Fungoes

And There Goes Plan B (Or Was It Plan A?)

Not sure I speak for the majority of Tigers fans, but I’ve given up hope that anyone but Jhonny Peralta would be the Opening Day lineup for the Tigers. There’s plenty of time between now and then, but with the Red Sox plucking Stephen Drew off the free-agent market, the Tigers lost perhaps the club’s top shortstop target.

So now what?

Well, I suppose there’s a chance the Tigers zero-in on a shortstop as they shop Rick Porcello. Although, if we believe the chatter, a closer is a bigger priority for Dave Dombrowski. On the other hand, Dombrowski is sticking to his Bruce Rondon story.

As for Peralta, I get all the anti-Jhonny arguments (and Lee makes them as well as anyone), and of course I’d rather see someone with a bit more range at short.

So, assuming the Tigers don’t nab a new shortstop, I’ve come to grips with the notion that Danny Worth‘s defense will win more games (and prevent four-out innings) next season than a potential offensive rejuvenation by Peralta.

At least that’s the perspective of those who drills down into the defensive metrics.

Again. Now what?

We sit and we wait. And we listen to Dombrowski talk about how comfortable the club is with Peralta at short and Rondon at closer.

I’ll buy the Peralta part. I’m not ready to do the same on Rondon.

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Fungoes

Tigers and Angels Talking Porcello?

It’s clear the Tigers are shopping Brennan Boesch and, with the return of Anibal Sanchez to the rotation, Rick Porcello’s days in Detroit appear numbered.

Out in Anaheim, the Angels find themselves with a surplus of outfielders now that Josh Hamilton has been formally introduced. According to Danny Knobler, the Tigers and Angels are feeling each other out about a deal involving Porcello.

A Porcello-for-Peter Bourjos swap would seem to make great sense for both sides. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen.

For one thing, the Angels are telling teams that they would prefer to address their surplus by moving Kendrys Morales, rather than Bourjos or Mark Trumbo. Bourjos would stay in the outfield with Hamilton and Mike Trout, with Trumbo getting the at-bats that Morales would have had as the designated hitter and back-up first baseman.

I like the sound of these possibilities. And expect we’ll hear a lot more Porcello rumblings in the next few weeks. Boesch too.

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Fungoes

Recapping the Return of Anibal Sanchez

Detroit fans have been spoiled rotten by Mike Ilitch‘s generosity with the Red Wings for 30 years and the Tigers for the past 20. But I thought even he’d reached his limit with the addition of Torii Hunter last month. And I’m so glad to be wrong.

The re-signing of Anibal Sanchez – to a contact equal to Justin Verlander’s 2009 extension – is not only another indication of an owner’s urgent desire to win, it’s a reminder of how the Tigers have become a destination of choice for big-name players.

For a long time, the Tigers had to overpay any free agent with even a hint of interest in playing home games at Comerica Park:

Then the winning came and with it a reputation for being a great place to play. Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and Hunter further proved that. And now with the re-signing of Sanchez, the Tigers must be considered a threat to add big names for big dollars every year. But back to Sanchez. He was the highest-profile Tigers free agent since, perhaps, Jack Morris in 1990. But unlike Sanchez, few expected Morris to bolt for his hometown Twins. (Juan Gonzalez doesn’t count; no one expected him to re-sign with the Tigers after the 2000 season. And thankfully he didn’t.)

With Sanchez sticking around to permanently replace Rick Porcello as the Tigers’ fourth starter, his impact on the rotation could be just as big as Hunter’s in the everyday lineup.

 

What Others Are Saying

If anything, this deal highlights the differences between operating a franchise that will spend money and one that either won’t or is limited by its market size. The Royals had to trade a premium prospect to acquire two years of Shields. The Tigers can just dip into owner Mike Ilitch’s wallet and sign a free agent — this offseason, Torii Hunter and now Sanchez. The Royals might think of themselves as playoff contenders,but this signing makes it a little less likely that will be the case. – Dave Schoenfield, ESPN.com “Sanchez signing makes Tigers clear favorite”.

