If you’d rather read than listen, here’s a transcript for the BYB Podcast, Episode 5.
A: Ashley McLennan
B: Brandon Day
R: Rob Rogacki
[intro music: Pia Fraus -- “You Look Fine”]
B: Okay, welcome back everyone. The Bless You Boys Podcast is back on the air, episode 5. We’ve taken a little hiatus for the past couple weeks, but we’re back and we’ll be recording regularly the rest of the year. This is your host, Brandon Day, I’m a staff writer and editor at Bless You Boys, which is your home on SBNation for all things Detroit Baseball. We’ve got a couple of guests with us today, my usual co-host Ashley McLennan, who’s also a staff writer and editor. Ashley, how’s it going tonight?
A: Not too shabby, how about you?
B: I’m pretty good. I just drove home through the snow.
A: Did you see the meteor?
B: I did not see the meteor. Somehow I survived the meteor, and if aliens have been released from canisters and are laying waste to Detroit, I’ll have no idea about it. And if we just go off the air, you can assume that’s what probably happened.
R: I’ve heard there are fake videos and all that stuff going on already.
B: People are just taking random meteor GIFs and just saying they saw it, and that’s just a complete disaster. So yeah, that’s how bored we are in Tiger-ville, that that’s lighting-up Twitter all over the place. We’ve also got our esteemed site editor tonight, Rob Rogacki, who is here with us for the first time. Rob, how’s it going?
R: Not bad. I studied for this podcast by studying like I did in college, and by that I mean cramming and listening to the first half of the first podcast. So, I think I’m all caught up to speed: it’s about the Tampa Bay Rays and Dr. Who, right?
A: You know, you kinda got the gist of our podcast.
R: I figured as much.
B: Yeah, you’ve nailed most of the important parts. It’s good to know that’s how you become a doctor. That makes me comfortable. Let’s jump right in. Rob, you haven’t been on the show yet, we’ve been off for a couple weeks too; Ashley and I haven’t weighed-in on this a whole lot, but the offseason is mercifully crawling to an end here. We’re going to see some action in about a month, but the Tigers maybe have a few things left to do, maybe there’s a free agent signing. We know there’ll be a whole bunch of pickups and drop/adds all through Spring Training, to back to the school reference. How are your feelings right now about how the Tigers handled the off-season, with the minor-league signings, picking up Fiers – are they doing the right things so far?
R: It’s really hard to nit-pick anything they’ve been doing so far. You have the Pete Kozma thing, which caused of, I don’t even want to say “argument” on the site. There were people saying, “Oh, this is kinda weird,” and there were other people saying this means absolutely nothing. And everyone was arguing in circles saying absolutely nothing. But the fact of the matter is that they don’t really need to do much right now. They’re almost in a waiting period where they need to make sure they need to develop their prospects during the year, and they need to make sure that they nail the draft next year, especially that number-one pick. Right now it’s about filling out a bit of depth, maybe taking some flyers on some guys, and I think that’s why people are upset at Kozma and a couple of these other signings. They want someone a little bit younger, someone with at least slightly more upside. You’re not going to get too much for someone on a minor-league deal, but getting a little bit of that upside would have been a bit nicer to see. But overall I can’t really fault too much; I think they picked up a couple of interesting guys along the way, and we’ll just have to see what happens in Spring Training.
B: That’s the hard part about this offseason, you can’t really do much. The Tigers really need to give their prospects time to breathe, time to see what we’ve got there. They’ve still got a couple guys to deal, but yeah, by and large these are small moves, and because that’s all we have to talk about, we’ve been ripping them to shreds, and getting into super-minutia on all these things.
R: We had people literally requesting that we write about, who’s the guy we picked up from the Pirates?
B: Johnny Barbato.
R: Barbato? I don’t even know how we say that. He was a younger pickup, but still a guy they claimed off waivers that could maybe never even throw a pitch in a Tigers uniform. And literally, everyone’s just clamouring for any sort of analysis on that. That’s just how slow it’s been. We get the Kozma news that we put out a post that was maybe 300 words, and it turns out we get 150 comments on that. People are just starved for news at this point, and it’s almost – it’s tough to see this team go from the star-studded roster it once was, to Miguel Cabrera and Nick Castellanos and... who else is on the team now?
B: Yeah, it’s a blast of cold water. I think everyone’s uncomfortably squirming because we’re just not used to this, and trying to figure out – there must be some quick fix, there must be some way to turn this thing around quickly. And there just isn’t; I’ve had my own moments of, “Ah, what if we just traded for Christian Yelich and then sign Manny Machado?”
R: “Or sign Yu Darvish.”
A: “Yeah, just get Yu Darvish, no problem.”
R: Screw it. Just sign someone.
B: I like the minor-league signings, I think they did pick up a pretty good pack of arms, as good as you can do in a minor-league kind of deal. But you know, Ryan Carpenter, Kevin Comer, those are guys you can throw into Toledo and they should fit right in as guys who could maybe help you out, but probably aren’t going to do anything. And I like the Fiers signing, I can’t complain about that either.
