Tigers Should Stay Away From “Type A” Free Agents


As we enter the off-season for the Detroit Tigers (man, I wish I wasn’t typing that) the focus has turned to the improvement of the team for 2012.  We have already have had a  handful of articles here at MCB about what should and should not be done, so I too will add my opinion.  The Tigers should not be tempted to chase free agents who would be classified as a “Type A”.  I have seen a lot of discussion in our comments sections as well as other blogs talking about adding some high profile players via free agency and I do NOT think that is what the Tigers need.  The Texas Rangers beat the Tigers not by having their big guns outplay our big guns, but by their average players being better than our average players (well, and by not being hurt too).

While the temptation is great, I think the Tigers should avoid it.  The smart money in free agency can sometimes be not actually spending (much) money in free agency.

In the 2010-11 off-season the Tigers splurged by adding Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit.  While those additions paid off for the Tigers by adding a solid bat to the lineup and a reliable bullpen arm, it did cost the Tigers some payroll flexibility as well as a 1st round draft pick.  While I would obviously give up the possible potential impact of a draft pick for 4 years of Victor Martinez hitting over .300 and driving in 100 runs, it is not a a guarantee…just look at Adam Dunn.  I wonder if any people within the White Sox organization are wishing they had that draft pick back.  A Type A Free Agent not only costs your team in terms of now – salary – but can also cost your team in the future because of lost prospects.

I have seen a lot of discussion regarding letting Jose Valverde become a free agent because he is a Type A and as such, the Tigers would get a first round pick (in most cases) as well as a supplemental pick in the 2012 draft. I have then seen discussion in the very same article about how the Tigers should then go after a player like Jonathan Papelbon (also a Type A).  If the Tigers made this move, they would then be surrendering their #1 overall pick.  So, they would be gaining a 1st and a supplemental and losing a 1st…all for a choosing an semi-unknown quality for a similarly valued known quality.  In addition, it is no guarantee that Valverde would go to a team with one of the better records in baseball.  As 1/2 of the teams are protected from losing their 1st round pick the Tigers might only get a a supplemental pick and a 2nd round pick.  That, too me, seems like a losing proposition.  If the Tigers are to let Valverde walk (I hope they don’t and don’t think they will) then the smarter financial move is to look at a Type B Free Agent, which would not cost them anything, or look within (not many options exist there though).

While this Tigers team is obviously built to win now, its nucleus is relatively young.  As such, there is not a 1 year or 2 year window, but a longer term area of opportunity for them if they can continue to build and make smart decisions with their players and system.  Right now, the Tigers don’t need huge impact bats or big time arms.  They need better complimentary players and guys to pitch the 6th and 7th innings.  Those are not the types of guys you give up a 1st round draft pick for.  As such, I do hope that the Tigers avoid the Type A players in Free Agency and instead look at Type B or players with no compensation, or look at trade options instead.  I don’t think the Tigers can afford two straight years of missing out on the top amateur talent in the United States with the shape their farm system is in.  The key to a successful franchise is building for the now AND for the future, so signing a Type A could end up causing more harm than benefit to the Tigers.