Friday, November 1, 2013

Detroit Tigers position by position review: Catchers

We are at the end of the 2013 baseball season. Now the game turns from the field into the front office and team work to resign, upgrade, and build their rosters for 2014. A lot of this process is on hold as the Detroit Tigers work to find their next skipper, but it is time to take a look at our Tigers see where they can save a little money, upgrade, and become a team that can get over the hump from where they are now.

We begin this look with the catchers.

Of course we already know that Brayan Pena will not be back. He made under a million dollars as the back up catcher for 2013 and after a pretty good season is in line for a raise. Usually GM Dave Dombroswski holds a press conference to announce moves like this but his time is likely been eaten up with the managerial search.  I think this move is a clear indication that Dombrowski is getting payroll wherever he can to resign Max Scherzer for 2014 at least. It seems very likely Max will command at least 15 million dollars as his value will be hurt some given the fact that he is under team control for one more season.

What that means is Alex Avila likely returns as the starter and the Tigers elevate Bryan Holiday to be his backup. Now let the debate begin. Avila made just under 3 million in 2013 and hit just .227 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI. Clearly that is not enough production in the bottom of the order, and it seems Catcher is one of the spots where this team could choose to improve itself. The hang up there is Alex's dad just happens to be the assistant General Manager. Will he do what is best for this team and urge the Tigers to pursue a free agent upgrade here or keep his son employed? That is the question.

There are options out there. If the tigers decide to go all in, to become a luxury tax team they could go out and get Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That is gonna take another major investment by Mike Illitch. The payroll for 2013 was 150 million, the Tigers have 107 committed right now and that is without Scherzer. Will Illitch go all in for 2014? Three million people have come through the gates of Comerica Park the last two seasons so it seems likely he is making his money back. However, the Tigers are limited in ways the other big spenders are not with their local TV deal.

In baseball you have to spend money and spend it wisely to win. Case in point the final four teams from 2013 all had top 11 payrolls as of opening day. I think this is a lesson Illitch has learned and much like the Detroit Red Wings teams he owned in the late 1990's and early 2000's Illitch is willing to spend the money to get him his ultimate goal of a World Series title.

I think it is very unlikely, however that Avila will not be back with this team. In fact I think nothing will happen till the Scherzer situation gets resolved be that a one year deal or a trade. If the Tigers want to upgrade other things outside of the starting rotation it might mean sacrificing Scherzer for the long term good. He would likely bring back at least one star player and a quality prospect. that would give the Tigers another chip to trade to make an upgrade somewhere else.

We will have to wait and see what the Tigers payroll will be for 2014, but catcher is a place they could use an upgrade. I hope that they choose to upgrade here, but to be frank there might be bigger holes. To be fair Avila's value to the Tigers is how he handles their staff, and that cannot be overlooked.

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