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Pretend GM

November 4, 2012

Perhaps you are slowly recovering from the pain of losing in the World Series and are turning to face a new dawn. No, I certainly don’t mean the NBA, I’m talking about pretending to be the Tigers general manager. As far as I know, there is only one general manager and his name is Dave Dombrowski and he has a team of maybe 8-12 people who give him any kind of meaningful information or advice. However, everyone wants to give suggestions, make trades, and decide what WE should do. Shoot, Dave revealed in his post season press conference that even his own sister second guesses his moves.

Well, here at Brain Matters we certainly don’t want to be left out.  So, what should the Tigers do this off season?

In short, not much.

First of all, we had a very, very good team this year and even with the certain departure of Young and Valverde and the potential departure of Sanchez, we are not that much worse off for a couple of reasons.  First, Papa Grande was getting through this year with a lot of smoke and mirrors. His stuff was certainly not impressive and it was a struggle all year. Even mixing and matching the bullpen pieces we have it will not be a drop off. Second, Victor Martinez will return from injury to take Delmon’s spot as the designated hitter. While Victor will not add any more speed or home run power he will add a more consistent approach, a higher OBP, and more super cute offspring. Another improvement by “doing nothing” is a full season of Omar Infante at second base. He, while not a super star, is a marked improvement over the parade of guys who played second for us the first half of the year.

Now to the matter of Sanchez. We’ll talk more about potential additions below, but as of now he is a free agent. When we made the trade I was concerned that he would only be a rental and that the difference between him and Smyly was quite small.  While I changed my mind quickly about the trade (I think it was a good one) my confidence in Drew Smyly remains unchanged. The club obviously has confidence in him, bringing him into the game in key situations in the World Series.  I’m more concerned about Rick Porcello, but it is not Rick’s fault. Porcello’s fielding independent pitching statistics where excellent, however the number of runs the opponents score against you happens to be quite dependent on the quality of your fielding.  Detroit doesn’t have even an average defense and likely won’t for a few years. Rick’s style suits a team who can catch the ball better.

For this reason I would, as Dave has suggested, pursue Sanchez. If you can sign him, it would allow you to trade Kid Rick to team that can appreciate him more and keep Smyly in the rotation.

However if you do sign Sanchez that is likely to be a big bite out of your budget. And to the disappointment of every fantasy GM out there, teams are not in possession of unlimited resources. You simply cannot subtract the departing player’s salaries from the current year’s payroll and have the balance to spend. As Chris Iott expertly outlined in this article, many players are scheduled for some significant raises.

Signing Sanchez would likely hinder your ability to fix the two other major needs on the club: corner outfield and closer. And I’m okay with this. As many baseball thinkers who are smarter than me have suggested, the mythology of the closer is overrated. There may be an advantaged to be gained from a platoon closer situation. While this has not been DD’s modus operandi, it is cheap, can be effective, and gives you at least a solid back up plan if Rondon doesn’t work out.

As to the matter of corner outfielder, there are several free agent corner OF’s being suggested. The main complaint about the Tigers this year has been their lack of speed and overall athleticism.  Free agents tend to be 1. expensive 2. older 3.require long term deals  (if they don’t suck). I would skip the FAs and stick with Dirks and either Garcia or Castellanos. They are young, fast, cheap, and, who knows, maybe you catch lightning in a bottle and they have a great rookie season. While Castellano’s defense in the outfield is an unknown yet, we are certain Garcia is solid defensively. I just don’t see how adding an expensive aging outfielder helps the club long term. Yes, it is scary to hand a job to a kid with no experience. But for every painful Scott Sizemore experience  there is the chance for a rookie to have an Austin Jackson type break out year.

So that’s it! Sign Sanchez (not a small thing), skip the FA outfielder, skip the closer. Maybe you can find some coin to extend Cabrera and/or Verlander.  A rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, Sanchez, and Smyly is potentially dominant and their strikeout rates can cover up a multitude of sins in the field defensively.

So that’s what I would do. I think anyway…this is all kind of tough to figure out. Good thing for the Tigers I’m just a pretend GM.

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