Last night the Tigers dropped another Verlander start that they needed to win while the White Sox mauled the Yankees to go 5 games up on Detroit. It’s looking grim again. The Tigers are still seen as ‘buyers’, but barring a nice win streak before the break any deal really ought to be made with a view to 2013 in addition to a 2012 run.
We all know that the Tigers as a team do not hit as well as they should. In particular they have not been hitting lefties well – note that they roughed up James Shields but not David Price and both of those guys are quality starters. People imagine that their pitching staff must not be all that great – but really I think it is. The problem there is a defense which might, just might, wind up the second-worst overall since they started keeping these “advanced metrics” in 2003. A full EIGHT wins below average on defense alone. Should it be hard to field a defense only slightly below average? Especially when you’re getting little if any offense from a bunch of those positions?
SO. My next crackpot scheme to improve the Detroit Tigers revolves around giving the team the outfield defense that a team playing in Comerica Park always needed and not attempting to find the Tigers more homers, a second baseman or a veteran 5th starter. According to rumors circulated by Jayson Stark re-circulated by Ben Nicholson-Smith at MLBTR, the Angels are willing to part with Peter Bourjos – since he has lost playing time to Trumbo and Trout and the Angels really need some good relievers. I noted in my Angels preseason analysis that the Angels bullpen looked like the team’s one big weak spot and nothing has happened to change that. Their bullpen ERA looks alright, but their xFIP and WPA numbers don’t. As a unit they are 8-9 with only 18 saves in 27 chances.
At the plate, Bourjos is basically Austin Jackson – he’s a right-handed triples hitter that relies on a high BABIP for success because he strikes out too much. The big difference would be that as the two have developed (both are currently in their 3rd major league season) Jackson has started taking significantly more walks while Bourjos has hit a few more home runs. All in all, Jackson currently looks like the better all-around hitter. They aren’t just similar hitters, though – both Jackson and Bourjos are exceptional defensive center fielders – with Bourjos a +2 win defender by UZR/150. What team would want two Austin Jacksons? Well… maybe a team with two center fields? For all intents and purposes, that’s what left amounts to in Comerica Park.
I have my doubts that Bourjos is actually much better than his .660 OPS so far this year – in addition to the strikeouts, he gets popped up too often and hits too few line drives. He can get infield hits, bunt for hits and steal bases – but he will never walk enough to be a genuine top of the order hitter. BUT… the whole ‘point’ of dealing for Bourjos isn’t an offensive upgrade over Brennan Boesch or Delmon Young. The ‘point’ is to get a player that can do what Brett Gardner has been doing for the New York Yankees: single-handedly make an awful defense mediocre. If he can be a replacement level hitter as a left-fielder (and his ceiling is much higher than that) his glove will make him a 3-win player. Boesch, on the other hand, will wind up 2 wins below replacement level if he keeps playing and doesn’t turn things around. With Bourjos in left (batting 9th), Berry/Raburn/Dirks would man right with Boesch (all of my plans include this in the end) in Toledo or dealt. Again – this isn’t a plan to make the Tigers offense significantly better – this is a plan to help the Tigers actually win those low-scoring games.
Of course, the Angels are a good team in a big market in the thick of the playoff hunt – they aren’t going to be interested in Rob Brantly or Alex Burgos. They want to win now, and so the cost that the Angels would require might wind up being one that would do damage to the Tigers 2012 playoff chances: quality major league relief pitchers. The first thing that jumped to my mind when I read that was “Jose Valverde, maybe?” Valverde is probably not going to be around here in 2013, so the Tigers need to be planning for that anyway – whether there is an immediate closer in the wings or not. He hasn’t been stellar this season, but he was last year and that might be enough for the Angels to figure that he could help. Besides, Al Alburquerque should be back in a few weeks and should help hold things together. A half-season of Valverde might not be enough to bring Bourjos and the other guy I feel the Tigers could stand to part with, Phil Coke*, would swing that three-man trade too far in the Angels favor. Perhaps they could be persuaded to include infield reserve Maicer Izturis?
A switch-hitter with solid OBP and above average defense at second, short or third. He’s also a free agent after the season (who the Tigers should be chasing anyway) and blocked at every position by guys the Angels will be committed to in 2013. If they felt that they would need a replacement for that spot on the roster, I’d be willing to include Danny Worth without a second thought.
SO… my idea comes down to a 5-man deal: Peter Bourjos and Maicer Izturis for Jose Valverde, Phil Coke and Danny Worth. Tigers fans (and bloggers) feel free to let me know how the Tigers would never agree to this. Angels fans (and bloggers) feel free to let me know how the Halos would never agree to this. If both sides feel burned, it’s probably a fair trade.
*I’m aware – few other Tigers’ fans are willing to part with Phil Coke for any reasonable price. I love Coke too – but I would have no problem at all with Below filling his role with Andrew Oliver or Casey Crosby coming up from Toledo to get some lefties out.