Everyone Relax, Dave’s Got This
The Tigers have made two pretty questionable moves over the last week, and it’s no surprise that they have both come as a surprise to the fan base. With questionable moves comes scrutiny of the general manager, and I think that Dave Dombrowski has received a lot of unfair flack lately, but we’ll get to that later. As many of you know, the injury bug has hit the Tigers hard this spring. So far Detroit has lost Andy Dirks till mid June, Jose Iglesias till at least September, and Bruce Rondon for the entire season. Although he originally stated he would look internally for replacements, Dombrowski has gone to the trade market to fill in the cracks. On Friday, March 21st the Tigers acquired infielder Andrew Romine from the Angels, and on Monday, March 24th they acquired infielder Alex Gonzalez from the Orioles.
Romine is a 28 year old switch hitter that has only logged 123 MLB plate appearances in his career producing a .262 wOBA, a .303 OBP, and a .270 SLG. Gonzalez on the other hand is a 37 year old right handed hitter, and posted a line of .193, .203, and .239 in 118 plate appearances with the Brewers last season. Romine is considered a solid defensive shortstop, while Gonzalez use to play the position in his younger days, but has only played a total of 226 innings there over the last two seasons. As of right now, it looks like these two are going to platoon at short throughout the season.
Take a look at both of their statistics again. Now, what really stands out to you? If you answered “nothing,” then you are correct! Romine is a carbon copy of Danny Worth that can swing from the left side, and Gonzalez is, well, he’s old!
Why would the Tigers want to acquire two players such as Andrew Romine and Alex Gonzalez?
I understand why you’re asking yourself that question, because frankly, I’ve been asking myself the same thing. Well, the answer is simple. The Detroit Tigers traded for Andrew James Romine and Alexander Gonzalez simply because they could. Now you might be thinking that that’s a dumb reason to make a trade, but let me explain to you why it really isn’t. Believe it or not, sometimes baseball general managers have a method to their madness.
In order to acquire Andrew Romine, all Dombrowski had to give up was Jose Alvarez, a typical minor league left handed pitcher that had the ability to make a spot start in the MLB every once in awhile. I know that Alvarez had a pretty good debut last year against the Indians where he only gave up one run and three hits through six innings, but that was pretty much the peak of his career. In 38.2 innings, Alvarez had a 5.82 ERA, a 5.19 FIP, and a 4.40 xFIP. Yep, that’s expendable. I’m sure Kyle Lobstein, the new probable spot starter, can post those numbers, and he actually has a much higher ceiling than Alvarez. While the Tigers know that they aren’t getting much in Romine, the swap does not hurt them one bit. At least now they have another option they can test out at shortstop.
To acquire Alex Gonzalez, the Tigers traded utility man Steve Lobardozzi to the Orioles. I know, I know, Lombardozzi was just acquired in the Fister trade, but he was, in all honesty, just a filler piece that was expendable from the beginning. Robbie Ray was the centerpiece of the Fister deal, and Ian Kroll has back end bullpen potential. Dombrowski said from the start that Lombardozzi would be what Ramon Santiago was to the team for the last few years. Guess what that role was… It was an expendable utility infielder role! Lobardozzi had played short in spurts during Spring Training, but if Dombrowski was comfortable with him playing significant innings there, he would not have traded him. Obviously he didn’t think Lombardozzi’s glove could handle the position, so boom, they traded him! Also, as long as Don Kelly is around, Steve Lombardozzi wasn’t going to get a chance to be the utility outfielder. That’s just the way it is.
But you said Gonzalez can’t handle shortstop anymore, so why would the Tigers want him?
I know what I said, but that’s just my opinion based off of what I have read from scouts and reporters that have been at Spring Training. It’s quite possible that the Tigers have had people watching him that think quite the contrary. Gonzalez use to post seasons of 5+ UZRs at short in his prime, and although it’s improbable, it is possible that he is in good enough shape to at least be solid at the position for 100 games or so. I don’t really like to use Spring Training batting stats to make any conclusions, but he currently has a 1.145 OPS through 12 games, so maybe the Tigers are going to see if they can catch lightning in a bottle.
When you really analyze the last two trades that Dombrowski has made, there really is no downside for the Tigers. He didn’t have to give up anything to get the two players, and if the two players both end up being detriments to the team, then he’ll probably cave in and just let Danny Worth and Hernan Perez split time at short. We already know that both of them will play solid defense and provide little-to-no offensive production. With Iglesias most likely done for the season, I think the organization has accepted that shortstop is going to be a low production position this year, and are just going to do what they can throughout the year to patch it together. Does that mean that it will involve five or six different players seeing time there throughout the season? It very well could. Whoever plays the position at this point is almost guaranteed to bat last in the order, so as long as whoever plays it doesn’t turn out to be a mega flop, the Tigers will probably be okay with it. Just remember, Pete Kozma played shortstop for the Cardinals in 2013 and that didn’t stop them from making it to the World Series.
What about filling left field and Rondon’s vacated bullpen spot?
As of right now, it looks like the Tigers are going to take outfield prospect Tyler Collins north with them. Again, I take Spring Training stats as a grain of salt, but Collins has a .961 OPS so far and hits well off of right handed pitchers. Him and Rajai Davis could platoon in left field. If Collins does make the big club out of spring training, hopefully he can at least hold his own in the MLB until Andy Dirks comes back. If Collins ends up flourishing in the Majors, well then great, it would be a pleasant surprise!
In regards to the bullpen, I really don’t have a clue what is going to happen there. All I know is that the Tigers have been in win-now mode for the last three years and nothing has changed going into this season. If the season starts and the current stock of arms (minus Joe Nathan) proves that they can’t handle it, I know that Dave Dombrowski is not going to sit at his desk and let 2014 fade away.
Now it’s time to cover why I think the flack that Dombrowski has received is unfair. Dave Dombrowski is a phenomenal general manager, and I am willing to defend that to the grave. In his tenure in Detroit, he has signed free agents like Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordoñez, and traded for players such as Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister. Has he made mistakes (Washburn, Willis)? Yes, but show me a general manager with a perfect track record and I’ll show you a liar. Although he traded Fister away in the offseason, a trade that will always be questioned within the fan base, almost all of his moves have turned out to benefit the Tigers. I have never met Dave Dombrowski and I may not ever get to sit down with him and pick his brain, but I trust in his moves and have faith that he will continue to make moves within the best interests of the 2014 Detroit Tigers throughout the season.