R: With any one of those guys, if you get one guy who sticks out of that entire group, I think they did a good job. That’s really all you’re trying to do there, grabbing as many lottery tickets as you can, and see if you can get one to stick.
B: Anything particularly standing out to you, Ashley? I know it’s been a bleak offseason.
A: I think Rob really touched on all of it. There’s not a lot of excitement, but none of it’s really disappointing either. I don’t think any of us thought they would do much of anything at all this offseason, and I think the fact they aren’t doing much of anything at all is what’s making people clamour for all those little bits. I thought they’d trade more, honestly, and we’re seeing a little bit of that rumour-mill with talk of Nick Castellanos being a moveable piece, and Jose Iglesias being a moveable piece. Honestly, at this point, if they can trade them for anything, I don’t even hold onto players anymore. If the Giants are in a mood where they feel like buying every franchise player on the market, maybe we can sell them a Miguel Cabrera. At this point, any move they make, I don’t have it in me to feel bad or angry at them for doing it. And I think anything we can get back in return that, as Rob said, anything – that one spaghetti-piece that sticks to the wall, anything would be a big perk for us, for the team.
B: It’s in an amorphous state where you’re trying to find this piece or that piece to complete a roster. You have nothing, and a better stock of talent in the minor leagues, and it’s really hard to know how to start moving all those pieces when there’s no way of putting it together in anything better than a very lucky .500 team, which is not going to happen.
A: I think, if they go out and pick anything at this point, it’s going to be a utility guy, or an infielder, someone who can play second or third, flexibly with a little shortstop. That’s the only thing I think they could use. With only prospects available to play those positions, I think having an established utility infield player would be a smart pickup.
R: I think that’s part of the reason they went after Kozma, too. They went after him, really, because they needed another infielder. At the time they signed him – I don’t think he’s on the 40-man roster at this point, I think he was a minor-league signing – I think the only infielders they had on the 40-man roster were their starters for this year, and then Dawel Lugo and Sergio Alcantara, both guys who are going to be in the minor leagues for, if not all this season. So they literally needed another infielder to just help get through the year, so I imagine Kozma’s almost a lock to make the roster on Opening Day, if someone else doesn’t emerge through Spring Training or if they don’t sign someone else. I think they could certainly use someone else too, whether it’s a veteran or someone who’s a little bit younger with a bit of big-league experience. Who’s the other Alcanatra I suggested? I think he’s still out there. Someone like that, who would be nice to grab too.
B: Yeah, I was thinking, as far as actually spending a little bit of money and trying to get a free agent, there is still Eduardo Nunez. It’s just so hard to read the free-agent market right now, I’m just not sure you’d be able to get him. I’m sure you’d be able to get him for five, six million for one year, the way things are going right now, but I don’t know if that’s particularly worth the odds of a guy like that being tradeable at the deadline for anything worthwhile, probably pretty slim. You might get a Jose Iglesias or something if you’re real lucky, but it’s not going to be much.
A: My vote’s still for Darwin Barney.
B: Yeah, Darwin Barney, I’d be fine with that. I could live with it. All my expectations are now shattered and low.
A: He’d be so cheap. I think he’d be a $2 million pickup for a year.
R: Speaking of random former Blue Jays infielders, is Munenori Kawasaki still available?
A: Oh, I don’t know.
R: Give me him. Give me someone who’s going to be a fun interview.
A: Speaking of the Jays, with the Grandy pickup, I thought that was an interesting signing.
R: For $5 million, I’m kind of disappointed the Tigers didn’t grab him.
A: The Tigers have too much in the outfield as it is at this point, but he would’ve been so much fun for the year.
R: I think that’s the one guy they could’ve picked up to actually sell tickets. Aside from bringing Verlander back, which wasn’t going to happen. Picking up Granderson, I think you would’ve offset a little bit of that salary with the uptick in tickets. That’s one guy you can really market to the fanbase. I think there was a Tweet tonight of someone saying they’re not marketing any players, with the season ticket sales they’re basically just, I think their biggest promo was Bark at the Park night. Which, you know, I get, but at the same time, they don’t really have anyone on this roster to market. You could market Iglesias and Castellanos and parade them in front of the fans, but they might be gone in four months, if not sooner. Cabrera is probably going to be around, but at this point everyone’s wondering how his back’s going to hold up, how his legs are going to hold up, and so, how much longer can you really market him as this face of the franchise?
