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Michigan and Trumbull


November 11, 2009 2:31 PM

What the Tigers should do this off season (Part I)

comerica.jpg

This is the first of a two-part post about what moves the Tigers should make with their free agent and arbitration-eligible players. This will be a pretty basic on-the-surface analysis. There are plenty of months in the off season and then Spring Training to finalize the roster, but this is where Detroit could start.

Since we began the day talking about Edwin Jackson, we'll take a look at the Tigers' arbitration-eligible players first.

The following players, like Jackson, are up for arbitration:

Edwin Jackson
Gerald Laird
Zach Minor
Ramon Santiago
Bobby Seay  
Marcus Thames
Matt Treanor
Justin Verlander
Joel Zumaya

We'll start with Jackson. The Dodgers were the only team mentioned as being interested in the Foxsports.com report about Jackson on the trading block. But Jackson was good enough this past season to garner looks from other teams.

The question is what could the Tigers realistically get for Jackson? 



Well, Jackson alone may not warrant an MLB-ready player in a trade. If Detroit wants to fill in holes in the bullpen or middle infield right now, they'd probably have to give up more than Jackson and at that point they may be hurting themselves more than helping.

edwin_jackson.jpgBut Jackson could get Detroit picks in the upcoming draft or prospects. This is where the Tigers need to be more like a small payroll team. The scouting department needs to work overtime to figure out who they could get. I'd be surprised if the Tigers got a top-10 prospect for Jackson, but that doesn't mean they couldn't get someone valuable.

I'm not well-versed in who are the top prospects in baseball, so I can't go deeper than that but my overall feeling is that Detroit is better off trying to trade Jackson. Before this year Jackson was nothing more than a mediocre hard thrower. The 2009 season may be an exception in his career and if it is, his trade value won't get any higher than now.

With Jackson out of the way, let's look at everyone else.

Gerald Laird
Zach Minor
Ramon Santiago
Bobby Seay  
Marcus Thames
Matt Treanor
Justin Verlander
Joel Zumaya


We already know that Treanor and Thames will not be coming back to Detroit and thank goodness. I'm sick of people claiming that if you just extrapolate the numbers, Thames is a 40 HR hitter. He isn't. Get over it. And we had Treanor? Exactly.

Gerald Laird
Zach Minor
Ramon Santiago
Bobby Seay  
Justin Verlander
Joel Zumaya

In my opinion, Verlander, Santiago and Seay HAVE to be signed. Verlander for obvious reasons; His salary will be upped considerably from last season ($3.675) but since no one has ever received more than $10 million in arbitration, I don't think Verlander will break the bank. He probably signs another one year deal, between $7-8 million and then wait until next season to look for a multi-year contract. (When Detroit would be able to afford it).

In Seay's case, he had a very solid 2009 in the bullpen and you can't take for granted having that left-handed arm. That contract will probably be between $2-3 million for at least next year, but I'm not sure if Detroit will try and sign him to a multi-year deal. If they do, I don't see it being more than $2 million a year.

And finally, I think Santiago has earned a chance to be the team's every day short stop. His bat is nothing special but I think he can be a solid bottom-of-the-order guy for Detroit. Not to mention you're already thin in the middle in field (more on that in part II) and Santiago is your youngest returning middle infielder. Detroit could probably sign him for a cool $1 million.

There are now just three players left to talk about:

Gerald Laird
Zach Minor
Joel Zumaya

I'll start with Zumaya, who produced the least out of the three. I still believe he can be useful and I think Dave Dombrowski feels the same way. But this will probably be his last shot to stick with Detroit.

The Tigers avoided arbitration by paying him $0.735 last season. He should consider himself lucky if he even makes that this year. Whether they go to arbitration or not, the cost of keeping Zumaya is very low and you only have to give him a year. He has no leverage.

Gerald Laird
Zach Minor

I really dislike Zach Minor and never want to see him in a Tigers uniform again. (He refused to sign a baseball for my little brother). But if Detroit is going to trade away Jackson and not get MLB-ready pitching in return, Minor is a very cheap alternative in the starting rotation. Like Zumaya he won't cost an arm and a leg to keep and Detroit only has to sign him for a year.

Gerald Laird

This might be one of the Tigers' toughest decisions. Laird was one of the best defensive catchers in the American League. He was also one of the leagues worst hitters. While defense wins championships, offense wins games and the Tigers weren't winning games with their offense last season. Laird was virtually non existent in the final weeks of the season at the plate.

His hitting is so atrocious it makes the decision to keep him that much tougher. He'll require a bump up from the $2.8 million he made this past season but is it worth paying $3.5 million-ish to a player with a .225 batting average and a .320 slugging percentage?

I don't care how good he is defensively, that's a large pill to swallow.

gerald_laird.jpgBut, in terms of catching, there isn't a single free agent out there that wows me. OK, there are a few guys I like. The brothers Molina (Bengie and Jose), Miguel Olivo and Brian Schneider all look good in comparison when you compare their histories at the plate. But all three require paying more money than you would for Laird (the Molina brothers would cost the team draft picks) and their performance at the plate is no guarantee.

Then again, that's how all roster moves are.

Of the three free agent catchers I mentioned I think Schneider is the best deal the Tigers could make. He was making $4.9 million last season, but thanks to an injury plagued 2009, he may come a little cheaper. To throw out a number, I think Detroit could end up paying just $1 million more for a better hitting catcher if they get Schneider over Laird.

The Tigers also have sweet-swinging Alex Avila as a back up/possible starter-in-the-wings. Catcher isn't the place to make a big splash but sometimes it's not the big splash that makes a difference.

So, to wrap up: The Tigers should resign Minor, Santiago, Seay, Verlander and Zumaya. They should look to move Jackson and possibly Laird. And Brian Schneider wouldn't be a bad free agent pick up.

Tomorrow I'll try and tackle Detroit's potential free agents.

Read more H. Jose Bosch at The Sports Bank.

Feature photo courtesy of TFCforever/Flickr
Edwin Jackson and Gerald Laird photos courtesy Keith Allison/Wikipedia Commons

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