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October 28, 2010

GM for a Day

Detroit Tigers

by John Perrotto

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So the question is: What would I do if I were the general manager of the Tigers?

Well, I'd have a big smile on my face. While the Tigers went from leading the American League Central at the All-Star break to finishing 13 games out with an 81-81 record, the situation is far from bleak in Detroit.

The Tigers have some very good pieces, a lot of money, and an owner who will allow me to fill in around those pieces with quality players. Mike Ilitch is an owner who isn't obsessed with the bottom line. He is a native of Detroit and has sold enough pizzas over the years that he is willing to spend a lot money to bring the beleaguered Motor City, hit as hard by the nation's economic troubles as any metropolitan area, its first World Series title since 1984.

I would also count my blessings to have Jim Leyland as my manager. While he has taken some heat in Detroit for not taking the Tigers back to the postseason since winning the AL pennant in his first season in 2006, Leyland is still as good of a baseball man as you will find. He may not be the most sabermetrically-savvy skipper and he may refer to Twitter as Twister and Google as Goggle, but he is not oblivious to the numbers and has a feel for dealing with people that is second to none.

The foundation of every good club is starting pitching, and the Tigers have a pair of right-handers with ace-type stuff whose best years seem to be in front of them in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. That is a good start toward contending in a division that is not the strongest, the Twins' 94-win season this year notwithstanding. Throw in the fact that Rick Porcello also has the raw talent to turn into an ace and you're looking at a rotation that would be tough to beat in any post-season series.

Of course, we're getting way ahead of ourselves in thinking about lining up the starting pitching for the 2011 World Series. However, it is heartening to know that the rest of the rotation can be fashioned from amongst such in-house candidates as left-hander Phil Coke (who can be converted from reliever in spring training) and Andrew Oliver and right-hander Armando Galarraga.

Jose Valverde isn't the ideal closer but he'd be OK to start the season while I'd start having Leyland groom two of the younger relievers, left-hander Daniel Schlereth and right-hander Ryan Perry, to start taking over for the job. That provides a good enough start to building a solid bullpen.

For good measure, though, I'd take a free-agent flier on Aaron Harang at a low cost to compete for the fifth starter's spot and also provide bullpen depth as a long reliever if he does not crack the rotation. Harang was limited to 111 2/3 innings this season because of injury and contributed just 0.8 SNLVAR to the Reds' National League Central championship effort but the right-hander did pitch at least 161 innings in each of the previous six seasons.

First baseman Miguel Cabrera is as good as any power hitter to build a lineup around. Furthermore, center fielder Austin Jackson is also a building block despite striking out 170 times as a rookie this year. He has the athletic ability and baseball aptitude to get better and scouts believe he will eventually turn into one of the top defensive center fielders in the game.

Beyond Cabrera and Jackson, though, there are a lot of directions a GM can go in building the lineup. Considering I have almost $70 million of contracts coming off the books and an owner who will give me the green light to spend, I'm going to become a one-man economic stimulus package and live large on the free-agent market by targeting three hitters who could make a major difference: Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn, and Victor Martinez.

Everyone seems to automatically assume that Crawford is going to a large-market team and the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels are the three that always get mentioned as the left fielder's likely destination. Yet Crawford has spent his entire career playing for the small-market Rays and admittedly isn't the type who looks to be in the spotlight. Thus, I'd sell him on the idea that Detroit might not be glamorous but it would be a good fit for him as a working-class city with passionate fans.

Dunn reportedly wanted four years and $40 million to re-sign with the Nationals during the season. If that's still his asking price, I'd politely ask Mr. Illitch to pass the checkbook and sign the slugger on the spot. Dunn would become the designated hitter and give the Tigers a second big bat to pair with Cabrera in the middle of the lineup.

Martinez would be fallback plan if I couldn't sign Dunn. I wouldn't want him as my top catcher because of his defensive deficiencies, but instead he'd fit fine as the DH.

Speaking of catcher, Gerald Laird is a free agent. While he can shut the running game down, his offense isn't enough to pay the kind of money agent Scott Boras will be seeking for his client. Furthermore, I'm a big believer in Alex Avila and would hand the starting job to him while signing either Henry Blanco or Matt Treanor as a free agent to be the backup catcher and mentor.

