View Full Version : Unreal job by a GM

10-16-2006, 12:22 PM
don't really know what to say ...

by Kevin Goldstein

Detroit Tigers

They lost 119 games four years ago, and last year they lost 91, causing Baseball Prospectus 2006 to opine "This year is probably a lost cause." Instead, the 2006 Tigers won 95 games in the regular season, and are one win away from the World Series. How did this happen? Let's look at how the postseason roster was built, before moving on to talk about Oakland.


Ivan Rodriguez (Free Agent, 2/04)
Vance Wilson (Trade, 1/05)

Before Pudge came along, Brandon Inge was the homegrown option behind the plate for a couple of years. Obviously, you can't avoid signing one of the best players at his position in the game because you have Brandon Inge. Wilson came over for Anderson Hernandez, who has done practically nothing in New York; he's your classic serviceable backup catcher who does his job well behind the plate, doesn't get on base much, but occasionally hits one out.


Sean Casey (Trade, 7/06)
Carlos Guillen (Trade, 1/04)
Omar Infante (FA, Venezuela, 1999)
Brandon Inge (Draft, 2nd round, 1998)
Neifi Perez (Trade, 8/06)
Placido Polanco (Trade 6/05)
Ramon Santiago (Free Agent, 1/06)

The only talents here that have spent their entire careers with the Tigers are Infante and Inge. Santiago should almost count, as he came up with the Tigers, got traded to Seattle in the Carlos Guillen trade, and was subsequently re-signed by the Tigers once the Mariners cut him. Which brings us to the Carlos Guillen trade: in January 2004, the Mariners sent Guillen to the Tigers for Santiago and Juan Gonzalez (no, not that Juan Gonzalez). Santiago was released less than two years later, and Gonzalez has turned into a A-ball journeyman, so the trade netted nothing for Seattle, but just as damming was why the trade was even made in the first place. The same day the Mariners made that trade, they also signed Rich Aurilia as a free agent. Now Guillen was hardly the star he is now, but he was 28 years old, coming off his best season at .276/.359/.394, and due a mere $2.5 million. Aurilla had the outlier 37 home run season in 2001, but was coming off a year (.277/.325/.410) that was really no better than Guillen's, was four years older, and going to cost three-quarters of a million more. While nobody really saw Guillen turning into this kind of player, it's still a remarkably bad move. Looking at the rest of this list does show what a tough time the Tigers have had in developing their own infielders, as they haven't developed a good shortstop or second baseman since Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker owned those jobs for nearly two decades.


Alexis Gomez (Free Agent, 11/05)
Curtis Granderson (Draft, 3rd round, 2002)
Craig Monroe (Waiver Claim, 2/02)
Magglio Ordonez (Free Agent, 2/05)
Marcus Thames (Free Agent, 12/03)

Ordonez had a good season, but certainly not a $16 million season. Luckily the Tigers make up for in with a drafted player (Granderson) who is cheap for a while yet, and some nice inexpensive finds on the scrap heap. An eighth-round pick out of high school by the Rangers in 1995, Monroe spent three years in the Florida State League, but had some decent years at Double- and Triple-A, with OBPs over .350 and slugging percentages over .500. Just 23, the Rangers tried to sneak him through waivers prior to the 2002 season in a 40-man roster maneuver, and the Tigers wisely pounced.

Forgotten fact: Monroe was more of a speedster with some pop than the opposite early in his career, stealing 50 bases for High-A Charlotte in 1997, and swiping another 40 bags the following year. Thames was a Yankees draft-and-follow signed in 1997 who was floundering until 2001, when he hit .321/.410/.598 with 31 home runs at Double-A Norwich. The next year he hit .207/.297/.378 at Triple-A Columbus, and the bloom was off the rose. After another slow start he was sent to the Rangers for what was left of Ruben Sierra. He played 45 games in the Rangers' organization before they made him a free agent, and the Tigers signed him to play at Triple-A Toledo, where he exploded again, batting .329/.410/.735 in 2004 and .340/.427/.679 the following year. He's truly the definition of a late bloomer. Gomez is also a waiver claim who the Tigers re-signed after the 2005 season. Always highly regarded for his tools when he was coming up in the Royals system, Gomez was always more tools than performance before Kansas City finally gave up on him. Despite his Game Two heroics, he's not likely to ever make any sort of long-term impact in the big leagues.

