For baseball, the winds of change always blow the strongest in the winter time. This was no exception for the Detroit Tigers. While the Tigers may not have spent much money in the offseason, they nonetheless made significant moves.
As pitchers and catchers prepare to report to Lakeland for the beginning of spring camp, let us review the offseason moves that have lead the team to its current makeup.
Many thanks to Ty Tanner for all his help in this article. You're the best, Ty!
Dontrelle Willis is back off the disabled list...for now that is. Anyone have doubts as to whether or not it can last? Willis and his contract are still a blight on the Tigers and are helping to hamstring the 2010 payroll. He is owed a guaranteed $12 million this year.
The Tigers will give him every chance in spring training to make a career revival. If he does not do so, however, it is entirely within the realm of possibilities that he is granted an unconditional release at the end of spring training.
The Tigers ate nearly $14 million last spring to cut Gary Sheffield, so the precedent is there.
Breathe a sigh of relief, Detroit; they are both gone. Aubrey Huff had a career season in 2008 (.304, 32HRs, 108RBI, 48 doubles), which was a year too soon.
He flopped in Detroit, hitting a meager .189 and was but a part time player. He is hoping to revive his career in National League after signing with San Francisco.
Jarrod Washburn was the tale of two seasons in one. In Seattle, he spun a 2.64 ERA and managed to play his way out of town and on to a contender. In Detroit knee problems surfaced along with a 7.33 ERA.
Both were rental players who were supposed to bolster a contending team. Both failed rather miserably. So long, boys
Sporadic reliever Fernando Rodney declared free agency, and the front office gladly waved him goodbye. His walk rate was appalling, as were his stats in non-save situations. He did manage 37 saves, but saves do little to indicate how good the pitcher is who is collecting them.
Rodney eventually signed with the Angels to compete for the ninth inning job with incumbent Brian Fuentes.
Placido Polanco was not offered arbitration and promptly signed a three year deal with Philadelphia to move to third base. He was a fan favorite for his smooth fielding, big head and teeth clenching/squinting while in the batter's box.
His departure leaves a big hole at second base and big shoes to fill for newcomer Scott Sizemore.
Matt Treanor was supposed to be the backup catcher in 2009, but only appeared in four games before a hip injury shelved his season. His release was imminent. He eventually signed a minor league deal with the Brewers.
Marcus Thames had been a steady power contributor and role player since coming to Detroit in 2004. Even being a part time player, he hit 99 HRs as a Tiger. His release was puzzling, considering the lack of power production the Tigers possess.
He was an ideal candidate to be resigned to continue in his traditional role, until the Yankees grabbed him on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.
Adam Everett signed a one year contract in early December to return to the Tigers. He will make $1.55 million in 2010.
Yes, there were better offensive options available via free agency, but only marginally so. The Tigers decided to hold onto the player they knew, rather than test someone new.
Despite the fact that he hits for mere peanuts at the plate, he is an excellent defender and plays for mere peanuts: a bonus for a financially hamstrung team.
Undoubtedly he will be a great mentor for Scott Sizemore, and I'm sure that figured into the decision to retain him.
This was one of the biggest story lines of the offseason and was easily the talk of the town for a week afterward. Curtis Granderson was sent to the Yankees and Edwin Jackson sent to Arizona. In return the Tigers received outfielder Austin Jackson, pitchers Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke.
In giving up Jackson, the Tigers did not have to give him a raise through arbitration for half a season of effective work. He faltered down the stretch in 2009 and there were concerns about his long-term effectiveness and durability.
Granderson was a big blow to the community. So long to a fan favorite, icon, and community leader.
The return on the trade looks pretty good. Scherzer has great stuff and has continued to strike out more than a batter per inning since debuting in 2008. He has yet to reach arbitration and is a candidate to be locked up long term. Arizona had concerns about his durability.
Austin Jackson looks to be the opening day center fielder and is still but a prospect.
Phil Coke is a decent reliever who could be converted to starting this spring. Schlereth has high upside.
Freddy Dolsi had the distinction of giving up a home run on the very first major league pitch he ever threw. Facing Manny Ramirez, then of the Boston Red Sox, he served up the long ball.
He went on to have a decent rookie campaign and only allowed two earned runs in 10.2 innings in 2009 before being returned to Toledo.
He was seen as a spare part pitcher and became a 40-man roster casualty. He was designated for assignment but did not clear waivers and was later claimed by the White Sox.
Catcher Dusty Ryan was deemed expendable with the emergence of Alex Avila. He was another 40-man roster casualty, dealt to San Diego for a player to be named later.
Ramon Santiago was re-signed to a two year contract to continue as a backup infielder. He will make $1.25 million each in 2010 and 2011.
He started 56 games at shortstop and 17 games at second base in 2009 and is a plus defender. He could be a viable alternative at second base if Scott Sizemore struggles. Doubtless, he will still get a decent number of starts at second to spell Sizemore.
2009 for Joel Zumaya: another year, another shoulder blowout. Zumaya hasn't pitched a full season since his stellar rookie campaign in 2006. Since that time his walk rate has been atrocious, and the overall results have not been overwhelming or dominating.
He accepted a one year contract worth $915,000. I foresee one of three possibilities for his 2010 season: mediocre, dominating, or medical bill ridden.
Catcher Mike Rabelo is home again. He made 43 starts behind the dish in 2007 for the Tigers before being dealt in the offseason as part of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal.
He battled injuries in 2009 and was not offered a contract for 2010, so the Tigers scooped him up. He will likely end up in Toledo, serving as a depth guy for the organization.
However, he could make the Tigers roster if they decide they would rather have Alex Avila get a full season worth of at-bats in Toledo instead of sporadic starts off the bench in Detroit.
The other big story of the offseason was the signing of closer Jose Valverde. He accepted a two year contract worth $14 million. The contract includes an option for a third year at $9 million.
Valverde is a big game closer. He has a career 3.17 ERA and strikes out batters at a rate of 11 per nine innings pitched. He also keeps his walks down. He's just the guy the Tigers wanted to secure victories.
Catcher Gerald Laird and pitchers Bobby Seay and Zach Miner all agreed to one year contracts for 2010, thus avoiding salary arbitration hearings.
Laird, a defensive standout, will make $3.95 million and hope to have a better year at the plate. He earned a great reputation in 2009 for throwing out base stealers.
Bobby Seay has been the principle left handed reliever for the Tigers the past three seasons. He will be back for his fifth season as a Tiger, making $2.475 million. He will have to be at the top of his game to stay at the top of the bullpen pecking order for lefties, because of the addition of Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth.
Zach Miner has been a decent swing man the past four seasons, making 122 relief appearances and 35 starts. He'll be back for $950,000.
Just last week Justin Verlander agreed to a five year, $80 million dollar contract that will keep him in an old English "D" through 2014. The contract is structured such that he will only make $6.75 million this year.
2009 marked the third straight season since his rookie year that he reached 200 innings pitched. After a down year in 2008 in terms of wins, strikeouts and ERA, he returned to form in 2009 to contend for the Cy Young award.
I think the best is still to come for the young fireballer and franchise pitcher.
Miguel Cabrera seems determined to not repeat mistakes he made last year. In early October, during the regular season's final weekend, reports surfaced that Cabby had been involved in a drunken domestic altercation with his wife.
Since that time he has cleaned up his act. He's on the wagon now after getting help for the alcohol. Now he is going to get help in spring training.
Fellow Venezuelan and former big league slugger Andres Galarraga says he will come to Tigers camp to work with Cabrera.
Cabrera definitely could learn a few things from The Big Cat. If everything comes together Cabrera could have a career season.