stadium yesterday, Jason Grilli and Chuck Hernandez were celebrating birthdays. A belated #31 to Grilli and #47 to Hernandez. To help you plan your card and gift shopping, here are the upcoming Tigers birthdays of note: Nov. 18 – Gary Sheffield (39); Nov. 19 – Preston Larrison (27); Nov. 29 – Tony Giarratano (25); Nov. 30 – Ivan Rodriguez (36). 
  • Mr. Casselberry and I also wondered aloud who the Tigers backup catcher would be on Opening Day. Vance Wilson should be ready to come back and reclaim his job, but Mike Rabelo certainly made a case for himself in 2007. Too bad one of them can’t play another position — or that Ryan Raburn can’t catch. Ian thinks Rabelo comes North. I’m undecided but tend to think Wilson will rejoin the team if he has anything that resembles a decent spring.

Putting the “Dead” in Trade Deadline

Those of us old enough to remember when Pat Gillick was general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays (before moving on to similar roles with the Orioles, Mariners and his current employer, the Phillies), may be thinking of him today when pondering the Tigers approach to the non-waiver trade deadline.In the late 1980s, Gillick earned the nickname “Stand Pat” primarily because he would do just that at the trade deadline and leave Blue Jays’ fans scratching their collective noggins until Opening Night at Maple Leaf Gardens.Now that I’ve had a few hours to ponder the Tigers lack-tivity, I’m surprisingly relieved. What I found throughout the day as I listened to coverage on XM Radio and on ESPN, was that I was more anxious to learn who the Tigers would give up in a trade more so than who they acquired.The Tigers were not giving up Cameron Maybin; No drama there. And, given how fragile the Tigers’ pitching staff has proven to be this season, I couldn’t fathom the Tigers peddling the solid arms currently tending the farms in Toledo, Erie, Oneonta, Comstock Park and Lakeland.I’ll admit I’m a little late to this party.Our man in Connecticut, Peter Fuhrmeister, commented in podcast #24 that he didn’t want to see the Tigers make a move at the deadline. He’s content to ride out this season with what the Tigers have to offer in the bully. John Milton, my brother and I all disagreed with Peter but managed to avoid calling him nuts.After watching the first game of the Angels series, we were stinging from the dismal pitching performance on Friday night. Two games later, you could not convince me that a better, reasonably priced bullpen solution wasn’t out there. Somewhere. (Could the Tigers swallow some pride — and salary — to bring back Jamie Walker?)Today, Peter, as usual, looks to be the wise man.And now that I’ve had time to think about it, I’m willing to accept that a pair of healed, experienced arms are on the way in Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya. If they are back to full strength, the Tigers should be okay. I’m also willing to concede (again) that this team is going through a particularly grueling stretch of baseball right now. A couple of wins, a day off and a healthy back-end of the bullpen should put the Tigers back in business.If not, maybe Dave Dombrowski can phone Gillick and see what arms he’s willing to part with for a package of Jason Grilli, Craig Monroe and Omar Infante.I can almost hear Gillick’s response now: “Well, Jose Mesa‘s available…”Update: Jason Beck tells us what the Tigers had brewing today. Wasn’t much.

The Non-Sequiturs return!

This morning I’m engaged in the highest form of multi-tasking: waiting for a conference call to begin, watching Jeremy Bonderman ease into and out of his standard first-inning high-wire act, and writing this post. Impressed? Thought not.Nevertheless, back from a long siesta here are the Non-Sequiturs:I called it. Sorta. During the pre-season podcast roundtable – the one that never “aired” due to technical issues – I asked my esteemed panel of guests to name their respective Tigers player to watch during 2007. My choice? Magglio Ordonez. I just had a gut feeling that he was poised to build off of his ALCS vibes. Has he ever. I think it’s safe to assume Ordonez will be an All Star this year whether or not he’s voted in or not. I’ll see if I can scare-up that sound bite…The Casey HR Watch. So here we are at Memorial Day weekend, an unofficial milestone in the major league baseball season, and Tigers’ first baseman Sean Casey has yet to go yard. Methinks we should start a pool for when he’ll first reach the seats. Anyone interested? Winner gets a Fungo T-shirt, a podcast T-shirt and another goodie from the Fungo bookshelf. To get things started, I say he goes yard on June 1 at Cleveland. My second guess, in case you’re wondering, Sept. 12 against Texas.Curious glove work. I just saw that Meijer is giving away Gary Sheffield gloves at Comerica Park one game this weekend. Why give away the glove of the full-time DH?Speaking of Sheff… Ernie Harwell, doing the TV call with Mario Impemba today, said that he read Sheffield’s autobiography and thinks it’s one of the best player-“written” books he’s ever read.Tigers punchless at first. We mentioned Casey’s power woes earlier. You have to believe that Dave Dombrowski has noticed the production the Tigers’ division rivals get from first base:

  • Tigers: Casey – .255 avg., 0 HR, 10 RBI, .312 OBP, .319 SLG
  • Indians: Ryan Garko – .325 avg., 6 HR, 15 RBI, .377 OBP, .516 SLG
  • Twins: Justin Morneau – .282 avg., 14 HR, 33 RBI, .358 OBP, .576 SLG
  • White Sox: Paul Konerko – .213 avg., 6 HR, 21 RBI, .308 OBP, .369 SLG
  • Royals: A platoonish arrangement of Ross Gload and Ryan Shealy (combined stats) – .254 avg., 4 HR, 28 RBI, .298 OBP, .394 SLG

Lynn Henning thinks the Tigers will target a first baseman at the trade deadline. They have to, don’t they?Feliz cumpleaños, Jose. Surely you sent warm birthday wishes to Jose Mesa on Wednesday, right? Hello? One thing’s for sure, he didn’t pitch any better at 41 than he did in the waning days of 40. Here’s the skinny on his last five outings: 12.46 ERA (4.1 IP/6 ER), 7 H, 3 BB, 2 SO. Stellar!By the by… Here’s the line for Jason Grilli over his last five appearances: 7.45 ERA (9.2 IP / 8 ER), 16 H, BB, 8 SO.That’s enough from me.What do you think?