Sports Outside the Beltway

Tigers Offseason Moves — They’re Grrrreat

Their rise from the ashes achieved the penultimate goal of runner up. Dave Dombrowski is gunning for the whole enchilada in 2007, and like a dozen or so Major League GM’s, he thinks he has a legitimate shot at getting that ring. Let’s take a look at the transactions made by the Motor City Kitties.

Detroit’s 2006 success came on the young arms of Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Justin Verlander. The offseason acquisitions that drew guffaws last winter (Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones) paid off big time, and the Tigers find themselves with a surplus of pitching entering 2007. Unlike their Central Division rivals in the Windy City, the Tigers appear destined to hold onto all their starters. Zach Miner can be sent down to Toledo while the club sees if Mike Maroth is capable of returning to full time duty. The only uncertainty surrounded staff ace Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman had been mentioned in connection with the Yankees and a possible Alex Rodriguez deal. Would the Tigers really trade their 24 year old ace? Bonderman’s new contract, finalized this week, should put to rest any possible trade rumors. Bonderman’s deal calls for the young righty to earn $38 million over the next four seasons. Bonderman will hit free agency after his age 27 season, and he will be set for a huge payday, if he builds on last year’s excellent season.

A reasonably priced pitcher is a valuable trading chip, but the Tigers seem content to build with their homegrown talent and competent role players. And whether you believe this or not, Gary Sheffield is a role player to this team. Sheffield’s role will be simple, stay healthy and mash. And mash he still can. The much travelled outfielder/designated hitter posted a .806 OPS last year, the lowest since his last season in Milwaukee, a lost year by any measure, and one that occurred fifteen years ago. It was also the least time he played since his first major league season in 1988. If his injury has healed, Sheffield is a dangerous presence int he heart of a solid batting order.

Another role player acquired for the coming campaign is the ageless Jose Mesa. With Mesa, the Tigers are adding more to a righty dominated bullpen. Mesa allows too many baserunners, but with power throwing Joel Zumaya in the pen, that won’t be as serious a problem. Also taking on a role will be young lefty Edward Campusano. Campusano, originally with the Cubs, was selected in the rule V draft by the Brewers and then dealt to Detroit for cash. If Campusano doesn’t make the Tigers roster, he’ll be offered back to the Cubs. Such is the confusing rule V draft. Campusano is a one year bridge to some of the power arms in the pipeline for Detroit. Most of those arms are righties, so the LOOGY job belongs to Campusano.

The move I am least excited about is reupping Brandon Inge for another four years. Inge doesn’t get on base as much as I would like to see from a corner infielder and strikes out a bit too often. His defense is okay, about league average, but his OPS last year was an unimpressive .776. That was good for 16th of the 21 major league third basemen with 502 plate appearances. His OBP was 20 out of those same 21. They did not overpay for Inge’s production, so the deal is reasonable, even if I wouldn’t make it.

The Tigers have hitting and pitching to spare. By securing their younger talent and adding the spare parts, Detroit is poised to make a repeat post season appearance. They only had to pay a lot for Gary Sheffield. Surrendering Humberto Snachez and Jordan Tata is a big price, but pitching prospects are known to falter. And unlike many teams, Detroit has an abundance of young arms in the pipeline. They also have a few attractive trading chips. Andrew Miller is waiting in the wings and may make Mike Maroth redundant. If Sean Casey continues to get the job done at first base young slugger Chris Shelton would be very attractive to a team looking for a long term solution at first base. With this flurry of moves, the Tigers are ready for pitchers and catchers to report so they can begin the defense of their AL Pennant.

Cross posted at Ennuipundit.

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