Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | December 13, 2008

Tigers Moves at the 2008 Winter Meetings


I wrote this piece prior to the existance of this blog. In order to maintain continuity of my writing and to get as much of it into one place as possible, I added this post at a later date and time stamped it to the date and approximate time that I originally wrote it. This is the reason why it appears before the “introduction” blog entry. It is because this piece actually predates the blog. What follows below is the original entry as written whenever I wrote it.

Today I’m electing to talk about the three moves they made this week:

Signing Adam Everett, trading Matt Joyce to Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson, and selecting Kyle Bloom from Pittsburgh in the Rule V draft.

Starting with the Everett signing, I was pleased with that move. I believe Everett might be the worst player the Tigers have ever acquired wherein the acquision resulted in my saying “I was pleased with that move.” I mean, Everett is pretty much terrible. The man has a career OPS+ of 69……..sixty-nine.

While before his injuries he was actually one of the best defensive players at his position in the last decade, he broke his leg and suffered severe shoulder trouble the last couple of seasons, leaving him as a fairly large question mark in terms of his ability to stay healthy. It also leaves his once-great defensive abilities as a question mark — A shortstop who can’t run and can’t throw isn’t much good. Add to that the fact that he will be 32 going into the season (not ancient, but reaching an age where decline can reasonably start to happen, especially among lower tier players) and there’s alot of reasons to question if he will contribute much to the 2009 Tigers.

So why am I so pleased with the signing? Well, there were alot of really really stupid things attached to the Tigers on the rumor mill, many were related to the Shortstop position, and by signing Everett, the Tigers have ensured that they won’t do any of those things. Everett is signed to a one-year, $1 million deal, which is very simple and easy to dump if he falters as quickly as I expect him to. They have Ramon Santiago as a backup, and if they have to release Everett they can bring up Danny Worth from Toledo.

By comparison, there were talks that they were attempting to bring in Julio Lugo (2007 OPS+: 65, 2008 OPS+: 78, $9 million contract for two years). There were even wilder talks of bringing Jack Wilson (career OPS+ 78, $8 million contract for two years) in by dealing Matt Joyce, Jeff Larish, and Casey Crosby. Considering that I wouldn’t trade any of those players for Wilson one-for-one, I would’ve completely lost my gourd had Dombrowski traded all of them for him.

When viewed through the prism of potential calamities, the signing of Everett doesn’t seem so bad.

Of course, after building a little goodwill by acquiring Laird and Everett, possibly the worst combination of players I’ve ever approved of the Tigers acquiring, they then went out and completed a deal that did not impress me or make me feel good in the least. They traded Outfielder Matt Joyce to the Tampa Bay Rays for Pitcher Edwin Jackson.

This wasn’t the worst trade in the World, it was no Renteria deal at all. But it was a bad trade. Quite frankly, Matt Joyce had a future with the Tigers and potentially a very important role on the 2009 team. I say this even as I acknowledge that he may not have made the opening day roster. Yet, with a 35-year-old starting right fielder (Ordonez), an injury prone mid-30s starting left fielder (Guillen), a mid 30s primary outfielder backup who plays questionable defense (Thames), and an early 40s DH who has battled nagging injuries consistently over the last 18 months (Sheffield), its almost certain that Joyce would’ve gotten at least 250 at-bats for the ’09 Tigers.

In addition, carrying a left-handed hitting player who was 24 years old with two option years remaining and who slugged .492 with an OPS+ of 116 in his first (242 AB) partial season in the major leagues is exceptionally valuable. It’s very likely that when he was out of options in 2011 that he would’ve been able to hold down a starting job by that time. In the meantime, he would be able to fill in for the various injuries that are to be suffered by the Tigers older players, primarily outfielders.

They traded this very important player (in terms of roster depth) for Jackson, a pitcher who has been alot of hype and little performance.