Starting Pitchers:

Jeremy Bonderman (Trade, 8/02)
Nate Robertson (Trade, 1/03)
Kenny Rogers (Free Agent, 12/05)
Justin Verlander (Draft, 1st round, 2004)

Bonderman was a first-round pick in 2001 by the Athletics. At the time, they did not have a Low-A team, so he debuted in the California League and pitched very well for his age, with a 3.61 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 144.2 innings. He went to the Tigers in a somewhat complicated three-way deal that got the A's and Yankees, well, not a whole heckuva lot. The next year he was one of the biggest stories of spring training as he made the rotation despite just 27 minor league starts. He easily had his best season this year, and he's only 24 (at the end of October). If he continues to advance, he'll be one of the more expensive free agents in recent memory as a power righthander just entering his prime. That is the danger of bringing up players when they are 20 years old.

A fifth-round pick in 1999 by the Marlins, Robertson moved quickly through the Florida system despite some early arm problems and came over in a trade for Mark Redman. Rogers was a free agent signing this year--with 207 career wins, he's certainly one of the best 39th round picks in history. It's easy to write off Verlander as a gimme, since he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft, but that's not really the case. While he did strike out 151 in 105.2 innings in his final year at Old Dominion, he also had a paltry 7-6 record and a 3.49 ERA. It was easy to find college pitchers in that draft who were more dominant, but it was impossible to find one with better stuff. Pitchers with two offerings that grade out as 70 or higher on the 20-80 scouting scale are nearly impossible to find in the majors, never mind college. He serves as another example of why you cannot draft college players solely off statistics.


Jason Grilli (Free Agent, 2/05)
Todd Jones (Free Agent, 12/05)
Wilfredo Ledezma (Rule 5 Draft, 12/02)
Zach Miner (Trade 7/05)
Fernando Rodney (FA, Dominican Republic, 1997)
Jamie Walker (Free Agent, 11/01)
Joel Zumaya (Draft, 11th round, 2002)

Grilli is another lost soul who found his way to Detroit, where he's become a useful arm. So much was expected from him early on, and most have probably forgotten that he was the fourth overall pick by the Giants in 1997 out of Seton Hall. The Giants rushed him, beginning his career in Double-A, and he didn't pitch especially well, but still had enough promise to be involved in a trade to the Marlins for Livan Hernandez. His Florida career was a mix of injuries and ineffectiveness, after which the White Sox took him in the 2003 Rule Five draft; he lasted in their system for a year before getting released and landing in Detroit. So many high draft picks either turn into stars, or turn into nothing--it's rare to see the player who sticks it out, overcomes adversity and turns into a generic major leaguer--maybe that's why I like him so much.

Todd Jones was a first-round pick 17 years ago, and is earning the biggest salary of his career at 38. Ledezma was picked Rule 5 out of the Red Sox system in 2002, and the Tigers did a good job of keeping him in the majors on a bad 2003 team before allowing him to develop in the minors again starting the next following season. Miner was a mediocre Braves prospect that arrived in last year's Kyle Farnsworth deal, and he pitched well enough at Triple-A Toledo to get a chance and did well as a fifth starter. He'll never be anything more than that, but it's nice work if you can get it. Rodney is a homegrown power arm that came along slowly but finally paid off. Walker began his career with Houston at a 10th round pick in 1992, was selected by Atlanta in the Rule Five draft five years later, and basically became an organizational lefty, bouncing to Kansas City and Cleveland before arriving in Detroit and finally getting an opportunity to shine. Zumaya is one of those unrepeatable strokes of luck. An 11th round pick in 2002 as a raw high school arm who occasionally touched 90, it's nearly impossible to find any other pitcher in history who throws 10-12 mph harder than he did in high school.

The Breakdown:

Free Agent Signs: 9
Trade: 8
Drafted: 4
International: 2
Waiver Claim: 1
Rule 5 Draft: 1

The free agent signings should be broken up into two categories. Rodriguez, Ordonez, Jones and Rogers are all 'traditional' free agents who had many bidders in an open market, but they other five are all players who were really signed off the scrap heap. Santiago, Gomez, Thames, Grilli, and Walker are all players that really few others wanted, and the same could be said for Monroe. That's nearly one quarter of the roster coming from the Island of Misfit Toys, almost unheard of for a postseason team.

The trades are also pretty remarkable overall when one adds them up:

Jeremy Bonderman
Sean Casey
Roman Colon
Franklyn German
Carlos Guillen
Rob Henkel
Gary Knotts
Zach Miner
Carlos Pena
Neifi Perez
Placido Polanco
Nate Robertson
Vance Wilson

Kyle Farnsworth
Jerrod Fuell
Juan Gonzalez (shortstop)
Anderson Hernandez
Ramon Martinez
Mark Redman
Chris Robinson
Brian Rogers
Ramon Santiago
Ugueth Urbina
Jeff Weaver

That's eight players on the postseason roster for not a whole lot. Of the players traded away, only Jeff Weaver and Ramon Martinez would have a chance of making this roster, and that would be in minor roles at best.

