It may not be the most wonderful time of the baseball year -- that distinction is reserved for Opening Day -- but the best week of the offseason is here! With the Winter Meetings in full swing, we have gotten plenty of submissions for this week's mailbag. Be sure to send us your questions for next week on Facebook, on Twitter, or via email at email@example.com!
With all the talk of a Porcello for Cespedes trade it makes me wonder why there has been no talk of trading for Matt Kemp. Is that a pipe dream or would it make any sense? To me, it seems to make a lot of sense for both teams because L.A. has too many starting outfielders and needs pitching. Detroit needs an outfielder and could get away with one less pitcher. Plus, with the Rays' ex GM now in charge of L.A., wouldn't it make sense for him to want Price? Now I wouldn't do an even swap for the two players but if LA threw in some prospects, bullpen help, or something to sweeten the pot it would make for an interesting trade prospect to me.
Of the Dodgers outfielders that could reasonably be acquired via trade -- sorry, y'all, Joc Pederson ain't happening -- Matt Kemp would be the guy I'd choose. For one, he's simply a better player than either Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford. Kemp nearly cracked the 40/40 barrier in 2011, and has a pair of five win seasons to his name despite being pretty brutal defensively in center field. He also stayed healthy in 2014, and hit a scalding .309/.365/.606 in the second half. Buster Posey was the only qualified hitter in baseball to post a higher wRC+ than Kemp after the All-Star break. Kemp has the potential to be a lineup-changing bat, even if his defense is awful.
Now, before everyone loses it, I'm not advocating trading David Price for Kemp. Not. One. Bit. Price is a more valuable commodity in 2014, and Kemp's contract is a big worry. But Kemp at least gives you a chance at recouping most of the value on his current deal, whereas Ethier and Crawford are almost entirely dead weight at this point in their respective careers. Does Kemp make sense for the Tigers? Not really, especially when he might fetch a player like Yasmani Grandal -- in an intradivisional trade, no less -- in return.
Just a few days ago, I might have said that the Tigers' window was open for at least a few more years. That hasn't really changed, but the moves that other AL Central teams are making right now are chipping away at the Tigers' "clear favorites" tag heading into 2015. The White Sox are currently pursuing both Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson, while the Cleveland Indians picked up Brandon Moss for pennies on the dollar. Even the Royals are exploring their options, with feelers out to Ervin Santana and Melky Cabrera. A division race that was once proclaimed to be over before Memorial Day may turn into a four-team slugfest by the end of the week. This is how fickle these "windows" can be at times.
That said, the Tigers still have time. The majority of their core is under contract for at least two more seasons, with Rick Porcello and David Price the only real exceptions. I would expect one of them to be re-signed after the 2015 season. While some may see this as locking the club in with the current core for better or worse, Dave Dombrowski has shown a willingness to shake things up. He is not afraid to trade fan favorites, as we have seen multiple times in the past few years. This doesn't mean that Miguel Cabrera is on the trade block -- he's as untouchable as it gets, I'd imagine -- but a surprise deal or two may be in the offing so that the Tigers don't end up like the Philadelphia Phillies, which seems to be everyone's worst fear.
@blessyouboys what do the Tigers go into spring training with a bigger question mark, corner outfielder or the bullpen?— Colin Poulin (@poulin22) December 7, 2014
There is a lot of time left before March. The bullpen and outfield are both problem areas, but we won't know which one will be the bigger problem area for at least another month. There is potential for a lot to change this week, and this answer may even be obsolete by the time you read it.
But the answer here is the bullpen. Provided Joel Hanrahan makes the team, the Tigers have $20 million locked up in three relievers with major question marks surrounding them. Joe Nathan was old and bad in 2014, Joakim Soria was not effective once he arrived in Detroit, and Hanrahan didn't pitch in 2014. Then you have Bruce Rondon coming off a Tommy John surgery of his own, Ian Krol trying to bounce back from an awful season, and Blaine Hardy still attempting to make it in the big leagues with marginal stuff. Is Al Alburquerque the surest thing in the bullpen? That's downright frightening.
By comparison, concerns about the outfield seem overblown. Rajai Davis shouldn't be a full time left fielder, but he put up 1.4 WAR in 494 plate appearances last season. That's passable given the star power elsewhere on this team (though the 0.7 WAR Steamer projects is not). Anthony Gose is projected for 1.4 WAR of his own, and I'd wager that involves a conservative estimate of his defensive abilities.
If anything, J.D. Martinez is the biggest question mark of the group simply because of his higher expectations. Steamer projects him for just 1.9 WAR, a sharp decline from the 3.7 wins he contributed in 2014. The Tigers will be in good shape if he gets back to the three win plateau in 2015 -- their outfield only contributed 6.7 total WAR last season -- but could be in trouble if he reverts to pre-2014 offensive numbers.
@blessyouboys What are the chances of Steven Moya making the opening day roster?— Kenny Sledge (@KennySledge) December 7, 2014
I'd like to say they are no higher than five percent, but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. We have talked ad nauseum about Moya's plate discipline issues this offseason, but they're worth noting again. Moya struck out 161 times in 515 plate appearances at Double A last season. He walked 23 times, two of which were intentional. Of his 161 punch-outs, 141 were swinging. He has a long, uppercut swing that generates tons of power, but also leaves him prone to whiffing on lots of pitches. Here's a look at his swing when he played for West Michigan in 2012 (h/t MLB Farm).
Moya has reportedly made some adjustments since then, but the general idea is the same. He needs more at-bats to improve his pitch recognition. Without the ability to distinguish a fastball from a breaking ball -- especially from a left-handed pitcher -- he will never make it in the big leagues. A year at Triple A with a possible late season call-up makes the most sense to me.
One thing I don't understand is why the Tigers don't have Moya playing winter ball. Of anyone to send to Venezuela or the Dominican for more at-bats, you would think Moya would be the top choice in the entire organization. It's possible that the Tigers are shopping him for a trade -- they pulled the same "showcase and swap" maneuver with Domingo Leyba already -- but I think Moya is one of those prospects you sit on and hope he puts it all together. Will he? I have my doubts. But I don't think his trade value is high enough to bring anything meaningful in return.
@blessyouboys Who would be the most likely January "surprise" acquisition for the Tigers, a la the Fielder signing?— Jeff Waegelin (@jwaegelin) December 7, 2014
I don't necessarily know if re-signing Max Scherzer would be considered a "surprise" acquisition -- though I think that ship has sailed -- so I'll say an established bullpen arm that squeaked through the cracks in December. The Tigers played a similar game with Jose Valverde prior to the 2010 season, signing him at a slight discount in mid-January. The circumstances are a bit different this time around, as the Tigers already have a closer in Joe Nathan. However, I wouldn't put it past Dave Dombrowski to sign a Sergio Romo or Pat Neshek type player if the price is right.