B: It’s kind of telling that, I assume all these promotions are set-on months ago, even from now... and they didn’t put Fulmer on there. You’d think that Michael Fulmer’s the one young, awesome, talented player that you could see really breaking out into a star, potentially, and they didn’t put him on there either. You have to wonder, did they think they were going to trade him? Were they that far along that they thought they could? I don’t really know, but Curtis Granderson would’ve been fun. Curtis Granderson’s obviously not a star anymore, but he still put up, I think, 2.1 WAR last year; he’s still hitting for some power. It would’ve been kind of fun, but like you guys said, there’s five fourth-outfielders on this squad, when you look at Gerber and Stewart both waiting at Toledo, and you don’t want to back those guys off if either one of them has a nice start to the year. You want to bring them up. But, finding some kind of an infielder, and maybe another reliever, to help get you through. Someone like possibly an innings-eating-type middle relief candidate, somebody like that still seems like a possibility, but yeah, it’s going to be slim pickings. Craig Wallard on Twitter was asking if there was a benefit to trading Nick Castellanos now, versus at the deadline – assuming Nick is what we think he is already, is there anything gained by keeping him? What do we think Nick Castellanos could bring right now? I’m thinking not much more than what Ian Kinsler brought, if at all. You might find a team to bank on Nick hitting more home runs in a different ballpark, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot of meat on the bone there, as far as a trade now, or at the deadline.
R: I think you might get a third player for a Castellanos. I can see teams giving up a couple lower-level prospects, or maybe someone not with a lower ceiling, but closer to MLB-ready, for someone like Castellanos. I think that, whether they trade him now or at the deadline, it’s probably in their best interest to trade him this year, just because you have more service time available for the team that’s picking him up. If someone goes out and trades for him now, they’re getting a young, cost-controlled vet for two years. Obviously his glove is a big concern, and whether his bat is really going to break out is still up in the air; the StatCast numbers look good, but they’ve looked good for the last couple of years now, and he’s still kind-of scuffling along. He had a 120 OPS+ in 2016, but backed off to 110 last year, even with all the home runs and RBIs that he had. And so you’re still banking on that progression a little bit; sure, he may come out and really hit the cover off the ball in the first four months and really up his trade value some, but then again the team that’s trading for him is getting four less months than what they would be right now. I think that’s the best-case scenario, is that he does come out and hit really well in the first half, maybe even sneaks his way into the All-Star Game, or close to that bubble somehow. And I think that’s probably the highest trade value you’re going to get for him. But that’s a gamble, if he comes out and hits like a league-average player like the first four months of the year, you’re probably not going to get much for him.
A: I’d say the only benefit he has going for him over Kinsler is the time of contract that the team would get picking him up. Kinsler’s a one-year; you might get slightly more for Castellanos, but not much.
B: He is 25; I could see some of those teams looking at those StatCast numbers and whatever much-deeper numbers they have, and they could come to the conclusion that, yeah, this is a guy who maybe could break out a little bit more. We don’t know where Nick is going to hit this year, but if he’s hitting, say, fourth – in this lineup he may actually draw some more walks last year, just on the basis of being one of the only two guys in this lineup who you could even have the slightest concern pitching to, really. Candelario, you probably don’t want to pitch to him with runners on base, ideally, but he’s not going to crush you. So maybe there’s a little meat on the bone, but it’s also possible that Nick comes out and is just ghastly in right field, and then everyone’s looking at him like, nope, this is just a bat, and there’s nowhere we can play this guy. You do have the advantage that you do have the no-trade clauses that Kinsler had so you can go where you want, but if you quickly come down to only a few AL teams that would even be able to fit him in their roster anywhere and make use of him, I don’t think you’re really going to get enough for him right now to even bother. So I’m on the side right now of waiting, and I don’t think it’s going to come out to be much difference either way.
R: I think the best-case scenario for the Tigers with Castellanos right now would be if J.D. Martinez signed someone besides Boston, you could potentially see the Red Sox going hard after Castellanos. Obviously their GM, Dave Dombrowski, is the one who drafted Castellanos in the first place. So they could plug him into whatever role they’re planning for Martinez. Where the heck are they even going to play him if they sign him? They have an outfield already. Mookie Betts is their right fielder, right?
B: You’ve got Hanley Ramirez.
R: Is he just going to DH or what? They have Moreland and Ramirez already, so it’s really... I’m trying to piece together exactly what Boston is thinking with him. So maybe they’d go after Castellanos, maybe they wouldn’t. Castellanos for all those defensive faults offers a little bit more positional versatility than a Martinez, because he can stand at third base with a glove in his hand. Depending on how much they’re hoping for out of him, and... who was their third baseman last year, anyways?
B: They’ve got Devers.
A: The big thing ahead of the deadline is that they were thinking of picking up Todd Frazier, and the Yankees just went in and nabbed that away from them.
B: I’m not sure anyone wants Todd Frazier so badly, but he always seems to land on his feet.
R: The Yankees didn’t want Frazier, they wanted the relievers more than anything.
B: They got Robertson and Kahnle in the same deal.
A: I honestly think they took Frazier so that Boston couldn’t get him, because it was pretty clear up to the trade deadline that Boston really wanted third base help, and Frazier was a good fit for them. And I honestly think the Yankees took Frazier in that package just to be like, LOL.