One of the infield holes has already been filled with the re-signing of third baseman Brandon Inge to a two-year, $11.5 million contract. I would be inclined to also stay internal to fill the shortstop hole by exercising Jhonny Peralta's $7.5 million option for next season because of the dearth of players at that position in free agency. Peralta promised the Tigers at the end of the season that he would work hard over the winter to get in top shape so he can play the position next season and I'd hold him to it. Second base can also be manned by an in-house option with Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore competing for the job in spring training.

If I'm successful in my bid to sign Crawford and either Dunn or Martinez, then the only lineup spot that needs to be filled is right field. While Magglio Ordonez isn't what he used to be and will be a free agent, I'd offer him a cut-rate deal, one year and $5 million with performance bonuses, to come back for one more spin. If Ordonez played hard to get, I'd throw it open to a spring training cage match between Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, Clete Thomas, and Casper Wells.

If I can't use my persuasion skills to land Crawford, then those four can fight for both corner outfield spots. And what if I couldn't get Dunn or Martinez to come to Detroit, either? Well, I deserve to be fired before my 24 hours are even up.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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25 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

CRP13

Your whole plan seems built around wooing Carl Crawford to Detroit. Crawford grew up in Houston and has spent his professional career in Tampa - warm, white-collar, coastal-ish cities. Given the fact that other teams will almost certainly outbid or at least match whatever Detroit has to offer, why would he consider moving there? What's the appeal?

I think it would be a good idea to have a backup plan, because I see a near-zero realistic chance of Crawford moving to Michigan.

Oct 28, 2010 06:34 AM
rating: -2
 
dwinning

"Why would he consider moving there?" So ignorant. You presume he wants to move somewhere warm, which makes as much sense as presuming he wants to move somewhere that plays in a dome, or play for a manager with glasses. Believe it or not, guys love playing for Detroit: it's got passionate, supportive fans, a great manager, a great owner and upper management. And there are great place to live nearby, especially if you're carl crawford and can afford to live wherever you want. Verlander and cabrera just signed long term extensions and could have gone anywhere they wanted for more money. You act like if someone signs with the yankees he has to live in brownsville or flatbush or something.

Oct 28, 2010 08:39 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

Uh...your disagreement with my point of view does not make it okay for you to be rude.

My points are based on:
1) Crawford has grown up in and has lived in a warm, white-collar city his whole life. Detroit is neither of those things.
2) Detroit has less going for it than LA or NY from a city standpoint AND from a franchise standpoint. You're blinded by your Detroit homerism if you think otherwise. I live in neither city, so I'm trying to be objective.

To your points - Cabrera was TRADED to Detroit and had experience there before he signed a long-term deal. Verlander was brought up through their minor league system. NEITHER of these things have jack or squat to do with Carl Crawford's impending free agency.

My ONLY point was John needs a backup plan, and this article only addresses what he'd do IF Crawford signed with Detroit. No reason for you to get all huffy. Take a pill.

Oct 28, 2010 09:27 AM
rating: -3
 
dwinning

To follow your logic then, nobody would ever sign with any team other than LA or NY, because no city has so much going for it.
Houston is not white collar. Neither is St. Pete. Crawford's high school was 98% latino and black. You assume, with no foundation, that the temperature of place a person has lived before is a predictor of that person will live in the future. You assume that free agents don't want to sign with Detroit, which is false: my point was that verlander and cabrera could have gone anywhere else and chose not to. But that conflicts with your nobody-wants-to-go-to-detroit theory, so you ignore that.
And yeah, I get "huffy" as you say, when people ignorantly shit on my state using weak assumptions and ignoring facts.

Oct 28, 2010 09:56 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

I actually didn't say any of that, that's the irony here. Take off your Detroit-colored glasses and read what I actually wrote.