Did the Tigers overpay for Sanchez? Something like that is somewhat relative. In a vacuum, yes, the Tigers are paying $16 million to a pitcher who, while productive, isn’t exactly great like his impressive paychecks will say he is. Was he the best available left on the market, though, and a pitcher who can help Detroit achieve their goal of winning a World Series before the Tigers as we know them scatter to the winds? That’s why they acquired Sanchez at last year’s deadline to begin with. Re-signing him is simply giving that plan another go, and it’s hard to blame them considering how close they were to getting it done on the first attempt. – Marc Normandin, SB Nation “Anibal Sanchez might be overpaid, but fits Tigers

When the reclining Tigers finally sat up and took enough notice to get off their original four-year, $48 million offer, the Cubs almost got him. The Cubs still might have had him if they had been willing to enter a bidding war that would have saddled them with a potentially bad contract. – Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun TimesTigers outbid Cubs for Anibal Sanchez — but it was close

Some viewed the Tigers as an underachieving bunch, but that did not sway Tigers owner Mike Ilitch’s commitment to winning a World Series. Like he did last year with Prince Fielder, Ilitch swooped in at the last minute to re-sign Sanchez, which preserved one of the strongest pitching staffs in the league. – Jim Bowden, ESPN.com “The AL Central’s strong offseason

[T]he Sanchez signing was essential to preserve the Tigers’ clearest advantage over their divisional foes — and potential October opponents. Detroit’s postseason rotation – Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Sanchez and Max Scherzer — posted a 5-1 record and 1.02 ERA against Oakland and New York in the AL playoffs. And now no member of that group will be eligible for free agency until Verlander and Scherzer after the 2014 season. – Jon Paul Morosi, FoxSports.com “Sanchez signing gives Tigers an edge

What do you think about the Sanchez contract?

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Fungoes

Despite Saturday’s Gem, Rick Porcello’s Time is Up … Right?

I admit it: if the Tigers traded Rick Porcello, I’d be more than okay with it.

What? Yes, I did track the game last night and he was the Porcello we see all too infrequently. As Jason Beck writes, Saturday night’s start against the Rays was the righthander’s finest outing in 14 months. But that’s just it: should we have to wait more than a year between stellar performances from a guy in his fourth big-league season? My answer today is: no way.

After last season, with a couple of postseason starts to add to his solid work in Game 163, I thought Porcello was ready to elevate his game. “He’s still only 23,” I’d say to anyone who was down on him last year or in the offseason. But now, after watching him get hit hard in a game at Wrigley Field last month and sitting through frustrating six-innings-at-most starts, I’ve changed my tune.

I think.

I mean, he’s still only 23.

Though, as the Doug Fister situation becomes more mysterioso and alarming by the start, we can’t watch the Tigers jettison serviceable young arms can we? We can if it brings back a package including Matt Garza and Darwin Barney, or Jed Lowrie or Jose Altuve and Wandy Rodriguez.

But Porcello did have a decent outing against the Rangers last week — one run on six hits with three walks and seven strikeouts over six innings — so maybe he’s putting it together now. Yet this could be the height of his trade value and Dave Dombrowski would be wise to include him in a package. Better him that Jacob Turner, Drew Smyly or Casey Crosby. Right?

I still believe many of us Tigers fans are paralyzed with fear that the club will commit another John-Smoltz-for-Doyle-Alexander trade with one of their young arms or catching prospects. My gut tells me that wouldn’t be the case with a trade of Rick Porcello. What we’ve seen is what we’re going to get.

Or maybe not.

I mean, he’s still only 23.

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Fungoes

Who’s the Tigers’ Youkilis?

White Sox third basemen are hitting something like .180 this season with a single home run. As usual, Ken Williams does his thing and plugs in Kevin Youkilis to anchor the hot corner.

Tigers second basemen are hitting .196 (.192 if you include 20 at bats from Brandon Inge and a pair from Hernan Perez) with three* home runs – two from Ramon Santiago and one from Ryan Raburn). Dave Dombrowski is looking to plug this hole with … Matt Garza. Wha-?

*It’s four if you add Inge’s one homer.

I get why DD is looking for a dependable arm in the fourth spot; Rick Porcello‘s days in the Tigers rotation should be drawing to a close and who wants to see two rookies at the four and five spot? Not me. (Though, of course, I love what Drew Smyly has done and what Jacob Turner will do later this year or next, but come on.)