B: I don’t want to disparage Todd Frazier too much, he’s a solid defender and he’ll hit some home runs, but he’s kind of like the Curtis Granderson of third base at this point, where Curtis is now this low-average, hit you some home runs, and doesn’t really do a lot for you. I was thinking maybe the Cardinals – I can’t remember who it was on MLB Radio, but they were talking about the Cardinals not wanting to play Jedd Gyorko as their full-time third baseman. And there’s some concerns about Kolten Wong at second base, and Paul DeJong had a great rookie year. But we’ve seen that from Aledmys Diaz the year before where they bring somebody up and until the league figures him out he looks good, until he falls apart. And having Castellanos over there, that would free them up to use Gyorko wherever they want; if someone’s in a slump, you could put him out in right field. It just comes back to, if you don’t really have a place to play him, you’re stashing this guy on the bench, a part-time player, part-time pinch-hitter, and you’re just not going to get a whole lot out of that. I could see maybe the Rangers doing something like that, possibly, but I don’t really understand what’s going on with the Rangers. They seem to think they can win somehow, and I see no path for that. Even if they sign Yu Darvish, I really don’t buy it. Oakland looks better, Seattle’s still good, the Angels are better, and you’re just not going to mess with the Astros, after Gerrit Cole gets in there. That is a nasty team.
A: There are a lot of teams this offseason that are giving me big question-marks as to what their plan is, or lack thereof.
R: Part of it is because nobody’s doing anything. You’ve had a few teams make some big moves, but other than that, you’re looking at two-thirds of the teams in baseball that have barely done anything. I think Jeff Passan wrote today that close to a third of teams haven’t even signed a free agent this offseason.
B: There were two big deals this week and they were both trades.
A: I heard somewhere, the number will still be close because there haven’t been a lot of free agent signings since, but something like only 18% of free agents had signed, as of the start of January. It’s ridiculous.
B: Bizarro World.
A: Just ahead of the arbitration deadline you had that sports agent scandal, where a guy who had Jake Odorizzi from the Braves, and a couple other big-name players, was just suddenly not there repping. And I’m not going to get into that story, it’s ridiculous and insane, but yeah, things are happening everywhere and nobody’s getting traded.
B: There’s all kinds of news, but there’s no free agents on the move. And I’m reading into that; Jeff Passan wrote a pretty good article that we haven’t all had time to digest, but basically just talking about what’s going on with the free agent market. We’ve heard a litany of reasons for why nothing has moved; first it was the Stanton and Ohtani business, and teams are just waiting for the holidays, and teams are waiting for arbitration hearings. And in the meantime there are big moves being made but every one of them has been a trade. Are we going to see this break at some point? Sometime within the next few weeks, players start signing, taking what they can get? Or are we looking at the ugliest scenario here where we get to late February and you have half the free agents in the game working out together at a camp and scheming about what’s wrong with the game, talking about the next Collective Bargaining agreement. It feels like things are coming to a head; I’d expected things to break by at least now, and we don’t seem that close. I don’t even hear that many rumours of teams being linked to each other. Rob, how are you processing the bizarrely slow free agent market?
R: I still think we’re going to get the free agent fire hose, with a flurry of signings. Scott Boras is doing his thing with some of the top guys, but I can’t see teams... I see someone folding with the whole J.D. Martinez thing at some point, caving and giving him the money he deserves. Eric Hosmer has already been rumoured to have a gaudy contract offer on the books, and I think that’s probably going to happen at some point, whether it’s the Royals folding or maybe the Padres giving him a big offer. I think that some of these top guys are going to get money; maybe some of these mid-tier guys, I can see some of them going unsigned into the season. I think that Granderson got a relatively cheap contract at $5 million; we may see some other guys take a little bit less money. But then you look at a guy like Jay Bruce, who got the kind of money that statistical models thought he would. I think he was three years, $39 million with the Mets. Are the Mets only signing corner outfielders now? They have, I think, eight corner outfielders on their roster.
B: Meanwhile, their infield is terrible. There haven’t been a lot of good infield free agents, but I’d peg them to be the kind of team who’d try to pick up Eduardo Nunez, somebody versatile who maybe would get hot in various stretches and give you some help. But there’s no accounting for the Mets.
A: At some point everyone on that team is going to be on the disabled list, so they’ve gotta have backups.
R: That’s fair. I still think that, at some point, we’re going to get a flurry of signings. By the end of the offseason, salaries may be a little bit depressed, but we’re going to look back and say, “Oh hey, those last couple weeks were insane, weren’t they?”
A: I think big thing too will be when we get one of those three big free-agent pitchers signed somewhere. When you get a Darvish or a Cobb or an Arrieta signed somewhere, that’s going to move things along because teams are going to stop being like, “Oh, maybe we could’ve gotten him.” And they’ll just take what they can get.
