Tigers Choose Offense Over Youth


Conventional wisdom says that you spend the first 40 games figuring out what you have, then you make changes to try to improve the areas that need it. In that regard, the Tigers didn’t really move hastily, but that doesn’t mean these changes weren’t a shock.

During the Winter Meetings, Dave Dombrowski told reporters that he expected his club to compete this season. He said this even as he was trading away two young all-stars and watching his top two relievers plus his all-star second baseman leave as free agents. He maintained that his club would be there at the end.

So they began to spend some money, adding a closer and then a left fielder. The lineup would have a core of veterans supplemented by youth. When Carlos Guillen got hurt, they added another rookie in slugger Brennan Boesch and the offense took off.

Jim Leyland said after Saturday’s game that there was no way they could send Boesch back to the minors with the way he was hitting. Guillen was working his way back to the field, it wouldn’t be long before a decision had to made.

They had a problem and needed a creative solution.

Guillen is under contract at $13MM per year through 2011, so he wasn’t going to be cut, and he couldn’t realistically be traded. The Tigers did the most obvious thing, the thing they had to do, they moved him back to the infield where his bat could help the most.

I guess I really shouldn’t have been all that surprised by these changes. Max Scherzer was clearly struggling and seemed to be getting worse. Armando Galarraga had been pitching quite well in Toledo all year long and we all had assumed he would be back at some point.

But if you think about it another way, the way the Tigers were clearly considering things, it wasn’t a choice of Carlos Guillen over Scott Sizemore, it was a choice of Brennan Boesch over Scott Sizemore. And when you compare the seasons and impact that those two have had, the choice was a no-brainer.

Yes, Guillen is a health risk, perhaps he’ll play himself right back to the DL on his first pivot at the bag. Perhaps he won’t. If he does, the Tigers can say they tried it and go back to Sizemore, who by that point will hopefully have pulled himself together.

No one is expecting Guillen to play great, or even good, defense at second base, but Sizemore wasn’t all that great either. Guillen’s bat has been a key to the Tigers plans since he first showed up in Detroit, that hasn’t changed. Moving him to second base takes a near-useless hitter out of the lineup and replaces him with a good one, the defense is probably close to a wash.

In making these moves, the Tigers didn’t shift courses as I originally guessed, they reinforced their efforts to compete this year, which is what they said they would do all along. The names might have changed, but the goal clearly did not.

Kudos to you, Dave. They aren’t the moves I was expecting, but they were the right ones to make.