Free Agency Report: American League, Part III
The Tigers were all but guaranteed to score 1,000 runs and cruise to the World Series last season, but a funny thing happened along the way – they sucked. The Tigers recovered somewhat after an awful start and did wind up scoring plenty of runs, yet even with 821 tallies, they fell 179 shy of their assumed count and 66 behind 2007’s total. Still, with good on-base and slugging percentages, the offense was solid. However, Detroit finished dead last in steals, and its pitching staff was simply awful.
In retrospect, the Tigers have been slipping since losing the 2006 World Series.
There’s still a boatload of talent here, but with seven free agents on the market, Detroit will have to scramble somewhat to right the ship and at least return to its winning ways of 2006 and 2007. Only Edgar Renteria will be a major loss, but beyond addressing that situation, the Tigers need to do serious work on the pitching staff.
Kyle Farnsworth, RHP: Farnsworth was actually enjoying a strong season as one of the Yanks’ top set-up men before a deadline deal sent him back to Detroit for Ivan Rodriguez. That’s when everything went to hell for Farnsworth as, despite fine control and strong strikeout rates, he suddenly became very hittable, getting rocked to the tune of a .380 BAA during his time in Motown. I guess drinking from the same water cooler the other Tiger relievers imbibe on will do that to you. Given that he pitched well for the Yanks, there’s a real possibility they could bring Farnsworth back to the Big Apple and Colorado is said to be another potential destination.
Casey Fossum, LHP: Now strictly a reliever, Fossum was better last year, but that’s not saying much in the wake of his disastrous 2007 season. In fact, were he not left-handed, he’d probably be in Indy ball by now after recording a 7.70 ERA in 2007. However, the fact that his strikeout rate actually dropped with a move to the bullpen does not bode well for any future success for Fossum. I sense a minor league deal and continued fantasy irrelevance in his future.
Freddy Garcia, RHP: Yes, it was only three starts, but Garcia looked surprisingly rust-free in his late-season return from 2007 shoulder surgery, buoying hopes that he could be a legitimate factor in 2009. He’s probably going to be reasonably priced, which means a team like the Marlins may look to add him to the back of their rotation. Cleveland is another possible destination for Garcia, and I’ve also heard the Yankees (who may want him as a spot starter) and Texas (always desperate for starting pitcher) could be players here as well.
Todd Jones, RHP: Jones was far too hittable, served up too many long balls and then got hurt, ultimately losing his closer job. He then announced his retirement, sailing off into the sunset. Hopefully for this trip, he’ll bring more than one pair of underwear.
Edgar Renteria, SS: Renteria picked a lousy time to be a free agent after suffering through his worst season since 2001. His power and productivity has been waning for several years, and his BA plummeted after a fantastic season for the Braves in 2007. He’s also slipping defensively, so Detroit is not expected to offer him salary arbitration, meaning that it will need to find a new shortstop in 2009 (clearly, Ramon Santiago is not the answer). Renteria is starting to look like a mercenary, bouncing from team to team as it appears he’ll play for his fifth team in six years next season.
Kenny Rogers, LHP: Well, the Gambler stayed healthy last season, but that’s about the only good news. He endured his worst season since 2001, and his strikeout rate – always weak to begin with – has sunk to unacceptably low levels now. Does this 20-year veteran have anything left to offer? I wouldn’t even bet a roast chicken on it. Hey, you know what they say: you got know when to fold ’em. Are you listening, Kenny?
Vance Wilson, C: Wilson hasn’t appeared in the majors for the last two seasons, but he’d like to stay in the Detroit organization. And I want a night of endless bliss with Jennifer Connelly. I think we’re both shit out of luck, but I’ll keep you posted on that one.
Kansas City Royals
It may not seem like much, but the Royals have been steadily climbing in recent years and are now poised for their first .500 season since 2003. They’ve gone from 56 wins in 2005 to 62 to 69 to 75 last season. I’m still trying to figure out how KC experienced a six-game improvement last season considering it scored 15 less runs and gave up three more than it did in 2007.
At any rate, while the bullpen didn’t perform as well as it did in 2007, the Royals have solved one long-term issue with the emergence of Joakim Soria as a top-notch closer, and that was probably the biggest story of the year in KC.
The real problem here, however, is the offense – simply moribund all year — ranking near the bottom of every key category. KC needs to find a way to score more runs in 2009.
The good news is this young team has only free agent, and considering he missed almost half the season, clearly the Royals can live without him.
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B: He’s put up some decent on-base percentages the last couple of years, but his inability to stay in the lineup has rendered him a fantasy afterthought. And at the age of 38, he ain’t exactly getting any more spry. Grudzielanek was the Royals’ player of the year in 2006, but he’s missed significant time in each of the two seasons since. The Brewers may look to add the Milwaukee native for a utility role. St. Louis is another possibility, as is Arizona. Grudzielanek can still hit when he’s healthy, so who knows, maybe someone will give him a starting job. KC may still offer him arbitration, or he could stay in the division if Cleveland offers him a deal.
Next, we’ll look at the Angels and the Twins.