@blessyouboys Why did they put Dirks on waivers? To save money?— Mike (@mikekaechele) October 31, 2014
The decision to place Andy Dirks on non-revocable waivers was puzzling at first glance, but the club never seemed that enamored with the idea of Andy Dirks as a starter. He struggled in a near-full-time role in 2013, hitting just .256/.323/.363. Then, the Tigers signed Rajai Davis last offseason, and the comments we heard at the time indicated that this wasn't meant to be a strict platoon. Then, Dirks missed all of 2014 due to multiple injuries. He has been worth 3.4 WAR in three seasons and looks to be a platoon bat at best.
The hamstring issues that officially ended Dirks' 2014 season are nothing new for him; he missed time in 2010 and 2012 due to hamstring injuries in both legs, and he dealt with a knee issue in 2013 that may have been related. Dirks has spent significant time on the disabled list in two of the past three seasons, and the team probably didn't think that he was going to be worth the money. Dirks made $1.62 million in 2014, and MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Dirks would receive a similar salary in 2015. The Tigers seem to be high on Tyler Collins' potential, and while he isn't the defender that Dirks is, he might provide a little more power off the bench.
The Tigers have tried to hint otherwise, but this move seems to be all about saving money on Dirks' salary. They seem poised to make a run at Victor Martinez, and will probably need all the payroll space they can get to avoid paying the luxury tax in 2015. Is this wrong? Not necessarily. Dirks is better than Collins, but his value will be marginalized in a part-time role. And if Dirks' injury woes continue, Collins would have been the bench outfielder anyway.
@BYBRob What farm relievers do you think could step up this year that we may not suspect, aka this year's Blaine Hardy?— Danny MacAskill (@DantheMacMan96) November 1, 2014
It may have come out in this post yesterday, but I'm higher on Melvin Mercedes than others seem to be. He has a bowling-ball sinker that induces tons of ground balls, and his slider has gotten solid reviews. He tends to rely on the fastball and can get bombed when his location is off, but he may benefit from following an experienced catcher like Alex Avila, who has been praised for his game-calling abilities. Mercedes looked great in his lone MLB appearance this season, and I think that his poor performance at Triple-A Toledo was partially due to an aggressive promotion by the organization. He only spent 25 innings at Double A the year prior, and was still only 23 years old last season. A good spring could see him heading north with the club, depending on how this offseason shakes out.
Fans are more familiar with this other name, but I think that Ian Krol bounces back next year. He was one of the Tigers' better relievers in April and May in 2014, and his numbers took a big hit when he was pitching through a shoulder injury in June. Sure, that doesn't excuse the awful numbers we saw after he came off the disabled list, but Krol won't turn 24 until next May. His command was impressive at times -- he didn't walk a batter until May 21st -- and he has decent velocity from the left side. He held left-handed batters to a .593 OPS in 2013 and should put up similar numbers if he's healthy in 2015.
A dark horse candidate for some MLB innings next year could be right-hander Angel Nesbitt. He torched the Florida State League in 2014, allowing three earned runs in 34 1/3 innings. He was called up to Double A in mid-June and didn't show any signs of slowing down, with a 2.23 ERA. His command can be iffy at times -- he walked 4.2 batters per nine innings in Erie -- but reports indicate a big bump in his fastball velocity from 2013 to 2014. The command will need to be better and his secondary offerings need work, but mistakes at 96 miles per hour are much tougher to handle than they are at 90. I would expect the Tigers to test him at Triple A to begin the year, with a call-up to Detroit if things continue like they did in '14.
@BYBRob with all of the holes the Tigers need to fill one would have to think both Price and Kinsler will be shopped. Thoughts?— tfjames (@TomFJames) November 1, 2014
The Tigers would be silly to not put feelers out for both Price and Kinsler, as the right return for either one of them could plug a lot of holes on the roster. However, I don't think that the Tigers see as many flaws in the team as we do. For one, the entire bullpen is not going to be revamped. We will get a signing or two, but that is probably it. Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Al Alburquerque, and at least one of Ian Krol, Luke Putkonen, and Blaine Hardy will likely be on the Opening Day roster. The team also seems to like Rajai Davis as a major contributor, not a platoon bat.
This means that the Tigers will be looking for an outfielder, a designated hitter, and a bullpen arm or two. Re-sign Victor Martinez and you're looking for just two or three guys. Is this worth giving up either Price or Kinsler? It depends on the return, but I'm not so sure. Barring a trade for an awesome young centerfielder, I don't know if you would be able to both recoup value and retool for 2015 in one fell swoop. The trade for Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson was one of the rarest transactions I've seen, particularly because it worked out so well. Expecting a repeat of that -- especially when Price only has one year of club control left -- is a risky venture.
I'm not one to do prospect comparisons, but J.D. Martinez and Steven Moya don't seem all that similar at first glance. In particular, here are their respective walk rates at every level in the minor leagues.
|Level||J.D. Martinez||Steven Moya|
|Short Season (A-)||7.2%||-|
|Advanced A (A+)||-||4.6%|
The comparison isn't pretty, and J.D. Martinez only has 166 career plate appearances (with 10 home runs) at the Triple A level. Martinez's problems were primarily related to his swing, which resulted in him being unable to do anything with a pitch that wasn't in his happy zone. He changed his swing and started driving pitches the other way. Doug Farnsworth of Fangraphs called the Martinez breakout way back in December of 2013 based on a simple change to Martinez's swing. The pitch recognition skills and bat speed were largely there already, as we saw when Martinez hit a Max Scherzer slider to Windsor in 2013.
Moya, on the other hand, seems to have no clue where the ball is going until after he swings. He not only has trouble identifying pitches outside the zone, but also doesn't seem to know what pitches he can handle within the strike zone. He is incredibly raw and his physical tools are even more impressive than Martinez's, but he will get eaten alive by big league pitching unless he learns to lay off of anything he can't drive. His swing is even longer and loopier than Martinez's was pre-2014, and I'm not sure that a small tweak would have the same effect.
@BYBRob What about Butler if Martinez asking price/length is too great?— Kenny (@MichAndTrumbull) November 1, 2014
Victor Martinez is probably going to get twice as much money per year as Billy Butler. He should, because he's a better hitter. However, Butler has been pretty good himself in every season prior to 2014, and it won't take a four year commitment to land him. Martinez isn't likely to repeat the power numbers he had in 2014, and the Tigers could do a lot with the $5 to $7 million they would save by signing Butler instead. There's also no telling what kind of power bump Butler would get by playing in Comerica Park instead of Kauffman Stadium, but it wouldn't be surprising to see a couple more 20 homer seasons out of him. Plus, signing Butler while letting Martinez walk nets you an extra first round pick in 2015.
If push came to shove, I'd rather have Butler at two years for $15 million than Martinez for four years at $60 million. I don't think that Martinez is going to outperform Butler by a full win from the DH spot in each of the next four seasons, and the flexibility you gain from only having Butler locked up for two years could look even more appealing down the road. An added bonus would be getting a monster year from Butler in 2016 and picking up another draft pick when he leaves via free agency, depending on what the free agent compensation system looks like at that point.