While only four players on the team were drafted by the Tigers, and only six in total were developed solely by the organization, their roles in the Tigers turnaround this year have been much more than just the 24% of the roster they compose. The key to this team is their ability to prevent runs (they led the league in allowing only 4.17 runs per game), and according to VORP, Verlander was the eighth-best pitcher in the American League, while Zumaya ranked fourth among relievers in Adjusted Runs Prevented.

This is a uniquely constructed team getting some important contributions from unexpected places. The Tigers' front office deserves a remarkable amount of credit for the turnaround, but whether or not this is a sustainable model remains to be seen.

Oakland Athletics

10-16-2006, 01:41 PM
Just goes to show you that managers can actually make the difference in MLB.

10-16-2006, 03:08 PM
Did you write this?

10-16-2006, 03:10 PM
Did you write this?by Goldstein at BP.

10-16-2006, 03:14 PM
by Goldstein at BP.

Darn...I was hoping you wrote it.

10-16-2006, 03:24 PM
To put things in perspective:

trade 61 Bronson Arroyo
trade 31 Matt Belisle
trade 45 Bill Bray
draft 56 Todd Coffey
trade 36 Rheal Cormier
trade 51 Ryan Franklin
trade 39 Aaron Harang
trade 28 Kyle Lohse
trade 38 Gary Majewski
free agent 22 Eric Milton
free agent 25 David Weathers
draft 23 Jason LaRue
trade 26 David Ross
free agent 17 Javier Valentin
free agent 33 Rich Aurilia
trade 9 Juan Castro
trade 2 Royce Clayton
trade 12 Edwin Encarnacion
free agent 21 Scott Hatteberg
trade 4 Brandon Phillips
draft 19 Chris Denorfia
draft 44 Adam Dunn
free agent 6 Ryan Freel
trade 3 Ken Griffey
trade 16 Todd Hollandsworth

Free Agent Signs: 6
Trade: 15
Drafted: 4
International: 0
Waiver Claim: 0
Rule 5 Draft: 0

10-16-2006, 04:13 PM
trade 44 Adam Dunn

Free Agent Signs: 6
Trade: 16
Drafted: 3
International: 0
Waiver Claim: 0
Rule 5 Draft: 0

Dunn was a drafted guy, but still not an impressive list.

Johnny Footstool
10-16-2006, 05:06 PM
Just goes to show you that managers can actually make the difference in MLB.

How does it show that? It looks more like praise for the GM for bringing in players like IRod, Magglio, and Carlos Guillen and stocking the pitching staff with power arms.

10-16-2006, 09:48 PM
How does it show that? It looks more like praise for the GM for bringing in players like IRod, Magglio, and Carlos Guillen and stocking the pitching staff with power arms.I wasn't referring to the article per se. The comment about Leland was MY opinion. My point was that two of those three dudes you mentioned were all but given up for dead by their respective teams at one point or another. Yes, hindsight is now making the Tigers GM look like a genius, but not just any manager was going to push the right buttons with this Detroit lineup. It took Leland to actually kick these guys into a unit and he did it in record time.

In all fairness, IRod actually began his career renaissance during his brief stop with the Marlins; but prior to that, he was rapidly becoming the poster child for excessive contracts in Texas (Arod soon siezed that throne). There were many wispers that he was mailing it in during his last few years in a Rangers uniform.

Magglio Ordonez? When the White Sox were fortunate enough to cast him off they jumped for joy. His contract was widely considered one of the worst ones in all of MLB at the time he left Chicago. Yes, he has responded nicely this year. But don't you think it had alot to do with Leland not putting up with his prima donna crap for one instant? Well, that and the fact that he was no longer paired up with Frank Thomas in the lineup.

Leland put his stamp on this team in April when he torched them for losing the final getaway game of their homestand prior to leaving for a series against Oakland. He made it clear that he wasn't going to tolerate any half-hearted efforts AT ALL. I think at that time, the Tigers had the best record in baseball and him completely dressed them down for their performance.

10-17-2006, 05:39 AM
Great GM, great manager. There is a reason these guys keep winning.

10-18-2006, 01:59 AM
How many games did the Tigers win last year

10-18-2006, 12:52 PM
How many games did the Tigers win last year