I’ll start with the cons, so we can get those out of the way: Orlando Hudson will be earning $6 million next year and has a team option for $8 million in 2013 with a $2 million buyout, so he’s effectively going to be paid $8 million next year with a $6 million option. He turned 34 on Monday and has declined offensively three years running from his peak in 2007-2008.
There, got all that off my chest so now on to the Pros:
First, he’ll come cheap. San Diego would probably give him away for free if they could just avoid eating any of that salary, but some middling prospects should be enough to get them to throw in a few million. San Diego is a terrible place to hit, so assuming that Hudson’s fairly weak 2011 at the plate is the new normal isn’t really fair. For a good defensive second baseman Hudson’s career slash line of .277/.345/.417 is quite good. While Hudson is no terror on the basepaths, he has had more than a 75% success rate and stole 19 last year while being caught only thrice. He’s also a switch-hitter, and one with a stronger bias towards hitting righties than Santiago if Leyland should be inclined to platoon a second baseman with Raburn or Danny Worth. Overall, Bill James projects a .340 OBP for Hudson next year which would make him, by Tigers’ standards (sadly), the best option for the second spot in the batting order.
Since money is not really an issue this offseason – the Tigers have money they would be willing to spend, but nobody they consider worth spending it on – in a sense they look to be an ideal landing spot for Hudson. The biggest barrier might be that he might not be enough of an upgrade over Ramon Santiago. If you look at their career numbers, there is really no comparison. Both are plus defenders, but Hudson has an OPS a full 100 points higher. But, of course, we don’t look at career numbers. Santiago is 27 months younger and looks to be on his peak plateau while Hudson started tumbling off his something like 27 months ago. Over the past two years, Hudson’s OPS has only beat Santiago’s by 20 points – .697 to .677. But that’s not all: the first place age really hits you isn’t your ability to hit a ball over a fence or take a walk it’s your range on defense. Santiago was all over the place early in his career, but over the past 2 years he’s been worth 2.1 wins on defense in part time play – much of which has come at second base. Orlando Hudson, previously solid, has cost his teams a half a win during the same time period. Makes it sound like Santiago is the better pick, right? I’m not so sure that it’s clear cut: after all, Santiago’s defense could easily tank if he gets dinged up a little and Petco might have had a pretty big impact on Hudson’s production. Bill James predicts only a .310 OBP for Santiago compared to Hudson’s .340 – which is not an insignificant difference. Still, I’m not sure that the whole package (offense, defense, money & prospects) doesn’t tilt in Santiago’s favor.