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Granderson Trade opens New Questions and Fresh Possibilities

John Stroba-Writer

Wow. That is a surprise. That is going to be the reaction for many Detroit Tiger fans when this trade goes down. The rumors of a fire sale coming from all around dealing Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera for financial reasons. That is an easy and lazy story for people outside of the Detroit area. The Detroit economy (and Michigan in general), is in a huge decline, therefore it must be that the Tigers are looking to slash payroll and any two bit prospect would be good enough for the Tigers stars. No one within the organziation did every utter such words. If teams were willing to meet the Tigers price in talent then there could be a deal made and that is what is going to happen. As the dust settles, now now questions emerge.

Who is going to play CF?

A very interesting question here, because in Comerica Park a very good defensive CFer is a dire need with Magglio Ordonez and whoever mans LF (Carlos Guillen or Ryan Raburn) are not going to be great defenders. The top in house candidates are Clete Thomas and newly acquired Austin Jackson who many people thought was the top Yankee prospect.
Clete Thomas is a guy that can cover some ground in CF, but his swing is long at times and that becomes a problem. He does not have a lot of power, so if he is going to have a career as a starter it is going to be in CF. When Clete is going right he can be a solid part of the lineup, and he does have an idea of how to draw a walk (33 in 310 PA last year) however he strikes out a ton (77 last year). He needs to cut down on the strikeouts. Not a lot of speed, and probably a guy that is the fall back option.
Austin Jackson probably does have the inside track to being the CF starter heading north as things stand right now. Jackson does really struggle with the strike zone (40bb/123k in 557 PA in AAA last year). A lot of balls did find their way into being hits last year at a level that he is not going to be able to sustain. If Jackson can control the strike zone then his lack of power is not going to be an issue. The Tigers are going to want Jackson up sooner than later, but it would not be a surprise to see him spend the entire year in Toledo. Detroit could also go into Free Agency and pick a CF on a short term deal like a Mike Cameron type (good defense, some power/speed, low batting average, draws walks) that could hold teh starting job for a year while Jackson develops.
Casper Wells is a Lynn Henning (Detroit News) favorite for reasons unknown. Wells is a bit stretched defensively as a CF. It is telling that the Tigers did make a deal for a future CF (Austin Jackson)with Ryan Strieby moving into a corner OF spot. Wells might have some of the best tools in the Tigers system. However, like most Tiger prospects he does have strike zone control issues. Wells is going to need a good seasons to seperate himself from the others like Clete Thomas, Wilkin Rameriz crowd.

Who is the leadoff hitter?

Make no mistake about it, Curtis Granderson is far from an ideal leadoff man for the Tigers. When he is going strong he does bring a spark to the lineup and Detroit is definitely going to bemissing that. Jon Paul Morosi is reporting that the Tigers do have an interest in Juan Pierre (LA Dodgers) and that would be almost an ideal match. Pierre could come in and play at in CF and be a leadoff hitter solving two major problems. It would also give the Tigers some time to refine Austin Jackson's hitting skills. The Tigers offering someone like a Nate Robertson/Jermey Bonderman who do have one year less on their contracts that Pierre does might be enough for the Dodgers to bite on. Assuming there is not a trade the in house options are murky at best.
Carlos Guillen: The last three years, Guillen's slugging percentage is exactly one hundred points lower than the career best of .519 in 2006. His eye is staying about the same and even with a downslide last year Guillen posted a .339 OBP. That is a shade better than the league average leading off. The major problem of moving Guillen up to the leadoff spot is that it would really leave some weak protection behind their best hitter (Miguel Cabrera).
Ryan Raburn: Which Raburn is going to show up? If the real Raburn is going to be the one that played in 2009, then moving up Guillen to the leadoff spot might be a real possibility. It seems like that Raburn's 2009 is about the top of his talent (as far as batting average/OBP/Slugging percentage go), but if he can maintain that it would be a huge upgrade to the Tigers lineup. He does not have a lot of speed but he gets on base at a reasonable rate. It would not be a surprise to see him moved to leadoffand having Guillen hitting behind Cabrera. Still it is not an ideal option.
Scott Sizmore: With Granderson and Polanco no longer with the Tigers, Sizemore does have the most of ABs of hitting at the top of the lineup of any Tiger. Those are minor league ABs though and Sizemore has almost exclusively been a #2 hitter in the minors. It is hard to see Leyland letting him open the season as his leadoff hitter. That might be too much pressure on the rookie.

Who are these guys?