Jackson was an extremely highly regarded prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the beginning of the decade, so muchso that he made his major league debut on his 20th birthday, September 9, 2003. He would be the youngest person to play in the major leagues during that season. As an unrelated side note, Jeremy Bonderman was the seventh youngest player to play in the league that year. Jackson performed decently in the four appearences he made in 2003, and its been all downhill since then. He has been generally a terrible pitcher at the major league level over the next five seasons, though only two of those seasons saw him spend the entire year on the major league roster. Those two seasons saw him plagued by wildness (88 BB in 161 IP in 2007, 77/183.1 in 2008), low strikeout rates (128/161 in ’07, 108/183.1 in ’08) and the general inability to miss bats. He managed an ERA+ of 101 last season, but that was achieved primarily through the smoke and mirrors of playing in front of a better defense.

In short, this guy hasn’t been very good. However, in addition to the high regard that he still carries from his early days in the Dodgers organization, he also runs a high-90s fastball with velocity that he can maintain deep into games. The last two seasons have seen him maintain some degree of durability (161 IP is a pretty good amount for a guy with an ERA near 6). He also has a pretty good slider, though his curve is lackluster. The performance has never matched the stuff. Jackson will be 25 going into the 2009 season, so there is still a reasonable opportunity that he will put it all together, but he seemed like an unnecessary risk to take when paying the price of a player like Joyce.

So my initial judgment of the trade is dislike, though I’m holding out total judgment for a year. I think it will be very clear this year which team got the better of the deal, even though both players are very young. Jackson is fairly cheap, being arbitration eligible this year and next before being eligible for free agency. Yet as cheap as he is, Joyce was even cheaper, as he won’t even be eligible for arbitration for three years MINIMUM (had he remained with the Tigers….if he starts with Tampa this season as he is expected, he will probably become arb. eligible in two more years as a “Super Two”) and won’t be eligible for free agency for three more years after that. For those playing at home, that’s the 2014 season. In any event, at this time next year the jury will almost certainly be in on this trade, because if Jackson turns in another shoddy performance, I will begin to adopt the belief that he’ll never turn it in — But if he does, it can swing my opinion of the deal, because there is no question that Jackson has the higher ceiling of the two. Joyce’s ceiling is “solid regular starter”. Jackson’s is “regular all-star”. Many players never reach their ceilings though.

Finally, on Thursday the Tigers drafted pitcher Kyle Bloom from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule V draft. I’m assuming that Dave Dombrowski was just doing all he could to leave no stone unturned in building a bullpen this off-season, and for that, I commend him………..but I sincerely doubt that Bloom will contribute to this team. He’s actually older than Edwin Jackson (Bloom will be 26 when the season starts) and has yet to pitch in one major league game. He was decent at AA Altoona last year, but not spectacular, and he has never pitched a game at AAA in his CAREER…… age 26. He struck out 93 in 110 innings at Altoona with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP. He’s spent most of his minor league career having trouble with control, having walked 269 batters in 550 innings. I just don’t see a 26 year old player who has failed to advance past AA in his career and who carried a 1.44 WHIP through 110 innings last year while walking 55 batters will suddenly contribute much to the major league level for the Tigers. I expect him to be back at Altoona to start the season.

While the Tigers were drafting Bloom, they lost catcher James Skelton to the Rule V draft, which completed my fears and dusted up my anger. There is no excuse in my estimation for Skelton to be left unprotected in the draft, particularly while the Tigers protected guys like Alfredo Figaro, and when they have such a deep need at Catcher. Skelton posted a .874 OPS at Lakeland last year in 63 games, complete with an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING .468 OBP. He was promoted to Erie and didn’t stop getting on base, posting an OBP of .425 in 85 at-bats. This following a 309//402/448 season in 2007 through 353 ABs at West Michigan, and a 300/403/400 season in 2006 through 130 ABs at Oneonta. AND HE’LL BE 23 NEXT SEASON!

What was Dave Dombrowski thinking not protecting this guy?

And now he plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs have to keep him on the roster all season or else he’ll come back to Detroit (more likely to Erie or Toledo), but there’s a terrifyingly high chance that the D-Backs can afford to stash him on the roster, especially if they can unload catcher Miguel Montero. This is talent that was in our organization that we literally just get away, so that we could keep players like Eddie Bonine, Chris Lambert, Alfredo Figaro, and Mike Hessman protected. No excuse. No excuse. Dave Dombrowski’s star is fading.


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