Christmas in September


Sometimes when I wake up and look at the box scores and current standings, I can’t help but wonder if it is Christmas in September. Especially after a loss for the Tigers maintains their lead in the Central.  And like Christmas, this month has been agonizing. One series the Tigers are sweeping a wildcard contender on the road. Then they take on arguably the worst team in baseball and brushed under the floor mat with the broom. This Christmas in September is like going to the wierd in-laws for a celebration. You have no idea what the hell you are going to get as a gift, but you know it is going to be something unexplainable. Something you never understand it’s use until five years later.

This September is the same way for this Tigers squad. Nobody knows what is in front of them, but this month will be one of the more “useful” ones in this organization’s recent history. Not only are they competing for a playoff spot, but this could be the biggest evaluation month of the last five seasons. A new era is on the way. And with recent screw-up contracts, The Tigers will have to make some decisions on Edwin Jackson, Fernando Rodney, Placido Polanco, Jarrod Washburn, Aubrey Huff, Brandon Lyon, Gerald Laird, Bobby Seay, Marcus Thames, Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago. With new talent such as Wilkin Ramirez making a solid impression, it will be even tougher to decide where and when to sign on the dotted line. It’s an interesting time of the year.

One that weeds out the good players and where Tigers management begins to form an opinion on who has been downright bad.

A Blogger’s Roster Moves:

Let’s say the season ended today, and the Tigers made a playoff appearance. Here are some of the moves I would make to start the 2010 season.  Let’s start with the middle infield at shortstop and second base.

Let’s start with Placido Polanco. Undoubtedly he deserves another contract to remain in Detroit. The question has to be though, is he willing to sign a short term contract? With Scott Sizemore waiting in the wings, Polanco is the best stopgap and teacher around. The ultimate plan would be to bring in Polanco one more year for his solid defense. If Sizemore performs well in the Arizona Fall League, then you have to give him a chance to compete in spring training for the starting job. After seeing Sizemore play a dozen games, I can buy into his talent. I’m just worried that he still has a bunch to learn, and won’t be ready for a 162 game season. If Polanco explores multiyear deals, there are some other solid stop gaps available in free agency. Felipe Lopez, Mark DeRosa, Craig Counsell and Adam Kennedy could be some examples. Others including Ronnie Belliard, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Alex Cora could be brought in to compete with Sizemore, if the Tigers are worried about depending on one second baseman.

At the shortstop position, it will be extremely hard for the Tigers to resign Adam Everett to the cheap deal they put together before the 2009 season. Especially with the shortstop market being so thin free agent wise. Besides Orlando Cabrera and Marco Scutaro, Everett is the only full-time starter with extreme value. Many believe that Miguel Tejada is done at the shortstop position and Omar Vizquel cannot be a full time shortstop. Brent Dlugach has earned the right to compete for a roster spot in 2010. Why not bring in another defensive player such as John McDonald and split time with him and Dlugach, or anyone that emerges out of the minor league system? Unless you can get Everett at some type of discount.

Pitching Wise, I think it is key that Edwin Jackson and Fernando Rodney are resigned. Jackson gives the Tigers the solid number two starter behind Justin Verlander that they will need, especially as younger pitchers continue to develop and get their chances with the parent club. As frustrating as Fernando Rodney has been, he has done his job. Unless this season’s success spurs overvalued contract offers, then the Tigers should swoop in and sign their closer at least for another year. What is scary is that besides Trevor Hoffman, you can argue that Rodney is the most successful closer in the free agent market. This is where the development of Ryan Perry comes in. Is he ready to be a closer in 2010? Probably not. Signing a Trevor Hoffman makes since, especially since he showed he still has what it takes. I would love to see Brandon Lyon get another chance at the closer job. Either way, with lack of reliever depth at the major league level, Lyon is a must resign. Considering he will most likely be a closer option for some teams, he might not come cheaply though. Zach Miner might get another chance at climbing up the Jim Leyland ladder in 2009. If Lyon and Rodney are both gone, and Joel Zumaya isn’t healthy, Miner becomes an instant favorite for a set up position.

In the outfield, It has become apparent that there will be a ton of competition. Magglio Ordonez most likely will be back, as well as youngsters Ryan Raburn, Clete Thomas, Wilkin Ramirez and Marcus Thames could be for the right price. Thames’ power potential could have him landing with a team like Seattle, where his power will be on display, and he will get to play almost everyday. That would open up a roster spot for Wilkin Ramirez, whom I believe should start next year, and will start in 2010. One question though would be where Clete Thomas fits in. I would love to see him continuing his role platooning with Magglio and able to fill in all over the outfield. He provides solid pop off the bench when needed, and a solid fielder to replace Magglio in late innings. Considering this team will not be in the Matt Holliday or Carl Crawford race, It will be interesting if they do play their 3 million dollar buyout and use the additional 15 million to bring back more players. It will all depend on production from here on out.

Starting Rotation:

This is where things could get harry. Edwin Jackson could get a big contract elsewhere. There is almost no chance the Tigers will resign Jarrod Washburn. That would leave Rick Porcello, Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman as possibly starters that were not full time minor leaguers in 2009. There is an influx of veteran pitchers available in 2009, and the Tigers might take advantage of some of those arms until the system develops another starter. Miguel Bautista, Doug Davis, Jon Garland and other cheap options will be available.

It will be interesting how this off-season plays out. With money issues and possible success, there are so many scenerios. It will be a fun off-season without a doubt. One that I will look more forward to if the Tigers have some success in the post-season.