As Major League Baseball hits its unofficial Thanksgiving break -- save for whatever the Seattle Mariners are potentially doing with Marcell Ozuna -- it's fair to say that the Detroit Tigers have gotten off to a positive start this offseason. They have made a pair of solid trades thus far, acquiring players in Cameron Maybin and Francisco Rodriguez that improve the roster compared to what it was a week before.
The fit may not be there yet, but that's okay. It's still early in the offseason, and the Tigers have plenty of time to continue shaping their roster. One thing we noticed throughout the Dave Dombrowski era is the Tigers' tendency to "fill holes" during the offseason. Need a left fielder? Dave goes out and gets one. A closer? He can grab one of those too.
This is great when the roster is largely set, but this Tigers roster is less rigid. Al Avila seems to have a more flexible approach, one that may result in him tinker with the roster throughout the offseason instead of the "set it and forget it" strategy of the previous regime.
But enough of that serious talk about calm, measured approaches. It's vacation time. Let's get weird.
If you were Al Avila and the Mets offered you Matt Harvey for J.D. Martinez, would you do it?
HookSlide and I hemmed and hawed over this question on Episode 13, and eventually came to the conclusion that we would stick with J.D. Martinez. After looking deeper into the numbers, I don't think there's any question you take this deal.
I eagerly await your emails of approval, Mets fans.
For one, Harvey has an extra year of club control remaining. Sure, that can be eliminated by signing Martinez to a long-term extension -- something Harvey won't do because he's a Scott Boras client -- but that's still a risky gamble given 2017 will be his only chance at a major payday. If we get to January, I'm mashing the 'force trade' button like it's giving out free candy.
The numbers are pro-Harvey too. He has put up 10.9 WAR to Martinez's 9.0 in their two most recent seasons of performance, and he's a touch younger. Harvey was a shoo-in for the 2013 NL Cy Young Award until his elbow went on strike, and he put up 4.4 WAR in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Since 1990, 25 starting pitchers have allowed an ERA and FIP better than 2.50 in a season, but only one (Florida's Josh Johnson in 2010) isn't a household name. What Harvey did in 2013 was on par with the Pedro Martinezes and Clayton Kershaws of the world, and he has a chance to get even better.
Meanwhile, I think this is peak J.D. Martinez. Yes, it's very good, but it took a couple months of HULK SMASH production for him to get out of the doldrums he was in circa late May. I'm not trying to cast doubt over 2016; we're far past the worrying phase with Martinez. I just don't think two years of him is more valuable than three years of an elite starting pitcher.
Many analysts say that Jeff Samardzija is a good fit for the Tigers. Why does that idea rub people like running a marathon in 80 grit sandpaper?
The distaste for Samardzija goes beyond his statistics. People are advocating that the Tigers sign Ian Kennedy, and he's a far worse pitcher (though he would be cheaper), or Doug Fister, who is older and more broken. Hell, some people are amicable to a reunion with Alfredo Simon.
Part of the Samardzija hate probably stems from his time at Notre Dame, a school people don't like for a zillion different reasons. Samardzija's "football mentality" also rubs some the wrong way, though you did't see other fanbases seething with hate when Max Scherzer fist-pumped his way off the mound. Frustration, sure. But there was a second helping of respect on the side, nice and fluffy like those mashed potatoes you'll down later this week.
If we strip the names away and look purely at the numbers, Samardzija comes out ahead.
Pitcher A: 177 IP/season, 3.72 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 3.18 K/BB, 24 HR/season
Pitcher B: 174 IP/season, 3.61 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 3.01 K/BB, 18 HR/season
Pitcher C: 194 IP/season, 3.82 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 2.77 K/BB, 23 HR/season
Samardzija is Pitcher B, while Pitchers A and C are current fanbase darlings Wei-Yin Chen and Mike Leake, with all numbers taken over the past four seasons. You can cherrypick the numbers to fit your own narrative, but Samardzija's strikeout ability gives him an edge over a lot of other second-tier pitchers on the market. If you buy into the idea that 2015 was a blip on his radar, he's a solid sign, and one that might come at a slight discount because of a down year.
What do you think about going after Tim Lincecum?
Without looking it up, can you remember the last time Tim Lincecum was good? This is a serious question. Many fans have fond memories of the two-time Cy Young winner, but it has been four years since Lincecum last put up anything resembling a valuable season. From 2012 through 2015, he allowed a 4.68 ERA and 4.08 FIP. His best ERA+ during that stretch was 91, which he produced in only 76 1/3 innings this season.
Now 31, Lincecum is coming off September hip surgery. He has planned a January showcase for MLB teams hoping to sign him, one that I hope the Tigers skip. He was paid $18 million in 2015, and probably doesn't warrant much more than a minor league deal at this point. Someone will give him a major league contract because he's a four-time All-Star, but it would be a minor miracle if he ever lands number five.
Which free agent with a qualifying offer do you think signs last?
Had Brett Anderson declined his qualifying offer, this might be a nice little debate to have, but Ian Kennedy is by far the worst free agent on the market with a draft pick attached to his name. Many people smarter than myself have questioned Kennedy's decision to decline the offer -- especially when Matt Wieters, another Scott Boras client, accepted his -- and many expect Kennedy to go into the regular season unsigned, a la Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales in 2014.
Of course, we said this about Michael Cuddyer last year and he was the first one to sign. Also, Kennedy is a pitcher, and one who pitches a lot of innings. Teams will fall over themselves to acquire these innings eaters, because pitching badly for six innings is apparently more valuable than pitching badly for two. Kennedy's strikeout rate is nice, but he gives up too many home runs and is generally bad. He has an ERA+ of 89 over the past four seasons, with a high water mark of 101 in 2012.
I'm going to take a shot in the dark and say that it will be Ian Desmond. Yes, he's a shortstop, and one with that mythical power-speed combo at that, but he has been trending downward since 2012 and was brutal in the field last season. He will be looking for top dollar on the market, but there aren't many teams that need a shortstop. Of the ones that do, only the New York Mets have the deep pockets to meet Desmond's demands.