Max Scherzer (25) RHP: The kid does have a very nice power arm, which is something that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski covets. The arm is not as good as Edwin Jackson's but then few are. The scouting report says that his fastball sits between 93-96 at times touching 97 mph. His slider is a plus at times, but it can be inconsistent. If Scherzer makes that pitch a consistent plus then All Star games are in his future. He is also thought to be a pretty intelligent pitcher which can only help his pitching. He did some very nice work last year, his first in the rotation all year, posting a 4.11 ERA while striking out more than a batter an innings. Scherzer is going to be the Tigers #2 or #3 starter next year. While he is going from the NL to AL that difference should be negated, because the Diamondbacks park really favors offense whereas Comerica Park is a more run nuetral park.
Austin Jackson (23) CF: Jackson might be the key to the entire deal. Scouts talk about how he does have all 5 tools but nothing outstanding (much like Granderson when he first arrived). The power is not quite there yet, but many baseball people think that he is going to grow into it. He can cover CF right now, but as he grows bigger he might need to move to a corner OF spot. That would make his bat a lot less impressive (especially if the power never comes). Jackson also does have some serious strike zone control issues and that more than anything else could be really exposed against MLB pitching. He is probably the best in house option to play CF for the Tigers.
Phil Coke (27) LHP: Coke is a very interesting guy. He pitched very well in a second lefty bullpen role (.195 lefties hit against him) for the Yankees last year. He did come up through the minors as a starter mostly and the Tigers could try him out in that role in Spring Training. His presence could also make Detroit more willing to part ways with a guy like Nate Robertson. Rumors have the Tigers dealing away Bobby Seay for something or just even non tendering him on Saturday. That would leave Coke and promising lefty Fu-Te Ni to be the two bullpen lefties.
Daniel Schlereth (24) LHP: Schlereth did get knocked around a bit in his first taste in the majors. However, that is only over 18.1 ip and he absolutely dominated the minors with his power fastball (touches 97) and a hard cruve. His dad, and this going to be the most overrepeated thing about him the next few days, is a former NFL player and current football analyst for ESPN. Schlereth does bring a football aggressiveness to the mound and is so good that he si going to be in the mix to be a closer in Detroit sooner than later. He does have some control issues on the MLB level, but no more than Ryan Perry does for the Tigers. It would not be a surprise to see him closing games for the Tigers next year if Lyon and Rodney do not come back.

Show me the Money!

While dealing Granderson does save the Tigers 5.5 million and knocks their payroll down to around 96.8 million level for next year at this moment, it also shows (according to Cot's contracts site) that the Tigers only have 34.175 million committed in payroll following the 2010 season. The Tigers will have the money to not only go and get a top FA (say Carl Crawford if there is no extension in Tampa Bay) if they choose to do so, but they will have the money to take a player that might have an overpriced contract for another club. Even if the Tigers sign Verlander to a long term deal (say 15 million for 2011) that would still put them under 50 million and a lot of room to play with in trades and on the FA market. Signing Verlander long term would let the Tigers lock up their top 3 starters (Verlander, Porcello and Scherzer) for a long time and probably have a vet closer and bushel of young power arms in the pen.
Of course, should Ordonez's option vest (which would happen if Ordonez gets 135 starts in OF or 540 PA in 2010) at $18 million for the the final year in 2011 a lot of that flexibility is gone. It seems rather unlikely that the option will vest unles Ordonez hits like he did in the last two months for the Tigers (400/460/497). His power did come back in the last couple of weeks.

A pair axed

Now, the Tigers did need to make a couple of roster moves to fit everyone that they got on the 40 man roster. Yesterday afternoon they did that and what a difference a year makes for both guys.
Last year at this time, some people thought that Dusty Ryan would be in line for some significant playing time, because it looked like he finally figured out how to hit. This year reality set in when the Tigers promoted Avila from AA to help breath life into their offense. When Detroit signed Diaz to a minor league deal a couple days ago the writing was clearly on the wall. That being said, Ryan could still be a factor it is not like there are many teams beating down the door to have Dusty Ryan. He could very well wind up back at Toledo for another season. Even if that does not occur, it is not a loss for the Tigers who seem to happy committing to Avila and most likely Laird.
Same deal with Freddy Dolsi as well. Dolsi does have a very good arm (like many in the Tigers system), but struggles with his control at times (like most in the Tigers system). Having a great arm will only carry a prospect so far in the Tigers system eventually production has to be there. With several hard throwing RPs with more upside (Simons, Satterwhite to name two) either passing or catching up to Dolsi, it is not much of a risk to chop him off the 40 man roster. Hard throwing righties with control issues (at times) are pretty easy to find. Still Dolsi is young enough still (entering his age 27 season) that someone might be willing to take a flyer on him.

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