Phil Coke was one of the heroes of the Tigers’ playoff run last season, taking over for Jose Valverde as the primary closer while allowing one run in 10.2 innings. And now, less than a year later, he’s been demoted to Triple-A.
Coke’s performance this season certainly hasn’t been pretty with a 5.00 ERA in 36 innings, but it’s not that far off from the 4.16 ERA he posted in 227 innings during his first three seasons with the Tigers and a deeper look at his numbers shows a reliever being misused. Coke has always been good against lefties and struggled against righties, but manager Jim Leyland has used him like a traditional setup man rather than like a southpaw specialist.
Coke has held lefties to a perfectly decent .716 OPS, but because righties have knocked him around for an .834 OPS and he’s faced more righties than lefties the overall results have been ugly. And it was the same story last year, as Coke was very good against lefties and very bad against righties while facing an equal number of both. If the Tigers used Coke to his strengths he’d still be in the majors, although Coke has balked at the idea of being a specialist anyway.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.