B: At some point the pitching is going to get signed, but no one’s just going to leave Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish or Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn on the table. I do wonder, though, I could see guys like Hosmer, Moustakas and J.D., either having to settle for a lot less than they thought they were going to get, or they’re going to have to wait it out and see if anybody changes their posture in February. What I see happening right now is teams pivoting away from the free-agent market and looking at, “How can I fill this with a trade that doesn’t cost me that much in prospects?” We’ve seen the Astros, and now the Giants, not really give up much of note to pick from the Pirates and take Gerrit Cole to the Astros and Andrew McCutcheon to San Francisco. I was pretty much on the same page, that I expected this all to break at some point, but I keep seeing teams leaning that way more. There are teams who are rebuilding, who have some talent, a Nick Castellanos, I wouldn’t have thought was going to be traded, but we got a rumour the other day that they were shopping, and hearing some offers on him. That seems like teams trying to find a way around this; teams do not want to sign anybody for more than three or four years if they can help it. I won’t be surprised if this is still an issue; the dam will break to some degree, but I won’t be surprised if we’re still talking about this into Spring Training, which is going to be weird.
A: Part of me wonders if it’s that teams don’t want to commit to three or four, or in some cases insane five or seven year contracts with these guys, when you have a strong class coming up next year. I think there may be a little bit of foresight leading to hesitancy because of that; you’ve got Bryce Harper coming out next year, and I think there’s a couple more huge names hitting free agency in the 2019 season. So I think that might be leading teams to be gunshy to committing to longer-term contracts because, why do you want to give up $150 million for one guy, when you could maybe hold onto that and be in on some of those big names next year?
R: Part of it, too, seems like the big names on the market this year aren’t offering the same kind of big-time production you’d expect out of normal players. Last year the market was, not necessarily slower, but thinner than we have this year, but teams knew that going in so there weren’t any really top free agents. This year you’ve got a lot of top free agents like J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer; Hosmer I think a little bit more than Martinez, because you’re still paying for potential moreso than actual production for him. You have these guys who are being billed as top guys and who are asking for $150 million or $200 million, and in past years those guys wouldn’t be the top free agents on the market. So they wouldn’t be expecting those kind of contracts, and that’s where everything’s bogging down so much.
B: It probably doesn’t help to speak to those flaws, like Jake Arrieta, his velocity has never been that good, he’s seen his production fall two years in a row. And then Yu Darvish came back and looked pretty good after Tommy John surgery, but of course then was god-awful, almost unuseable in the postseason, and that was on display for everybody to see. So that definitely didn’t help his market at all. I think that’s a good point too, there’s definitely some flaws out there, these guys aren’t the high-end, super-top-tier calibre guys. But you also look at those guys like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado; most of the teams that haven’t done anything – we all know the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Dodgers, they don’t want to sign any free agents right now because they’re also fighting the luxury tax. But those are the teams that are going to be in play for those big guys, and I’m not sure that a lot of other teams who are more mid-tier and could spend some money right now are really going to be players for Bryce Harper and a $300 million contract anyway. So that could play into it as well; I think some of these teams, if they’re really worried that, “Oh, we’re going to be spending our money this year, and all these guys are going to be out there next year,” they’re kidding themselves because most of them aren’t going to be players for those type of talents anyway.
R: One of the big things is just the balance between teams right now. This is something that Dave Cameron wrote about, I think in his last actual piece at FanGraphs; are superteams part of the reason that this offseason has been so slow? If you look at the American League, there are three, four very clear contenders for division title. You have the Indians in the Central, the Astros in the West, and the Red Sox and the Yankees fighting it out in the East. Maybe you have a fifth team in the Angels that is probably going to be looking at the second Wild Card spot. After that there’s a pretty big drop-off, so teams are reluctant to spend because they have little to no shot at a division title; are we even going to be able to catch up to the Wild Card? The last couple years I think that’s been the case, you’ve seen teams go out and spend, whether it was the Tigers a couple of years ago, teams like the Blue Jays or Orioles picking up a couple of guys late in the free agent market to try to get to that point. But this year I think the gap is growing, especially with the Yankees acquiring Stanton, the Astros acquiring Cole. The rich are getting richer, and I think that growing gap is part of the reason for it too.
B: I can think of a few, the Mariners probably think they’ve got a shot at a Wild Card, maybe the Blue Jays. There are some other teams, maybe the Twins would like to think they’re at the beginning of a run. But you look at, especially, the Astros and the Yankees right now, and they look like juggernauts; it’s hard to look at some of those other teams competing with the Indians. The Angels are an interesting case because they’ve done a lot of smart things this the offseason, but there’s still so much risk in that rotation, so I don’t know how high I’d rate them in the “this team’s gonna get a Wild Card” docket either.
R: It really depends on guys staying healthy. It depends on Ohtani being the guy that they are hoping he’s going to be. If he’s not your number-one or number-two in that rotation, you have Garrett Richards and who else on that staff?
B: Matt Shoemaker and Andrew Heaney, you don’t know what you’re going to get from that. So it’s treacherous out there for teams, especially in the American League, thinking they’re going to do something. The National League’s a little different; the Dodgers seem to stand out above everybody, but the NL Central has three teams who, at least, believe in themselves as contenders. It seems as if there’s a little more parity there; not in the National League East so much, but everywhere else. That may be affecting it as well, just that general look at what your chance are, actually trying to win a World Series, looking at the juggernauts ahead of you and thinking, nope, I’m not gonna be interested.
