We are exactly one week away from Opening Day and strangely the Tigers already bizarre off-season managed to get even worse over the weekend. Most Tiger fans agree that trading Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler was the correct thing to do however the events that have followed that trade are some of the most head-scratching and mind boggling decisions made in recent Tigers history.
Sunday morning the Tigers public relations twitter page started posting some strange twitter messages about Max Scherzer turning down a contract extension, however moments after those posts appeared on twitter, they were then deleted and then the Tigers released a statement about Max Scherzer and pretty much closed the door on talking about it further. I have never seen this kind of reaction from the Tigers on twitter, ever. In my opinion when the released the statement about Scherzer they went from being a world class organization that does things the right way into a clown show. Say what you want about Scherzer being greedy or whatever you think is the real deal, you cant collectively slam a current player and hide behind a twitter handle. It looks bad and it turns fans against players. Its just not healthy or natural for a team to do that.
Of course I am upset at Scherzer right now, I think the rumored offer (six years $144 million) was a fair offer and one that a pitcher who was sent down to the minor leagues only two seasons ago, should jump all over. Scherzer may never have anything close to the season he had in 2013, but in his defense, he is betting on himself being just as good in 2014. Speculation has been running wild that Scott Boras (Schrzer’s agent) told the Tigers that the negotiations will begin at seven years , $200 million and anything less than that would end up with no negotiations at all. However you want to look at situation, doing what the Tigers did on twitter is downright childish and stupid. The Tigers have attempted to pass the blame to Scherzer and label him as greedy. I would not be surprised at all if next Monday, Max gets booed at the home opener, These fans here in Detroit are lethal and non-forgiving, trust me I have been here 30 plus years and I have seen all the venom spewed towards Scherzer on twitter in the past 24 hours. The hilarious part about all of that is the fans that are spewing hate towards him now are the same ones that will be begging him to stay after he puts together another quality year. Detroit fans are one of a kind.
Blame Max Scherzer all you want but never forget that just two months earlier the Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for two hot dogs, some medium quality pitching and a career utility man who they then traded today for the ghost of Alex Gonzalex. More on this later but first to the root of what started all this nonsense in the off-season. Trading Doug Fister was a huge mistake and will prove to be one of the dumbest moves in recent history, Imagine next year when the Tigers are without Max Scherzer and Doug Fister in the starting rotation. Losing Scherzer will suck but losing Fister is gonna sting even more next year. The Fister trade was considered a salary dump because Doug would have been eligible for a substantial raise that the Tigers did not want to pay, mind you they payed him $4,000,000 last year and $507,500 in 2012 and he posted a total WAR of 8.1 while on that salary.
The Tigers dumped him off as if he did not deserve a bump in salary and played it off to the fans as it was nothing. Disgusting. The Tigers will give Justin Verlander nearly $26 million per year but shake their heads at paying Fister anywhere near the $10 million per year mark. I couldn’t make it up if I tried.
Anybody who pays attention to any metrics at all realize how good Doug Fister was during his stay in Detroit. I already mentioned the high quality WAR totals that Doug complied over his time with the Tigers, how about the 3.45 ERA/3.42 FIP he posted in the 2012 season or the 3.67 ERA/3.26 FIP during 2013. Never mind the fact that Fister flirted with a ground ball rate at nearly 55% and left men on base at a 75% clip. The Tigers decided a salary dump was more important than paying somebody who actually deserved it and was on the upswing of a promising career. The irony in all of this is that Fister should have even better numbers playing in the National League with a team that actually plays defense, but anyways that is for another blog and another time.
That brings us to one of the pieces the Tigers got in that Doug Fister trade – veteran utility man Steve Lombardozzi. Lombo was brought in to be the utility man and perhaps be a promising insurance polity if Miguel Cabrera or Ian Kinser were to miss any time during the year.The Tigers had let utility man Ramon Santiago go in the off-season and figured Lombo could play any infield position and even play the outfield if needed and after the Jose Iglesias injury, Lombardozzi figured to get a good chunk of time at shortstop because you know , that would make sense. And then Monday afternoon happened and it was announced that the Tigers had traded Lombardozzi straight up for 37-year-old Alex Gonzalez.
Having trouble remembering that name? Well that is because Gonzalez has only played in 65 games over the past two years and has not been relevant since 2010 when he posted a 3.1 WAR. Alex has posted a career .246/.290/.396 slash line and was known more for his glove in his hay day than his bat. This move is the icing on the cake for me. I just don’t understand it one bit. Last week the Tigers attempted to fill the shortstop hole by acquiring Andrew Romine from the Angels in exchange for a pretty darn good prospect in Jose Alvarez. And then today they pull our pants down again and make one of the strangest trades imaginable. The funniest part about this trade is that many reporters were tweeting that Gonzalez was on the verge of being cut by the Orioles. Laughable move from the Tigers, and don’t give me that crap about having trouble getting Gonzalez off waivers, I mean really how many teams are lining up for a 37-year-old ghost of his former self shortstop.
I think most fans would agree that having Romine fill the void left by Igelsias and perhaps mixing in young players Hernan Perez and perhaps Danny Worth who has been hitting the ball much better this spring is a lot more acceptable than handing the reigns over to a 37-year-old, shell of himself in Gonzalez. The moves made over the weekend and most importantly today prove to me that the Tigers may be heading in a strange direction. One they have not been in for many years under the careful watch of Dave Dombrowksi who has done a marvelous job as General Manager but will be faced with one of the most daunting tasks to date this season.
The Scherzer situation will be a distraction all year no matter how you slice it. Not having a real shortstop will haunt the Tigers at some point and turning fans against players is never a good idea. Nice off-season Tigers, real nice.
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