Detroit Tigers links: New-look Tigers, home plate collisions and Max Scherzer's sartorial dilemma

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

We catch up on what the pundits think of the new-look Tigers, the new rules changes in regard to home plate collisions, take a tour around the AL Central and see Max Scherzer's sartorial dilemma in today's afternoon prowl.

Signing Joba Chamberlain may be the 'last move we'd make' according to Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski. But the addition also added another question mark to a bullpen full of them.

Tigers Sign Joba Chamberlain
Neil Weinberg, New English D

For $2.5 million, that’s fine, but you’re running out of space to make a significant upgrade to your roster. Nathan replaces Benoit for an upgrade, but a more expensive one. Krol is a downgrade from Smyly. Rondon is Rondon. Coke and Crosby will look for the #2 lefty spot. Add in Joba and you’re at five relievers. Alburquerque, if healthy, makes six, and he was on the roster last year. If you carry a long man, you’ve filled the staff. Maybe you can find a better #2 lefty, but even that doesn’t give you much of a chance to make a difference. The Tigers bullpen will probably be about the same as last year in terms of quality – it just got more expensive in the process.

But the Tigers' other signing this week, locking down Rajai Davis for two years and $10 million, was enough to put the team on the Sporting News' Winter Meetings winners list.

Mets, Tigers, Cubs among big winners at winter meetings
Jesse Spector, Sporting News

While 16 games is obviously a small sample size, Davis' .768 OPS there, compared to a .693 career figure, hints that the spacious dimensions of Comerica Park are a good fit for a hitter with limited power but lots of speed. The idea of having Davis get on base at the bottom of the order and steal his way into scoring position for the excellent hitters at the top of the Detroit lineup is a worthy one.

Jason Beck compares Davis to role players such as Ryan Raburn and 'Country Strong' Marcus Thames. Not in that they are similar in their style of play, but in that if used correctly, Davis can be a very effective situational player

Meetings help Tigers accomplish off season retooling
Jason Beck, MLB.com

Not all the metrics are kind. His 1.2 Wins Above Replacement ranked rather low, yet still marked his highest total since 2009. Put him into the right situations, however, largely avoiding right-handed pitchers and primarily platooning him in one position, and he has the chance to provide the kind of situational boost the Tigers enjoyed with Ryan Raburn and Marcus Thames.

Amazingly, the Free Press' contrarian troll, Drew Sharp, doesn't rip Domborwski or the team.

Detroit Tigers taking page from Boston Red Sox playbook in building a winner
Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press

The Red Sox dumped massive contracts during their bottoming-out 2012 season. They still spent money on free agency last winter, but they spent more wisely — focusing more on acquiring complimentary pieces that meshed with their remaining stars.

It worked. And that reality wasn’t lost on Dave Dombrowski when he and I conversed about the state of the Tigers before they took their 2013 curtain call in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, the two of us sitting a few rows above the Tiger dugout in Fenway Park.

Lynn Henning believes Dombrowski saw a Tigers team lacking in offensive diversity and made the appropriate changes. But the Tigers need some of their returning bats to come through with good seasons for the re-imagined lineup to work.

Dave Dombrowski got what he was looking for in retooling Tigers
Lynn Henning, Detroit News

The Tigers, for all their middle-order artillery, were shut out 12 times last season and who were all but dead against good bullpens late.

Fortunes could change for the better there, but only if Castellanos hits as advertised, and only if two hitters who had uneven years in 2012 — Austin Jackson and Alex Avila — show consistency and offensive fury that too often was missing a season ago.

But what of Andy Dirks, who now has a left field platoon partner? Lee Panas takes a look at his defense, which should be even better this coming season (as should his bat) having fully recovered from a knee injury which lingered for all of 2013.

The Defense of Andy Dirks
Lee Panas, Tiger Tales

Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks was sixth in MLB with +6 RSAA in just over 800 innings. He was +5 plays above average inside the left field zone and +2 outside the zone.  Dirks also was rated above average on  on Baseball Prospectus' FRAA (8) and DRS (+6) and average on Total Zone.  So, the consensus is that he was a pretty good defender in 2013.

God's speed, Danny Worth. You have been freed.