Oct 28, 2010 11:53 AM
rating: -1
 
CRP13

I shouldn't let you annoy me, but you did. So for some facts:
Detroit
Average Household Income: $28,730
% of residents living in poverty: 33.3%
New York City
Average Household Income: $51,116
% of residents living in poverty: 18.2%

 
CRP13

Dang, formatting killed the radio star. The rest of my post got cut off and I'm too lazy to repost.

Oct 28, 2010 12:17 PM
rating: -3
 
Patrick

Is that the Detroit metro area? Because the wealthiest people there tend to live in the suburbs, while the wealthiest people in NYC often live in the city itself.

Either way, I'm not sure it has anything to do with the likelihood of Carl Crawford signing to the Tigers. In fact, he's really the only person to know that, so let's stop pretending we might.

Oct 28, 2010 21:04 PM
rating: 1
 
marmot

I don't even know what argument these "facts" are supposed to support.

In addition, even if relevant, this is dumb for the reason pointed out by Patrick. You can slice this a lot of different ways:

the Bronx median household income: $35,108

Median household income for Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: $170,790

Median household income (2005) for
Oakland County: $64,022
Macomb County: $53,321
Wayne County: $40,881

This doesn't even consider the insane COLA you'd have to make.

Oct 29, 2010 11:26 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

You guys really need to read the part where I said my post was cut off. I never actually made my point.

Oct 29, 2010 11:56 AM
rating: -1
 
marmot

Detroit's actually pretty warm in the summer numbskull.

Oct 29, 2010 10:54 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

Tampa's pretty warm in the winter.

Oct 29, 2010 11:56 AM
rating: -2
 
marmot

Oh wait, is this article about the Winter league. No baseball in Detroit in the Winter. Also, I've heard it's cold in NY in the Winter.

Don't be a flatliner.

Oct 29, 2010 20:59 PM
rating: 1
 
marmot

I guess you’re too stupid to understand the argument you presented. I get that you were too much of a dunderhead, so you’re forgiven for having a bad argument.

Anyway, let me break it down for you:

Your argument: John’s plan for the Tiger’s isn’t very good because it’s built around Crawford coming to Detroit and Crawford is very unlikely (near-zero realistic chance) to come to Detroit for the following reasons:

1. Crawford grew up in Texas and played in Tampa which you have identified as warm, white-collar, coastal-ish cities. You extrapolate from this that he would like to live in a warm, white-collar, coastal-ish city.
(a) This warm thing is stupid. He can live where he wants in the off-season. I don’t think a lot of pro ball players make their decision on where to sign their contracts based on the climate.
(b) Houston is warm, but I don’t think it’s particularly “white-collar”. It’s a shipping port and, yes, lots of energy money but lots of manufacturing. It, like Detroit, also has a lot of poverty. I don’t know anything about St Pete/Tampa (unlike you CRP13, I won’t sound off on things I don’t know about).
(c) I also guess they’re both on a coast – the Gulf Coast. Detroit is on the coast of the Detroit River. I really doubt that proximity to large bodies of water makes a difference on contract decisions. By coastal-ish, you must mean something else.
(d) This seems like some really weird psycho-analysis you’re doing here. Have you read that Crawford likes to live in a town where a lot of salaried workers live?

2. It is a “given” that other teams will offer the same contract as Detroit will often.
(a) I don’t think this is a given at all. John says that people “assume” this. CRP13, When you assume, you make an ass out of you and you.

3. What’s the appeal of Detroit? It has less going for it than LA or NY “from a city standpoint”. You started to cite some economic information to back this up, I think just comparing NY. But, this facile argument ignores a lot of things.
(a) You’re using useless stats.
(b) Also, no doubt that Detroit has a lot of problems and isn’t the greatest city in the world right now. It’s def not NY or LA. But, St. Pete and Houston aren’t either, and those are places you’ve decide that But, you’re ignoring the fact that he’s going to be a multi-millionaire and won’t be living in an “average” household.
(c) It’s also not a bad place to live. A lot of people here have affection for it.

4. The Tigers have less going for them as a franchise than NY or LA.
(a) REALLY?! How are you measuring this. Dwinning talked about a lot of the stuff – manager, front office, ownership, fans, one of the best sportstowns in the country.
(b) But, let’s just say that Crawford only cares about getting to the playoffs. Detroit’s got a much better shot than NY or Boston in the AL East or LAA in the AL West (Tex, As).

