We have spent the last two weeks analyzing and re-analyzing the few position battles happening in Tigers camp this spring, and one thing is clear: it's awfully nice having the vast majority of the roster set in stone. Unlike other clubs, the Tigers know who will be in the lineup most days, and which five starters will be in their rotation. Even the back of the bullpen is settled this year, a far cry from seasons past.
So, if it seems like we're focusing an inordinate amount of content on Bryan Holaday and the fringes of the bullpen, we are. But that's a good thing.
Speaking of Holaday, his bat has yet to cool off. He is still hitting .600 this spring and has more extra base hits than Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, and Justin Upton combined. Only Steven Moya has more home runs (4), and Holaday's 2.025 OPS is the highest among any MLB player with at least 10 at-bats.
While this is still largely a product of Holaday entering camp more ready than most players, it makes for an interesting debate: has he done enough this spring to win a job?
@blessyouboys if Holiday keeps hitting, they can't really put him on waivers, can they? Someone will claim him. Would they cut Salti for him— Steve Kelly (@S_Kelly15) March 8, 2016
The Tigers were never going to cut bait with Jarrod Saltalamacchia in order to keep Holaday, and that is especially true after Saltalamacchia's hot start to the spring. He has only played in five games, but is 5-for-13 with four extra base hits. No matter what sort of swing changes Holaday made this offseason, Saltalamacchia will put up better numbers over the course of a full season.
To his credit, Holaday is making the decision as difficult as possible. Through eight games, he is hitting .600 with three home runs and three doubles, and even his outs have been well-hit. More importantly, the Tigers are using him all over the field, including at third base and in left field. This skill set is more unique than Mike Aviles' and could be worth stashing on the roster, but it doesn't seem like they're keen on cutting bait with their new utility man.
While the Tigers are paying lip service to the idea of carrying three catchers to start the year, my guess is that he is being showcased as trade bait. A catcher who can play multiple positions is valuable, especially to National League teams that dip into their bench more often. The New York Mets are looking for a backup catcher, for one, and odds are Holaday won't make it that far down the waiver wire. Even if Holaday starts the season on the 25-man roster, I imagine a trade is in the works.
What does Steven Moya need to show in Toledo this year to earn a call-up?
The only way Moya sees significant playing time at the major league level this season is if Justin Upton or J.D. Martinez are injured. Moya isn't a viable replacement for Anthony Gose or Cameron Maybin in center field, and he's better served terrorizing Triple-A pitching for five months than sitting on the Tigers' bench five days a week.
Things get interesting in 2017, though. Moya is out of minor league options after this season, one year before the Tigers potentially lose Martinez and/or Upton to free agency. If Moya performs well at Triple-A Toledo in 2016, do they keep Moya on the bench (as a somewhat redundant piece) in 2017 with hopes of him taking a starting role in 2018? Do they float his name to other teams in trade talks? We are a long way from even discussing those questions -- Moya has to figure out Triple-A first -- but it would be a nice problem to have.
How much trade value does Dixon Machado have at this point?
If Machado were worth as much to other teams as Tigers fans think, he would probably be gone by now. The 24-year-old shortstop is a defensive stud, but has not proven that he can hit enough to stay afloat as a major league regular. His 2014 season with Double-A Erie was nice, but like Moya, Machado had trouble at Triple-A, hitting .261/.313/.332 in 567 plate appearances.
Machado's stock is also hurt by the recent shortstop boom taking place around the game. Within the past three years, we have seen the debuts of Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Addison Russell. Top prospects like J.P. Crawford, Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner, Orlando Arcia, and others are on the way. Pseudo-shortstops like Manny Machado and Jung-Ho Kang may also be in the conversation. Teams simply don't need starting shortstops right now -- Ian Desmond's lackluster market this offseason is a clear indicator -- and Machado's trade value has rightly suffered.
What are your thoughts on the Tigers' shakeup a in the broadcast booths in the past two years? If you could put any human being in the radio booth with Jim Price for the innings Dan Dickerson is on TV, who would it be?
I'm not sure what the motivation is for toying with the broadcast booth over the past few years, but it's hard to argue with the results thus far. Kirk Gibson was a breath of fresh air on Fox Sports Detroit in 2015, and I say that as a big fan of what Rod Allen brings to the table. Jack Morris was my least favorite of the three analysts to sit alongside Mario Impemba last year, but even he had his moments -- those that watched the Seattle series know what I'm talking about.
I'm excited to hear Dan Dickerson call a handful of games on Fox Sports Detroit this year, but his TV debut in early spring wasn't flawless. He's used to filling dead space on the radio, and thus talked a bit much while on the TV broadcast. I'd be interested to see how Mario did on the radio call.
If we're planting someone in the booth with Jim Price for a few innings, I'd opt for utter chaos. Put Rod Allen or Jack Morris alongside Price and watch (or listen) to the magic that unfolds.