Prince Fielder, Joey Votto, Drew Stubbs

Prince Fielder needs to be a full-time designated hitter

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After the stunning news that the Tigers had signed Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract came another little bombshell, courtesy of CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman:

prince will be the first baseman, for anyone asking. cabrera will have to change role.

FOXSports.com’s Danny Knobler, a former Tigers beat writer, made the same claim minutes later (he probably would have had it first if he didn’t bother with that pesky capitalization):

Expect the Tigers to play Prince every day at 1B, and to move Cabrera to 3B. And don’t be surprised if he’s better there than you think.

So, that’s the way it will likely be aligned at the start of the spring. Still, if the Tigers actually start the season that way, they’ll have the game’s worst infield defense and possibly the worst seen in the league in a few years. Some days, it would include three players who were moved off their current positions, only to return later:

– The Marlins stopped playing Cabrera at third base after the 2007 season.

–  The Indians shifted Jhonny Peralta from shortstop to third base in 2009 before the Tigers put him back there a year later.

– Ryan Raburn will compete with Ramon Santiago for time at second base. The Tigers originally stopped playing Raburn at second in 2008 before giving him 15 starts there in 2010 and 55 starts there last year (even though he opened the season behind Will Rhymes, Santiago, Scott Sizemore and the injured Carlos Guillen in the pecking order).

The Tigers can probably afford to start the season that way. I doubt they’ll be able to afford to finish it with such an alignment. The only reason for them to do it is if it was a condition of Fielder picking Detroit. It makes no sense for baseball reasons, not when they just lost Victor Martinez, their full-time DH, to a torn ACL. Fielder at DH, Cabrera at first base and Brandon Inge at third is the right alignment for these Tigers for now. Inge should at least flash an above average glove, and if he doesn’t hit much better than last year, a cheap third baseman can be acquired later.

And if it is a condition of Fielder’s arrival that he has to play first, then sticking Cabrera in left field and Delmon Young at DH would be a superior alternative to the other plan. Young’s a big liability in the field anyway, so the Tigers probably wouldn’t lose much defensively by going to Cabrera there.

But let’s face it: the Tigers only wanted Fielder for his bat. Shaking up the whole defense to make room for it simply doesn’t add up, and it would likely cost the team some of what it gains with his arrival.

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.