Detroit Tigers Dissector: Are Placido Polanco's Days Numbered?

Johnny LawrenceCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2009

Welcome to Rudy Dominick and Johnny Lawrence's Week 14 installment of Detroit Tigers information and analysis. Each Thursday, we will delve into all things Tigers.

Read and digest, or skim and spit out our insightful banter.


Keep An Eye On

Casey Crosby, Starting Pitcher—West Michigan Whitecaps (A)

(Last Three Starts)

3-0, 15.2 IP, 7 H, 13 K, 0.58 ERA.


Drive-By Argument:  Which Position Player is Most Deserving of an All-Star Slot?

DOMINICK:  Curtis Granderson will make his long-awaited first All-Star appearance after a tremendous first half.

Upon winning the Final Vote showdown, Brandon Inge ranks ninth in homers (19) and 12th in RBI (54) in the American League. Tied with David Wright for the most ESPN "Web Gems," which highlights the day's most astonishing defensive plays, he is not just an offensive force on the diamond. 

While both Granderson and Inge are worthy, neither is the cornerstone of the Tigers' organization.

Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera was excluded from the All-Star team, despite having better numbers than Boston's Kevin Youkilis. He racked up 26 more hits, two more homers, 18 fewer strikeouts, and an average 24 points higher, but Youk was chosen by AL manager Joe Maddon. 

His power is sorely needed on the Tigers with the declines of aging veterans Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen.
If one of the three All-Star worthy position players were to leave Detroit, Cabrera's presence would be missed the most.
Granderson and Inge are crucial to Detroit's success, but neither possess the offensive capabilities of Cabrera.

LAWRENCE: While Cabrera composed premium numbers, so did three other AL first basemen.
Mark Teixeira, Justin Morneau, and Kevin Youkilis experienced fruitful half-campaigns, limiting the need for another first sacker on the roster. Cabrera's numbers simply were not unique enough to stand out.

Brandon Inge deserves the start at third base almost as much as fan selection Evan Longoria. His hefty contributions at a largely non-productive AL position have anchored the first-place Tigers through 84 games.

He ranks highly among AL third basemen with 48 runs (second), 19 homers (first), 54 runs batted in (second), 35 walks (T-second), and 161 assists (first).

Amongst their peers, neither Cabrera nor Granderson stack up this highly in the field or at the plate.

To Shed Or Not To Shed?  Analyzing Placido Polanco

Second base has not been a position of concern since 2005, when the Tigers sent now-imprisoned closer Ugueth Urbina to Philadelphia in exchange for Polanco.

In four seasons, Polanco supplied Detroit with an All-Star-caliber presence on and off the field.

Underappreciated nationally, his list of achievements is as impressive as any second baseman over the past four years.  It includes, but is not limited to: a Gold Glove Award, a Silver Slugger Award, an All-Star and World Series appearance, and one errorless season.

But how much remains in the 33-year-old's tank?

Detroit sits in an undesirable position with Polanco who is eligible for free agency after the season.

His accomplishments are nothing short of spectacular, but Detroit can ill afford to hang onto its non-productive 2006 heroes at the expense of the team's future. Not to say Polanco is not still effective, but the recent disposal of veterans for youth has left the Tigers sitting in first place a majority of the season thus far.

Detroit made tough calls to cut loose several veterans whose Tiger careers will be etched into Detroit’s history: Pudge Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers, Todd Jones, and Gary Sheffield.

It may be time to take Polanco’s Tiger stripes away, too, but age is not the sole factor like those listed above.

If general manager Dave Dombrowski can reel in pitching or offensive help for Polanco before the July 31 trade deadline, they could audition hotshot youngster Scott Sizemore at the position. 

Sizemore, coined Detroit's future second baseman, has scorched the ball at both Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this year. In 78 games, the prospect is batting .305 with 11 homers and 10 steals—his on-base percentage also nears .400.

His performance can help solve Detroit's long-term second base puzzle.

In the meantime, if Sizemore shows he needs more time to develop in the minors post-Polanco, Ramon Santiago could man second.

Either way you dissect it, Polanco appears to be expendable.

Much to the knowledge of Tiger fans, under-performing and highly-paid veterans Sheffield and Ordonez will swallow between $25-$32 million of this season's cap space.

In Polanco’s case, he may produce for another few years, but these two have taught Dombrowski it is better to part ways with a player a year too early than a year too late.

Favorable Matchups
July 10: DET Brandon Inge vs. CLE Cliff Lee (.389, 14-for-36, 3 HR, 8 RBI).
July 10: DET Edwin Jackson vs. CLE Batters (2.43, 33.1 IP, 29 K, .252 BAA).
July 11: CLE Asdrubal Cabrera vs. DET Armando Galarraga (.071, 1-for-14, 5 K).

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