If you are not familiar with HotStove.com, you should be. Founders Tom Reese and Paul Rubillo have put together a fine site that collects all the news and rumors from around Major League Baseball. In addition to linking to mainstream media members (much like MLBTR), HotStove also frequently links to blogs, which I certainly appreciate, having been linked to a few times myself.
What sets them apart thus far is that they also host two or three daily chats with fans and a person covering some aspect of the sport, either in general or a specific team. In the past, our own Joe Dexter has been a guest and more recently, Kurt Mensching and Jason Beck have also appeared to talk Tigers. There really is a lot of good information and I strongly encourage all of you to go check them out.
But as far as their ranking of the Tigers offseason, there’s where we have a problem.
Mike Spiciarich posted the HotStove rankings last night, and you have to scroll a long, long way down the list before you find the Tigers, whom he ranked 22nd of the 30 teams. They ranked behind the Astros, whom most of baseball regarded as giving out two of the worst contracts this year (signing Brandon Lyon for $15MM and extending GM Ed Wade). They ranked the Tigers just ahead of the Mets, whose big offseason included the signing of roughly 19 backup catchers and Mike Jacobs.
Now I suppose reasonable minds can differ when evaluating offseason moves, but I have issue with the logic that Spiciarich appears to have used.
Like most of the mainstream media, Spiciarich is confused about Detroit’s offseason. Like Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, and Lynn Henning, he assumed the Tigers were in severe cost-cutting mode when they made the trade of Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, ignoring everything Dave Dombrowski said at the time. At no point were the Tigers talking fire-sale. In order to improve their financial flexibility, an adjustment had to be made. Kurt chronicled this quite well at BYB the other day.
But instead of doing the necessary research, Spiciarich decided to criticize that which he did not understand, much the same way Dayton Moore does with the new statistics of baseball.
Spiciarich blasts the Tigers for signing Jose Valverde, but makes no mention of the fact that both of the Tigers late-inning relievers from 2009 were lost to free agency. He also is severely overvaluing the loss of the first-round draft pick the Tigers surrendered, and does not mention the two supplemental picks Detroit picked up for losing Lyon and Fernando Rodney.
"So, the team swapped two of its best players (Jackson and Granderson) and its first round pick for a guy with questionable mechanics (Max Scherzer), Valverde, three mid-level prospects (Daniel Schlereth, Phil Coke, Austin Jackson), and now Damon.Maybe I am missing something, but the logic baffles me. The fans in Detroit deserve better."
It’s true, Mike, you are missing something here.
The Tigers enter 2010 with roughly the same payroll as 2009, but in a much better position to compete long-term. While losing Granderson the personality hurts the fan base, the Tigers replace him with a young outfielder (Austin Jackson) who projects to be at least as good as he was, and is under team control for five more years, and at a significantly smaller salary. Austin Jackson is no mid-level prospect. He was ranked as the no. 2 prospect in the Yankees organization and as high as no. 26 in baseball a year ago.
When they saw they could upgrade the offense, Mike Ilitch wasn’t shy about spending his savings from the trade, and added Johnny Damon, who is a better overall hitter than Granderson hands down.
They got younger and cheaper and probably more talented in the rotation by swapping Jackson for Scherzer, and they addressed the bullpen situation by adding an established closer. And not just any closer, the best available closer.
And as far as the first round pick goes, the Tigers actually gained a pick over the winter, essentially swapping a first rounder for two sandwich picks. If you consider the new contracts of both Lyon and Valverde, the Tigers traded Lyon and his $15MM in salary along with the 19th pick in the draft for Valverde ($14MM) and a pick somewhere around no. 38. I think the difference in talent between Lyon and Valverde more than makes up for the 20-ish slots between the two picks, especially when you factor in the unpredictable nature of draft picks.
Overall, Spiciarich graded the Tigers at a C- and projected the future as a D based on the loss of the draft pick. I suppose if looked at in a vacuum, one could make this judgement, but when you actually take time to look at the whole picture and factor in the savings on long-term salary, not only would I grade the offseason at least a B, I think the future is bright in Motown.