R: I hope the NL Wild Card race is going to be interesting next year. You have the Brewers and the Cardinals, perhaps even the Cubs if they fall back a little bit, in the NL Central fighting it out for one or two spots. The Diamondbacks, the Rockies, even the Giants if they think they’re going to contend. Who knows how good the Padres are going to be if these prospects come up towards the big leagues too. There’s going to be some exciting races even if the division titles are all but locked up pretty early.
B: The National League looks to me like the more interesting road to the playoffs next year. It’s just really hard to see – I could see the Yankees falling a little bit because of the lack of starting pitching, but that bullpen is so deep, you could put Buck Farmer as their fifth starter and probably be alright, you could make that work.
R: I don’t know if I’d go that far.
B: Maybe not, but you put a Buck out there for three innings, then you just pour one super-reliever after another out there.
R: I am interested if they could do something like that this year, turn him and other failed starters into two-inning guys and see what they could do if they just air it out. What the Astros did in the playoffs with Charlie Morton, when they had to piece-meal their bullpen. If someone like Farmer or VerHagen, these guys who have been brought up through the minors throwing 100-plus innings as starters. The Anthony Swarzak kind of role where teams just say, “Okay, go for two or three innings, see how you do.” Not every reliever’s going to be able to fit in that mould, but if you have one or two guys on your staff that can handle that, it would be interesting to see how teams start to manage this a bit more through the regular season in the future.
A: That would be interesting to see, actually.
B: You take Chris Archer, put him on a team like the Astros, and tell him to just dominate for four or five innings every four days, and just keep feeding him through your roster to see if that would work.
A: Anywhere after the fifth inning he gets really questionable, but those first four he’s so strong.
B: You get to the fifth inning and he’s got ten strikeouts and nobody’s reached base, then he falls apart. It would be interesting to see if the Tigers actually do anything interesting like that, because the opportunity is right here to convert some starters to relief. The guys you mentioned; you go a little bit further into the minor leagues and Sandy Baez has been hanging around the past two years as a Rule 5-protected guy who has this monster fastball and a really good splitter, but hasn’t really taken strides to be a starter who can consistently give you six. I’d be interested to see if the Tigers make any moves like that, to try to convert somebody this year. Worked out with Shane Greene just fine.
R: And then he might be a trade chip.
B: Yep, he’s probably going to go. There’s another guy; is it better to trade Shane Greene now, or is it better to risk the arm and let him hopefully rack up a few saves? I don’t know how many save opportunities we’re going to have.
R: No, I think with him you have to wait until the deadline. The premium on relievers has been so high the last few years; if he comes out and has a really good first half, does what Justin Wilson did last year, maybe even a little bit more, given how he looked down the stretch last year, you could really squeeze a lot out of a team for a guy like Greene.
A: When the desperation is high.
R: Yeah, with a full season under his belt looking like a truly dominant closer, dominant reliever. I think teams would pay through the nose for that.
B: We’re seeing more of that; teams who are waiting. It makes perfect sense that your value goes through the roof; relievers are so volatile that when you see a guy have a strong first half, that’s like, “Okay!” We’ve at least seen that much this year; he’s suddenly worth a lot more, and for all the deals that Al Avila made in the past year that were just okay or somewhat disappointing, he absolutely robbed the Cubs. That was a really good deal for us; he does need some props for that one. That’s looking like a pretty good deal. Paredes is shooting up prospect lists as we speak.
R: That deal, at the time, we probably should have said that it made the Tigers better immediately. Not five, six years in the future when hopefully both Candelario and Paredes are both up in the major leagues. They got their starting third baseman for a reliever that was going to absolutely nothing for them down the stretch, who actually fell apart down the stretch.
B: And many of us believed that he would fall apart. Because he just doesn’t seem to be good for a whole season; he doesn’t seem to be able to keep it together. We’ll see; maybe he’ll be able to turn it around for them this year. Whenever we send somebody somewhere I always at least half-heartedly am rooting for them. That was an ugly deal, going over; Ashley would know better than any of us because she works at Bleed Cubbie Blue a little bit too. People could not have been really happy with the Justin Wilson trade in the second half.
A: He was definitely not the highlight of that trade for Cubs fans.
B: They did get Alex Avila’s beard, you know. What else do you want, really?
R: Are they going to re-sign him or what?
R: What was that whole thing with their Instagram or whatever, the other day? Did you guys see that? They posted something about Avila in particular. Maybe it was just a Throwback Thursday picture or something like that, but it seemed a little cryptic; maybe they were going to bring him back?
A: He’d be a smart sign for them, honestly. I think he’d be a great pickup; he’s already expressed interest in wanting to play for a team that’s going to contend. He seems to fit in fine as a backup catcher there. Why change if you’ve already found a place that you can work with and fits the mould for what you’re hoping for? I’m not sure that he’s going to get a better option elsewhere.
