Back To Work: Looking Forward at Tigers' Roster, Part Three

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Back To Work: Looking Forward at Tigers' Roster, Part Three
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

For part three of this series, in which I look at roster decisions to be made on current Tigers, I’m going to mash three players into one article. Two of the players are such an easy decision they don’t warrant much discussion and the third has already been covered in some depth in this space. 

We’ll start with the easy ones. Dave Dombrowski acknowledged that part of the reason the Tigers were unable to join the postseason party was his late season trade acquisitions failed to make an impact.

Well, they failed to make a positive impact. 

 

Jarrod Washburn

Jarrod Washburn came to Detroit in a deadline deal that shipped out Luke French and Mauricio Robles. In eight starts with the Tigers, only two were quality starts. In most of the others, he didn’t really even give the Tigers a chance at a win. How bad was he? He gave up 11 home runs in 133 innings with Seattle. In 43 innings with Detroit, he gave up 12. 

He was a disaster, but it’s difficult to know how much of that was owed to his removal from Safeco’s big left field and fantastic outfielders and how much was because of his injured knee. I’m happy to say the Tigers won’t have to try to figure it out. 

There is no way the Tigers offer him arbitration. No way. If they do, you will have one less columnist in this space because my head will have exploded. 

Despite his putrid performance with the Tigers—Leyland probably still wakes up screaming—his 2009 campaign was successful overall. That means he would get a raise on his $10 million dollar salary through arbitration. Quite frankly, the Tigers have enough pitchers with eight figure salaries who don't help them win ballgames. 

To be successful, Jarrod Washburn needs a ballpark that will hold most of the flyballs he allows. He also needs outfielders who can run them down when they don't leave the yard. In other words, his results are very much dependent on the environment in which he is placed. Pitchers like that are fine. They’re just not guys you pay $12 million.

 

Aubrey Huff

The second easiest arbitration decision the Tigers will make this season (or is it a tie?) will be letting Aubrey Huff pursue free agency. He made $8 million in 2009 and in his time with Detroit was used exclusively as a designated hitter. That’s almost humorous since his line of .189/.265/.302 looks more like what you’d expect if the Tigers had let their pitchers hit. 

The only good to come from that trade was a few people may have realized how absurd it is to target a player who’s having a bad season, but has a good batting average with runners in scoring position. For our purposes here, though, offering Huff arbitration would make about as much sense as giving all that money to Charlie the hot dog vendor.

 

Placido Polanco

Finally, we come to Placido Polanco. In his recent talk with the press, it’s been noted Dombrowski spoke of Polacno in the past tense and praised Scott Sizemore as being ready should the Tigers not bring Polly back. Well, I already discussed Polanco’s arbitration case at some length a while back and my opinion hasn’t changed a whole lot since then. 

I don’t think the Tigers should offer him arbitration, but I don’t think it will kill the team if they do. I would like to offer one more thought on the subject, though. People seem to be afraid of handing the position to a prospect because of the uncertain production doing so represents. 

I appreciate this concern, but I think it’s dangerous to make decisions from fear of being wrong.

Yes, Polanco probably offers more certainty, but how are the Tigers going to improve in 2010 if they essentially bring back the 2009 roster? 

I like to look at the situation from another viewpoint. If the Tigers want to contend next season, they have to allow themselves opportunities to improve. We may not be able to pencil in Sizemore’s numbers like (we assume) we can with Polanco, but Sizemore is young enough to where he can still improve. Sizemore could still surprise us in a good way. I don’t think that’s true of Polanco anymore. 

Even if Sizemore doesn’t offer an improvement in production at the second base spot, having him replace Polanco will save the team $7 or $8 million in payroll for 2010. That money could go a long way toward a capable fourth or fifth starter or even a versatile outfielder. 

Rebooting the 2009 team in 2010 isn’t going to win the division for the Tigers. They have precious few positions where there is even a personnel decision to make. Second base is one position where they have an option. They should use the opportunity to strengthen parts of the roster where ready replacements aren’t yet available.

Recognition: As always, fangraphs.com and Cot’s Baseball Contracts were immensely helpful in researching this article. 

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