Danny Worth designated for assignment
Jason Beck, Beck's Blog

The two big trades, though, brought over two crushing blows to Worth’s standing: Ian Kinsler arrived from Texas to take over at second base, and Steve Lombardozzi came over from Washington with the capability to play second base and some shortstop.

From that point on, Worth’s days were numbered. In some ways, he might be better off having the outright come now instead of at the end of Spring Training.

Around the AL Central:

Omar Infante played very well during his second tenure as a Tiger. But giving a four-year contract to a second baseman coming off a career season who will be 32 at the start of 2014 is guaranteed to end badly. But that didn't stop the Kansas City Royals from inking Infante to a $30 million deal. Royals Review admits the deal is two-years too long, but in the short-term Infante is a massive upgrade over Chris Getz.

Royals sign Omar Infante
Craig Brown, Royals Review

I'm going to readjust my feelings about free agent contracts and live in the now. Four years is two years to long for Infante, in my opinion, but this is a move that does make the Royals better in 2014. And that's all that matters now, right? 2014.

The Minnesota Twins signed 29-year old right-hander Mike Pelfrey to a two-year contract worth $11 million, despite being just 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery.

Guess who's Back?
The_dexster, Twinkie Town

After adding Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, the Twins can now add Pelfrey to their 2014 rotation. Making the 2014 locked in with Correia, Nolasco, Hughes and now Pelfrey. With Vance Worley, Samuel Deduno, Scott Diamond and Kyle Gibson battling for the final 5th spot.

The Chicago White Sox are slashing payroll to a little more than half the Tigers have committed to in 2014. A rebuild is under way, the team getting much younger in the process.

White Sox have reasons for a lower payroll
Jim Margalus, South Side Sox

That's fine, because if the Sox tried pushing this year, they'd just pop a blood vessel.

This payroll reduction feels purposeful. The opportunity cost justifies it. In order to make the pitching spending more efficient, Hahn traded Jake Peavy for Avisail Garcia. Garcia then made Alex Rios expendable. Then there are a few smaller measures, like Konerko being paid closer to what he's worth, and the bullpen veterans replaced by younger guys.

MLB News:

MLB is outlawing home plate collisions in an effort to reduce injuries, including concussions. Former Free Press columnist Mike Downey, now writing for CNN, says a rules change was overdue.

Baseball gets wussified, or comes to its senses?
Mike Downey,CNN

But come on, this is a good thing, right? Keeping a catcher from getting killed? Or a runner from breaking his neck?

Because that's what "collisions" cause, yes? Serious injury and potentially even death?

How did ex-catcher Bruce Bochy, now the manager of the San Francisco Giants, put it in a New York Times piece this week? "I think it's better to be proactive before we carry a guy off the field paralyzed and think, 'Why didn't we change this rule?' "

Pete Rose is upset, saying he doesn't believe concussions are an issue. He also thinks he was justified in essentially ending Ray Fosse's career as a top catcher by crashing into him at home plate during a meaningless exhibition, the 1970 All-Star Game. Fosse was never the same player, becoming a journeyman after suffering a significant shoulder injury on the play.

Rose against eliminating collisions
Hal McCoy, Dayton Daily News

"First of all, if they can eliminate concussions, I’m all for that," said Rose. "But I’ve thought and thought about it. The only concussions I can remember recently in baseball is Justin Morneau, and he got that sliding into second base. I know this is mostly about Buster Posey, but he got hurt when he got his ankle caught and twisted it."

But if the rule change can keep another Ryan Freel situation from occurring, the new rule will be worth it. Freel didn't play the position, but there's no spot on the field more conducive to head injuries than catcher. No one should have to risk their future health for the sake of having an 'exciting' play, the Neanderthal Rose's of the world be damned.

Family: Ryan Freel was suffering from brain disease CTE
Justin Barney, Florida Times Union

Evidence confirmed that Freel was suffering from Stage II CTE when he committed suicide on Dec. 22, 2012. The family learned of the findings on the same day that MLB announced that it approved a ban on home-plate collisions.

Freel, who retired in 2010 following an eight-year career in the majors, was reported to have suffered "nine or 10" concussions in his career.

Let's close on an up note with Max Scherzer, who is 'celebrating' the holiday season with an ugly Christmas sweater weekend!

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