AL Central Hot Stove Preview
Posted: Wednesday October 31, 2007 10:59AM; Updated: Wednesday October 31, 2007 1:12PM
2007 Record: 96-66, first place
What They Should Do: Hold. This team is loaded. With all the young talent either in stock or on the way, the Indians could not spend a dollar in the free-agent market and PECOTA out at 96-98 wins next spring. The key decision is really whether to re-sign Sabathia now or wait until next winter to make a choice, which mostly boils down to just what his asking price is. Now, the one worry is that attendance has been a little sluggish, and you could argue for one strike into the free-agent market to put the proverbial ornament on the Christmas tree. But the Indians might be good enough that they don't need to do that, and attendance should pick up anyway after their deep postseason run this year. The options for Byrd and Borowski should probably be exercised, however, given how expensive pitching will be this winter.
What They Will Do: Hold. It wouldn't surprise me if the Indians sign a left-fielder if something relatively cheap falls into their laps, but otherwise Mark Shapiro should be able to catch up on his sleep this winter.
What They Should Do: Weak Buy. The Tigers actually have quite a few moving parts, which explains why they have worked quickly this off-season. The first decision was whether to pick up Ivan Rodriguez' option at a marginal cost of $10 million ($13 million in salary versus the $3 million buyout). The Tigers did so, though on paper this was a tough call; Rodriguez delivered a .294 OBP last season, and the market for free-agent catchers is relatively robust. But certainty counts for something; it's hard to fight a multi-front war under the pressure of the free agency cycle. Carlos Guillen will be moving to first base, which left the Tigers with either a choice of Ramon Santiago and possibly Omar Infante at shortstop, or a decision to pay something for an external hire. The problem is that there isn't too much in the way of middle-tier shortstops; you have guys like David Eckstein and Omar Vizquel who will probably wind up being overcompensated, and then you have Alex Rodriguez, who wouldn't have been the worst fit here but is probably a stretch financially. The Oct. 29 acquisition of Edgar Renteria from the Braves for pitcher Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez was probably the best alternative for Detroit.
But the Tigers' choices did not end there. Is Cameron Maybin ready? You could do worse than to go into spring training with Maybin, Marcus Thames, and Ryan Raburn as your options in left field, but a one-year, $4 million commitment to a Cliff Floyd type would not kill anyone. And what about the pitching staff? If this is my team, what I probably do is as follows from here on:
What They Will Do: Weak Buy. In contrast to the Indians, Dave Dombrowski has one of the more difficult jobs of GMing this winter. This team looks to me like an 85-86 win team if it just treads water, and any team in that position that's drawing 3 million fans or more per season is usually going to be a net acquirer of talent. The problem is that there aren't that many ready-made free-agent solutions at the positions where the Tigers need them, so some creativity is going to be required. When all is said and done, I think the Tigers will look at the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees, decide that they have to improve to catch up to that group, and make some or another kind of move. But I have no idea what it will be.