You do suggest that John come up with a back-up plan, but that wasn’t your main point and certainly not your ONLY point.

Just admit you made a bad argument, dingus.

Oct 29, 2010 21:54 PM
rating: -1
 
hhbliss

This is nitpicking, but couldn't they squeeze more value out of Raburn somehow, perhaps via trade? He's cheap and versatile. I've got to think there's a team out there that could use him for more than what you're proposing here.

Oct 28, 2010 07:24 AM
rating: 1
 
dwinning

John, what would be your take on making a run at Lee or trading for Greinke?

Oct 28, 2010 08:18 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

KC would be foolish to trade an ace pitcher within the division, and the argument for Lee signing in Detroit is no stronger than the argument for Crawford.

Oct 28, 2010 09:33 AM
rating: -3
 
dwinning

Kansas City IS foolish.

Oct 28, 2010 10:14 AM
rating: 2
 
marmot

The argument for ANYONE signing in Detroit is no stronger than the argument for Crawford, but they manage to sign free agents anyways. It's bizarre to think that anyone outside of Cali/NY/Boston can sign players by your way of thinking.

I know I shouldn't let your idiotic statements bother me, but I do.

Oct 29, 2010 11:32 AM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

Nobody in this thread has given a convincing argument WHY Crawford would sign with Detroit if offered similar money by New York or Los Angeles.

From John: "Everyone seems to automatically assume that Crawford is going to a large-market team and the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels are the three that always get mentioned as the left fielder's likely destination."

ITS NOT ME MAKING THAT ASSUMPTION. I never said that ANYWHERE in ANY of my posts. Yet you all feel the need to call me an "idiot", "numbskull", and "ignorant".

Nobody has replied with any valid arguments or suggestions whatsoever. Nothing but insults.

If insulting somebody who disagrees with you is the way all you kids choose to go about trying to make a different point, I bet you piss off a lot of people in your life.

Jesus Christ, grow up.

Oct 29, 2010 12:00 PM
rating: -2
 
dwinning

I made this valid argument:
"Believe it or not, guys love playing for Detroit: it's got passionate, supportive fans, a great manager, a great owner and upper management. And there are great place to live nearby, especially if you're carl crawford and can afford to live wherever you want. Verlander and cabrera just signed long term extensions and could have gone anywhere they wanted for more money." And Detroit has a ton of money to spend, so there's another reason.
You were saying something about how Houston is a coastal white-collar city and about household incomes in NYC, so everyone thinks you don't know what you're talking about. Sorry, not my fault.

Oct 29, 2010 12:23 PM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

"it's got passionate, supportive fans, a great manager, a great owner and upper management. And there are great place to live nearby, especially if you're carl crawford and can afford to live wherever you want."

That's a good argument. But the same argument can be made about a lot of places. I'll grant you it's certainly possible that Crawford signs with Detroit, I just don't think it's likely.

The other stuff - I never actually made my point, if I could delete that post that was cut off, I would. It still doesn't excuse the swearing or personal insults.

Oct 29, 2010 12:52 PM
rating: -1
 
marmot

Isn't this kind of a back-up plan.

Oct 29, 2010 21:55 PM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

Hi John--
As a GM, would you (assuming you have the power) find a new hitting coach? I've been feeling for a year and a half, at least, they need a new one. When a Tiger leaves for other pastures, suddenly their BA goes up; when they come to Detroit, it goes down (e.g. Aubrey Huff, Curtis Granderson on the one hand, Aubrey Huff, Johnny Damon on the other). It can't just be Comerica Park (witness Miguel Cabrera). I know Lloyd McClendon is a great baseball guy, but I am hoping he gets a managerial job. Jim Leyland seems too loyal to him. Are my suspicions on track, or unjustified?
Thanks!

Oct 28, 2010 10:38 AM
rating: -1
 
grover

John

Dunn has said repeatedly that he doesn't want to DH. How much are you going to pay him to give up the glove?

Oct 28, 2010 11:09 AM
rating: 1
 
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