B: He knows the staff there, they need a backup catcher. It really seems perfect, because if they don’t want him, I’d take him back. I’m all about getting Alex Avila back and hoping he has another good first half.
A: Trade him again.
B: Haul in some good prospects. Keep using him as reusable bait. I think I’m just going to skip the Hall of Fame ballot at the moment. I’m not stoked; I haven’t looked into it enough.
R: After Trammell got in, I just can’t get worked up about it anymore. I didn’t believe that was going to happen. Now that we’ve gotten at least half the guys who deserve to be in, into the Hall of Fame, I’m at peace with it for a little while. I’ll get angry about it in a year or two.
A: Two years until the next “legends” ballot goes up and he doesn’t get in again, then we can get mad a second time.
B: Gotta wait for the Modern Era ballot. We will, on the site, have our Hall of Fame ballot picks up here shortly, in the next day or two. After we get out of here we’ll all take a further look tomorrow, who should get in. I think Bonds and Clemens both – those guys will be up there, I’m going to keep voting for them until they finally make it. Try to get them in there. Before we go, I’ve got two questions from Twitter to get to. Taylor Smith, @tsmithmd, wants to know what prospect not on the Opening Day roster will make the biggest impact this offseason. I’ll throw that one to Ashley first.
A: Biggest impact in the offseason?
B: During the season. Someone who won’t make the team on Opening Day, but who will show up and have some kind of an impact.
A: Oh god. Um... I don’t... it’s so hard to know who’s going to break out in Triple-A, or even in Double-A, and get a shot later in the season.
B: And this isn’t even a good year for this question; next year we’re a lot more likely to see people we’re actually stoked about start to feed into the majors. But you’ve got Gerber, Stewart...
A: If Stewart made it up; Paredes isn’t on the 40-man, is he? He was Double-A this year.
B: Nah, he’s still in A-ball, he’s still really young. He’s just a baby.
A: I’m excited for him, but I don’t see him – I say Stewart is probably, if we have a need for a ninth or tenth outfielder, how many outfielders do we have this year? But no, because of the strength of his bat, I’ve been really interested in him for the last two seasons. I think he probably would be my pick.
B: Obviously we don’t know what we’re going to get out of Victor too, so yeah, they might be able to find at-bats for Stewart if he’s going really good at Triple-A in the DH role, possibly. It’s just tough to figure out how we’re going to mix him into the roster.
A: He’s never been really strong, but his bats where he’s really exciting –
A: But we know so much about really high-potential bats with terrible defence.
B: That’s the Tiger profile. Alright, Rob, you got anybody for me?
R: Dawel Lugo strikes me as the kind of guy who’s going to come up at some point in the year, get a bunch of fastballs, and absolutely destroy those for a couple of months. And then once teams figure out that they can just throw him a bunch of curveballs he’ll start to struggle. But for the first six weeks to two months, that’s going to be a lot of fun. The safe pick, I think, is Gerber because he seems the most MLB-ready, but with the concerns about his swing and how long it is, he may struggle a little bit, whereas Lugo seems like one to feast on those early fastballs and then really struggle once he has to adjust.
B: A free-swinger with some power who, once they realize they don’t have to throw him a strike, may run into a wall. I don’t know if that’s the point of them not picking up any more middle infielders, but now he’s in Double-A, he did pretty well. I could see him being a guy who comes up sometime maybe mid-year.
R: He’s already on the 40-man roster, so I think he’s going to be up at some point. Injuries happen throughout the year; if Iglesias gets traded, that just increases the likelihood that he comes up. If Iggy gets traded you probably see Machado slide over to short, then Lugo ends up playing a lot of second base where he’s been playing a bit in the minors. I definitely think we’re going to see him at some point, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who comes up and hits well to start with.
B: A bunch of people I’ve talked to have said the transition to second base went better than people thought; he actually looked pretty comfortable there right from the jump. So he’d definitely be the guy to get called up to play some second base. I think, for myself, I think we might see a guy like Sandy Baez come up, but I’m going to pick Spencer Turnbull, because I think the Tigers aren’t going to be super-patient with him at this point. He’s battled some injuries, he’s already 25, so he’s sort-of seasoned for a prospect at this point to be toiling away at Double-A. With him it’s a matter of health, and I could see, if he’s having some nagging little issues and the Tigers feel it’s time to see what he’s got, I could see him coming up and pitching some relief, in the same kind of role that VerHagen or Saupold has been used in. So I won’t be surprised to see Spencer Turnbull; I would like to see the Tigers accept that Sandy Baez isn’t going to be a starter, and just convert him and come up and blow people away with that monster fastball, and hopefully he can spot it somewhere. So, we’ll see; there’s probably going to be a lot of minor-leaguers up, but the good prospects – who asked this question again, was it Taylor? The good prospects, it’s still going to be 2019 before we start even sniffing guys like Franklin Perez or Burrows or someone like that, maybe Cameron making it up. And Taylor also wants to know, who is our favourite to win the American League? It’s a little early for this, I’d like to see rosters, but what the hell, we’ll take a shot at it real quick as a preliminary run. Ashley, who do you think is going to win the American League this year?
