Tuesday, October 09, 2007

We can stop speculating about life after Pudge. The Tigers pick up his contract option

In what was pretty much a no-brainer for the Detroit Tigers, a decision I heartily agree with, they picked up the $13 million option year on Pudge Rodriguez's contract.

"That's it, just a little more to the left...THERE!
I want my statue right next to Kaline's!"

Why call it a no-brainer? Because keeping Pudge was the only realistic option for a team that plans on being a playoff contender. Let alone there was no one available that would have been significantly better than Pudge Rodriguez. Even as his skills decline, he is still a legitimate major league catcher.

All in all, there were more than a few reasons for keeping Pudge behind the plate for at least 1 more year...

1. Mike Ilitch's loyalty. We all know that the Pizza Man loves his superstars, and having big name players on the roster of both the Red Wings and Tigers. Despite his decline, Pudge is still a very big "Name."

Then there's the fact that Pudge took a leap of faith (Admittedly, into a big $40+ million pile of cash) when he signed with the Tigers in 2004. Ilitch isn't the type to forget that sort of faith. Picking up the final year of the contract could very well be the Tigers owner's way of saying "Thank you."

You had to believe that picking up Pudge's option was a done deal when Ilitch was quoted as saying, "He's made a lot of contributions. I don't think it'll be a tough call, but we'll see." That's as close to Ilitch saying, "I have the final say, and I want him to stay" as you are going to get.

2. The free agent catchers on the market are, to put it mildly, underwhelming. Once you get past Jorge Posada and Paul LoDuca, a pair of catchers the same age, and about as expensive, as Pudge Rodriguez, what catching options are left? Your options are jack and shit. Asmus? Barrett? Kendall? Torrealba? I'd rather take my chances on another year of Pudge, than a group of never-were's and used-to-be's, thank you.

3. The cost in players/prospects to acquire a good young catcher via trade is prohibitive. There was a single young catcher available at the 2007 trade deadline, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. For the Rangers to pry him away from Atlanta, they had to give up one of the best 1st basemen in baseball, all-star Mark Teixeira, and a solid big league relief pitcher in Ron Mahay. That's a hefty price to pay for a catcher who has all the tools, but had never proven himself at the big league level.

f you look at the offensive numbers Salty put up in Texas, they were quite Pudge-like. So if the Tigers were able to get their hands on a young catcher, there's no guarantee that he would be worth the hefty damn price you'd have to pay. Sure, Saltalamacchia may ultimately live up to his potential, but so far, he's been average, at best. At least you know what you are getting in Pudge, and you can plan accordingly. The Tigers will have to be on the prowl for a young catcher over the next 18 months, but keeping Pudge around allows them to have that 18 month window.

4. The Tigers are already in the market for a top tier shortstop, a veteran starter, a closer, and a left hand hitting left fielder, there was no reason to have to plug another lineup hole by declining Pudge's option. In other words, a bird Pudge in the hand is worth 2 in the bush dugout...Or something like that.

5. Pudge is the face of the Tiger franchise. As I said above, in the eye of the public, Pudge is still a very big name. He's a first ballot lock for Cooperstown. He'll continue to be elected to the all-star team on name value alone. If the Tigers let Pudge walk, there would be a backlash from the casual fans, the young fans, the fans who aren't into sabermetrics, and fans who value star players.

That's a good sized chunk of the Tigers fanbase, so you know there was some thought as to the public relations side of retaining Pudge's services. Keeping Pudge is good for the box office. I'm not saying it's correct in a baseball sense, but the need for good PR is a fact in doing business. And when it comes down to it, the Tigers are a business.

The only caveat I have in regard to the option pickup is this... The money the Tigers give Pudge best not prevent them from making other personnel moves. I doubt that will be the case, but it's definitely something to keep an eye on.


  1. Hey Big Al,

    How do I email you? Your thing is broken

  2. Dsve, the email address is bawanaal@gmail.com

    If I had known the blog was going to be around as long as it has, I would have created a more specific address. But so be it... Look forward to hearing from you.

  3. My feeling is that it is easier to find first basemens (channeling George Kell there) than it is shortstops in the free agent market or in trade. Before the Guillen committment was made--if it really was--mayhap the Tigers should have looked a bit more aggressively for a first sacker, preferably a left handed hitter. My gut feeling is that the Chisox would probably cut Jim Thome loose for three dozen baseballs, preferably new, and a couple of bat bags rather than pay him. Or, while Shef is not a fan of being a first baseman, he would do in a pinch, especially if a large headed DH from the NL was available for a song. I think there is a lot of manuevering yet to be done--I just hope that some of it is done to Bonderman's elbow.

  4. Keeping Pudge after the Porcello contract makes me think the Tigers are feelin' freespendy. Fingers crossed.

  5. Another thought on the shortstop issue...Kaz Matsui who is playing second a base (Channeling Ernie Harwell) for the Rockies is on a one year deal which expires after the season. The Rockies won't be getting into a bidding war for him with anyone for more than 3 mil a year. He was the top shortstop in Japan before he signed with the Mets three years ago and he isn't going to move Tulowitski out at short in Denver. I think he would be amenable to going to a contender and his hitting numbers are quite good for a middle infielder. And, unlike Edgar Renteria, he hasn't proven conclusively that he can't hit in the American League.

  6. One word:


    (you know how I feel about the "P" word)