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

Matt WallaceContributor IOctober 18, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 26:  Adam Everett #4 of the Detroit Tigers fields a ground ball by Mike Napoli #44 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the sixth inning at Angel Stadium on August 26, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Angels defeated the Tigers 4-2.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

This is the fourth installment of a series in which I ponder personnel decisions that need to be made regarding players who were on the team in 2009. You can read the first three here , here and here .

Today, I’m going to look at the final player who has the option of becoming a free agent, Adam Everett. 

Everett was a bit of a surprise early in the season. A career .245/.297/.351 hitter, he hit .284/.315/.376 in April and May but started out the season as a bit of a disappointment on defense.

So the Tigers were getting a little more output than expected at the plate, but had to sit through miscues on defense that were uncharacteristic for one of the all-time great shortstops. 

As the All Star break came and went and the season progressed, he settled more into his traditional role. Despite being on somewhat of a time share with Ramon Santiago and the slow start defensively, he ended up as the fourth best shortstop in the majors in terms of UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating, an advanced defense metric) and second in UZR/150. 

His UZR score of 8.9 meant he saved 8.9 runs compared to a replacement level shortstop. His UZR/150 of 9.7 converts UZR to a rate stat that shows how many runs he would have saved compared to a replacement level shortstop over the course of 150 games’ worth of plays. 

The sparkling defense worked toward countering his work at the plate, which regressed to his career averages and eventually below even those modest results. He ended the season hitting .238/.288/.325 and batted just .207/.248/.287 after the All Star break.

The Tigers are now left to decide whether having his glove in the field is worth having his bat in the lineup. He cost the team just $1 million in 2009, but there’s a pretty good chance the Tigers will have to offer him a bit of a raise for 2010. 

I don’t think it will have to be much of a raise, but Ramon Santiago is likely to make more than $1 million in 2010. It seems a bit bizarre to pay your starter the same amount you’re paying his backup. 

Let’s assume Everett asks for, and gets, $1.5 million for next year. Is he worth it? The easy answer is yes. Using Fangraphs’ methodology for determining a player’s value, he was worth about a win more than a replacement level shortstop. A win on the free agent market is believed to cost about $4 million. 

However, that’s based on what he did in 2009. What can we expect in 2010? I took a look at what Baseball Prospectus projected for Everett in 2009 with their PECOTA projection system.

They had his rate stats (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) pegged pretty well, but they expected much less playing time (about half) for him than what he had in reality.

I’m not sure what to make of the inaccuracy regarding playing time, but PECOTA has his 2010 looking a lot like his 2009 at the plate. Another projection system, called ZIPS (created by Dan Szymborski and available at Baseball Think Factory ), nailed Everett’s numbers for 2009 even better than PECOTA and also projects more of the same for 2010. 

If we assume his slow start on defense, balanced out with his recovery to form, is a good approximation of what he’ll do on defense in 2010 (with a year of aging), we can again expect Everett to be about one win better than a replacement player. 

That would seem to make him a bargain compared to what the Tigers will likely have to pay to retain him, but there are a couple of other things to consider. Everett appears to need a time share and if the Tigers keep Santiago around, they will essentially be paying about $2.5 million for a full-time shortstop (assuming Everett signs for $1.5 million). 

Would the Tigers do better to upgrade their starter and go with somebody like Brent Dlugach as the backup? It’s highly unlikely, in my opinion. What they might pay Everett and Santiago combined won’t buy much of a shortstop on the free agent market. Not only that, there isn’t a whole lot available on the shortstop market this season.

For that reason, I think the Tigers should do what they can to bring Everett into the fold as a cheap option (definitely offer arbitration if it comes to that) who will continue to help the pitching staff by gobbling up grounders at short.

If Everett bolts, I hope the Tigers focus on defense when looking for his replacement. It's a vital skill at his position and it's one that generally saves runs for the team at a much cheaper price than somebody who creates runs with his bat.