Thursday, March 25, 2004

posted by James - 12:41 PM

Oh, I know you all have been waiting for this

...Beep...Beep ...Beep...Beep...Beep

(Beeping to the tune of Black Sabbath's Iron Man)

Breaking news from the Just North of Wrigley Field Ugueth Urbina Update Center... maybe for the final time.

The former Marlins and Rangers closer has reached a deal with the Detroit Tigers pending a non-eventful physical, though he already took a physical for the Tigers earlier this year.

Though the Tigers weren't on my top five places Urbina might land, I did mention them as other contenders because they have several young relief pitchers available for late-inning duty, but none have impressed this spring including ailing Fernando Rodney and the newest Toledo Mud Hen, Matt Anderson. Even worse, they lost right-hander Chris Spurling to injury for the season, who I still think is a good long-term choice as a closer in Detroit. He held right-handed batters to a .200 BA in his first season in the majors, but he really needs to raise his strikeout rates.

I probably should have broken out the midi-format Iron Man after Spurling went down, but nonetheless this is a good choice for Urbina and the Tigers.

Urbina had flirted with the idea of signing with Al Central rival Cleveland, but he would have had competition from anointed closer David Riske and eventually former closers Jose Jimenez and Bob Wickman.

With the Tigers, he has a free shot at the closer's gig with no competition. The Tigers don't mind because it’s money they have and ninth-inning peace they lack. And because they have an option on his contract for next year, they could end up trading him to a contender such as Atlanta or San Francisco come July.

I think the Tigers could have horded their money and available roster spots and put it back into player development and younger-talent acquisition (such as letting Craig Monroe get a shot at leftfield and signing a few "international" talents like Maels Rodriguez or one of the Japanese relievers), but they have a brand new stadium, a very rich owner (Pizza! Pizza!) and I don't think they overpaid for any of their acquisitions. So, I applaud Mike Illitch for letting Dave Dombrowski have at it.

Here's what I see as the Tigers' 2004 roster:
1. Sanchez cf
2. Vina 2b
3. Rodriguez c
4. Young dh
5. White lf
6. Guillen ss
7. Higginson rf
8. Pena 1b
9. Munson 3b

Inge c
Infante inf
Monroe of
Shelton inf/c
Norton inf

Johnson rhp
Bonderman rhp
Cornejo rhp
Maroth lhp
Knotts rhp

Yan rhp
Patterson rhp
Walker lhp
German rhp
Levine rhp
Urbina rhp

other notables
Robertson lhp
Rodney rhp
Anderson rhp
Ledezma lhp
Eckenstahler lhp
Roney rhp
Van Hekken lhp
Dingman rhp
Spurling rhp (DL)
Mears rhp

DiFelice c
Petrick c
Klassen inf
Ozuna inf
Torres of
Ross of
I'm not really sure what to do with their bench, because it's light on outfielders and heavy on catchers... but Dimitri Young could see time in the outfield, and they're turning Brandon Inge into a utility player, which I can't figure out... but I'm all for it if it gets Chris Shelton more at-bats at catcher, first base and DH. He's been tearing up the Grapefruit League since they pilfered him in the Rule V Draft (aka the annual Pittsburgh Plundering).

The Tigers could leave Greg Norton off the roster for Andres Torres (.366 spring BA with 2 SB) if they think they need to take an extra pitcher. There's still a pretty good battle going between Gary Knotts, Nate Robertson, Esteban Yan and Eric Eckenstahler for the fifth starter and/or back-end bullpen slots.

The best part about what the Tigers did this offseason is they didn't inhibit the progress of any of their young pitchers. For the most part, they'll all have their spot back next year and they signed an "ace" (Jason Johnson) to take the pressure off them without committing a whole bunch of salary or contract years to him.

The Tigers could have went out and signed a bunch of middle-of-the-road Dave Burba type swing pitchers and harmed the development of guys like Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Cornejo and future aces Kyle Sleeth and Kenny Baugh.

I don't know how much better the Tigers are over the team that lost almost 120 games, but I know that Cleveland is still bad and did nothing to improve and the White Sox did nothing to improve and lost Carl Everett, Roberto Alomar and Bartolo Colon. I can see the Tigers winning 70 games and challenging for third in this division. I'll get my working shoes on and post my roster projections for the rest of the AL Central tonight.

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