My guess is the Tigers are looking for – have to be looking for – a package deal with Garza and maybe second baseman Darwin Barney to patch the roster.

As I’m watching Tigers games I picture the opposing second baseman in a strategically placed slot of Jim Leyland‘s lineup maybe hitting second.

But as Lynn Henning writes today, just about every team is alive in their division and has needs of their own. You have only to look at the Pirates’ offense to see that teams hovering near the top of their division could use a serving of firepower.

If the Tigers are going to make a move chances are it will involve lots of bodies, like last year’s Doug Fister trade, right? And if they do, it can’t result in only one decent player coming to Detroit (calling David Pauley.)

My guess is Dombrowski isn’t feeling any pressure because of Williams picking up Youkilis. He’s been dealing with him for 10 years in the A.L. Central. Any pressure is coming from the calendar, the lineup and perhaps the owner.

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Fungoes

Tigers Look to Porcello to Repeat What Bonderman Accomplished in ’06 ALDS Clincher

Five years ago this week, the Tigers sent a young, often frustrating righthander to the mound in the fourth game of the American League Division Series.

With a win, no sure thing with the unpredictable starter, the Tigers would eliminate the Yankees and move on to the American League Championship Series against the Oakland A’s.

Twenty-three-year-old Jeremy Bonderman was the Tigers’ starter that chilly Saturday afternoon and he faced righty Jaret Wright, who’d gone 11-7 witha 4.49 ERA in 30 appearances (27 starts) for New York.

Tigers fans didn’t want to seem overconfident, but compared to the Yankee starters in the series’ first three games (Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson) Wright seemed like a notch above batting-practice quality.

That day, the Tigers staked Bonderman to a 3-0, second-inning lead on home runs by Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe. They tacked on five more runs by the end of the sixth. (Detroit chased Wright with two outs in the third after he’d surrendered four runs on five hits.) The late Cory
Lidle
allowed three runs in his inning-and-a-third of work.

But at the start of the day, all eyes were on Bonderman. Could he handle the big stage, an elimination game against a New York lineup that Jim Leyland dubbed “Murderer’s Row and then Cano” and prevent a trip back to the Bronx for a decisive Game 5?

Could he ever.

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Fungoes

Tigers Roster Set … and a Tad Upsetting

In 1984, the Tigers made the no-brainer decision to leave southpaw reliever Sid Monge off the playoff roster. Monge had an undistinguished half seaon with the Tigers after being picked up off waivers from the Padres — 1-0, 4.25 ERA in 19 games.

He didn’t pitch enough in the regular season and, left hander or no, he wasn’t going to appear in the ALCS or World Series. And God knows we didn’t want him to.

This morning we learned that another seemingly no-brainerish decision — to leave Brad Penny off the ALDS roster — was, in fact, not made. What the …? Jim Leyland hasn’t, and likely won’t, offer much to the media to chew on in the way of rationale for this decision.

Here’s the most obvious question: In what scenario, a Game 4 start, long relief, middle relief, would any Tigers fan feel comfortable seeing Penny on the mound? Speaking for myself: None.

Jason Beck reports on his blog:

Both Rick Porcello and Brad Penny are on the roster. One of them is expected to start Game 4 is necessary (sic). The other will work out of the bullpen.

Would I feel better seeing David Pauley? It depends. If it’s relief, absolutely. And would I feel more confident in Porcello starting Game 4? Ditto. (But if there’s a rainout between tonight and Game 4, are we still to believe that Justin Verlander won’t make that start?)

And what about Ryan Perry? Can the Tigers afford his baffling inconsistency in the postseason?

So what we’ve got are four pitchers — the three P’s: Penny, Porcello, Perry, and Max Scherzer — on the ALDS roster that make us wonder if the good version or bad version will show up.

I have no problem with the position-player decisions, even backup catcher Omir Santos. There’s no way Leyland is going to lose a playoff game — or series — by having to put Brandon Inge or Don Kelly behind the plate. No chance. I think Santos makes sense.

But the real news here is Penny. I’m afraid that if we see him in this series we’re going to long for Sid Monge.

Dave Schoenfield weighs in on both A.L. Division Series rosters on the SweetSpot blog.

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