Four managers who may not be back in 2010 and more (cont.)
Tigers make great moves, look for more
The division always described as wide open became a little less so this week, as the Detroit Tigers' 6-0 homestand enabled them to open a five-game lead on the second-place Twins.
They have an owner, Mike Ilitch, who tries hard to win, and who spent $140 million despite not being in a major market. But they also made some very good decisions.
The Tigers made perhaps the best trade of the winter, getting 99 mph-throwing starter Edwin Jackson from Tampa Bay -- a team that almost never makes the wrong choice -- for spare outfielder Matt Joyce. And they also made perhaps the best draft choice in the past few years when they selected mature right-hander (and Scott Boras client) Rick Porcello with the 27th pick in the 2007 draft and gave him $7 million. Porcello, 20, is 8-4 with a 3.55 ERA.
The Tigers continued to go for the gusto in this year's draft, taking two more Boras clients with their first two picks: high school pitcher Jacob Turner (Westminster Christian Academy, outside St. Louis) and Oklahoma State pitcher Andy Oliver. "We wouldn't have drafted them if we didn't intend to sign them," Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski said.
Ilitch has given Dombrowski the go-ahead to scan the market, and they could go either way (hitter or pitcher), or both ways, considering Ilitch's thirst to win. "It's a little early," Dombrowski said, "but we're monitoring the market."
Magglio finally homers, but is controversy over?
The signing of Magglio Ordonez can never be considered a mistake, but the clause in his guaranteed $75 million, five-year deal that triggers a sixth year at $18 million for 540 plate appearances in 2009 looms large now.
Ordonez, who homered for the first time in 40 games Thursday and is hitting .274 with three homers and 24 RBIs, will get there barring an injury or a decision to bench or release the longtime star. Ordonez is back after a recent "indefinite" benching by manager Jim Leyland. But who can say whether it could happen again.
Boras, Ordonez's agent, questioned Leyland's announcement that Ordonez would be benched "indefinitely," in what appeared to be a subtle warning shot regarding any possible future decision-making based on bucks. Teams are not supposed to make player moves based on money, and one thing about the Tigers is that they never have (for instance, Gary Sheffield was released, even with $15 million left on his deal, though there could always be clubhouse considerations in Sheffield's case).
Boras pointed out that there were no complaints when Ordonez was racking up three straight 100-RBI seasons, that the clause to trigger next year (and one to trigger 2011, as well) were necessary elements in Ordonez signing there, and that the clause was about Ordonez's health, which was in question at the time.
Ultimately, there's a long way to go here before we get to the point of any real controversy, but it could get tricky if Ordonez doesn't show more power. "He's swinging the bat a little bit better," Dombrowski said. Ordonez's performance may, to some degree, have been affected by a very difficult personal situation, as his wife has a serious health issue that required a few days away earlier this year. Though, he hasn't made excuses for his lack of power.
Teams often give clauses such as Ordonez's to stars, but one competing GM opined, "The Tigers never should have given him that clause." In hindsight, they may feel that way as well. The obvious explanation, as with any player-friendly clause, is that they did probably feel it was necessary to get the deal done at the time.
Dombrowski said by phone, "I wouldn't discuss Magglio's situation. It was five years ago. We just hope he swings the bat as he has in the past."
Around the majors
The Indians have started to field calls on starter Cliff Lee, but Shapiro called the chances for a deal "unlikely to almost impossible.'' It's believed the Phillies, Dodgers and Mets were among early callers. While the Phillies might have the type of pitching prospects to do a deal for Lee (Kyle Drabek would be a start), it's questionable whether the Dodgers or Mets do. Texas is another team that has the need and the prospects (Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz are two of the best) to tempt the Indians. Indians people are believed to agree that the Rangers are a rare team that has plenty of prospects to get it done. The Rangers supposedly can't take on salary, so it's possible they would want the Indians to pay what remains on Lee's $6 million 2009 salary.
For now, though, the Indians' inclination is to keep Lee because they have him next year with a reasonable $9 million option (and no suitable in-house replacement). Even if the Indians are to concede this season, they don't want to concede next year, too.
The Marlins, winners of five straight and a sudden threat in the NL East under manager Fredi Gonzalez, are looking for a reliever in the wake of Matt Lindstrom's elbow injury that's expected to keep him out six weeks. The available Luis Ayala has been speculated on, but they are also aiming higher than that.
Mark DeRosa makes a lot of sense for the Cardinals, who still need a hitter. He's a hitter who can play anywhere. Other teams that could use DeRosa include the Mets, Giants, Braves Cubs and Tigers.
Matt Holliday is still the most likely star to be traded, but his $13.5 million salary could mean that the small-market A's will be asked to contribute if he is traded. Perhaps they'd consider that if the prospects they get in return are excellent. The Braves, Mets, Giants and Cardinals could all be looking to take Holliday.
Albert Pujols, for all his heroics this year, has one hit with a RISP and two outs (1-for-14, with 15 BB and 10 IBB), and as Joel Sherman of the New York Post (and SI.com) pointed out, Mets' youngster Nick Evan passed Pujols with two in two days versus Pujols' Cardinals.
Mets GM Omar Minaya and assistant GM Tony Bernazard deserve credit for finding Fernando Nieve on the Astros' scrap heap. He's won three straight starts and is doing well to slow the return of John Maine.
Congrats to Omar Vizquel, who became Venezuela's all-time hit king with his 2,678th hit Thursday, surpassing Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio in Texas' 9-8 victory over Arizona.
Who says Derek Jeter is nearing the end? Jeter, who celebrates his 35th birthday today with another Subway Series, is showing more power, more speed and better range this year.
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