A: The whole American League or the divisions?
B: The whole thing, and go to the World Series.
A: The Astros. Their starting lineup is just unbeatable, I’m not going to pick someone else.
R: The Indians won the most games in the American League last year, and they probably have the easiest path back to the playoffs this year. So I’m going to say the Indians.
B: That’s a good point.
R: You probably have one of three or four teams to pick here.
B: For me, I’m still going Astros. From what I saw from Verlander, Verlander’s going to have a big year this year. You add Gerrit Cole in there, some of these guys get a little bit more seasoning. Some of those guys on the Astros have a little bit of weakness; Reddick and, I don’t know, but Reddick is good enough defensively, and there’s so much offence on that team, I just don’t think they need him. They can always just bring up Kyle Tucker if Reddick is struggling. It’s just an embarrassment of riches over there. Alright, this one’s going to be fun. Steveflo24 wants to know, now that the rebuild is underway, and I’m paraphrasing, are the Tigers going to utilize the analytics department more, or is the process going to stay the same, and is the team going to go about things in a similar fashion? Rob, do you think the Tigers have made progress on this front?
R: Maybe a little bit. From the sound of it, the moment Avila took over, it sounds like they put Trackman systems in all of the minor-league ballparks that they have, and they’re starting to use some of that data. You’ll probably see it most in the draft; you’ll probably seeing a little bit in those minor-league free agent signings that they’re making; Niko Goodrum, he’s the name that always pops in my head when I think of some of the guys they’ve picked up. It sounds like he has a little bit of offensive potential that hasn’t that pan out yet, but we’ll see what happens. Johnny Barbato is another one that you looked at some of the numbers, spin rate and things like that, see what he can do. Sounds like command is his biggest issue more than anything. So we’ll see; it’s really all you can say at this point. I think that we’re... I didn’t even necessarily want to say we’re seeing a little bit of progress with it, but I imagine some of that is going along the way. I think the draft is going to be an interesting one to watch, because you have all of this new data they have, but a lot of the same people making the decisions as before, so who knows.
B: It’s really hard to tell. The Ron Gardenhire signing immediately makes me feel like the Tigers know they’ve gotta catch up. I believe that the Tigers know they’ve got to catch up, but it’s hard to imagine the Tigers getting to the point where they’re one of the more progressive teams. I don’t really think under this regime you should concern yourself as a fan with all that; if they hit in the draft with their number-one pick, and probably a high pick next year, do okay with the few guys they have left to deal, the Tigers are going to be in a very good position to rebuild at that point. And at that point maybe we can start looking, when you’re in the actual act of acquisition, when you’re trying to fill in your roster; at that point it’s a little easier to tell. The Johnny Barbato signing made sense from a metrics point of view because he’s got such a low-spin sinker. It’s a sinker that really is an outlier pitch; but the problem with that is you can look at that and say, “That’s probably an analytics signing, because his spin rate is so low.” Everybody knows. Teams have all that information, even the Tigers have all the spin rates, all that stuff in the minor leagues, college – all that just gets delivered by MLB at this point. And when the guy has such an outlier pitch, everybody knows about it, even if they don’t know what spin rate and velocity are. They can just see it, when there’s a real outlier like that, everybody knows, that guy has a nasty sinker and he can’t control it, but the sinker’s nasty. So it’s finding those little edges which we don’t usually hear about until after the fact, or hear some kind of talk about it where analytics can play a role. We’re just not in a position to even really see them doing anything that’s going to stand out, “That was really brilliant according to the analysts!” I’m rooting for Jay Sartori, I’m rooting for Sam Menzin, I hope they have a seat at the big table with Littlefield, Chadd, Avila, and their input is being heard. But it’s hard to say that right now; we’re probably going to watching for that in the next year, for sure.
B: Alright, I think we’re good; we’ll be back every week now, all through the season. As far as Bless You Boys goes, we’ve got a lot of Spring Training coverage that’s about to ramp-up. We’re going to be doing our prospect lists; there’ll be prospect profiles, there’ll be player profiles on every player. We’ve got some special things in the works; there’s going to be a lot going on, so stay tuned here. We hope to have a few extra special guests coming up along the way. We don’t know about Dan Dickerson; I would like to get Dan Dickerson on the show. Not sure if that’ll happen, but for the time being you can follow us on Twitter; I’m @fiskadoro74, Rob is @bybrob, and Ashley is @90feetfromhome. And until then, just keep up with us at blessyouboys.com and we’ll have some new content up on the site for you tomorrow. Thanks a lot, everybody; thanks for joining me here, Ashley, Rob – good to have both of you here.
R: Good to be back.
A: Thank you!
B: You’re welcome. You guys have a good night, and we’ll talk to you soon.