Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Analysis on Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus.

Brad Ausmus was considered “the outsider” to replace Jim Leyland as the Tigers skipper. When news of his interview with GM Dave Dombrowski got out, most considered it a formality, because Ausmus was rumored for both the Nationals and Cubs vacant openings, nothing more.

Dave Dombrowski said all along that he wanted experience in his new manager, and that person to be someone that he was familiar with.

Taking a look back at the candidates who interviewed for the job:

Rick Renteria- a former major-league infielder, Renteria worked with Dave Dombrowski as a manager in the Marlins organization until he was hired by the San Diego Padres in 2003, and has been the Padres bench coach since 2011.  He considered to be the front-runner for the Cubs vacancy, now that Ausmus has been hired*.

Lloyd McClendon - Former Pirates manager and Tigers hitting coach since 2007 and was a member of Leyland’s staff since ’06.  Played in the majors from 1987-1994.  Was named Manager of the Seattle Mariners on November 5, 2013

Tim Wallach- the former MLB infielder was a member of the Montreal Expos during Dombrowski’s time with the team.  Has coached in the Dodgers organization in the minors and majors, since 2004, and has been bench coach since 2010. 

Brad Ausmus- ended up getting the job, despite one perceived weakness, no previous relationship with Dave Dombrowski.  One of the keys, to Ausmus getting the job, however was the close relationship he does have with Gene Lamont (more on that in a minute).

Brad Ausmus strengths as Dombrowski indicated were his intelligence (went to college at Dartmouth) his leadership, and communication skills- he taught himself to speak Spanish, which will come in handy on a Tigers roster with many Spanish fluent players.

Getting back to Lamont’s influence, he was a finalist for the Boston Red Sox job last off-season, losing out to John Farrell.  If Lamont had been given the job, he has already spoken to upper management in Boston about adding a young coach to his staff, to mentor as the bench coach- Brad Ausmus. Now, one-year later, Ausmus returns the favor keeping Lamont as a hold-over from Leyland’s 2013 staff.

Speaking Ausmus’ staff, it was announced on Thursday, Jeff Jones will also remain on staff as the Tigers pitching coach and coming over from the Houston Astros is 3rd Base coach/OF instructor is Dave Jones. 

With Lloyd McClendon being hired as the Seattle Mariners manager, leaving Tom Brookens as a man without a role on Ausmus staff. Detroit is still looking for a 1B coach and possibly another hitting instructor, but it is doubtful that Ausmus will retain any more of Leyland’s former staff. 

I believe that Ausmus will be a good change to the Tigers for 2014.  He is young enough to be able to relate to the influx of younger players that the front office has started to bring in, as the average age climbs.

I anticipate that Ausmus will do a fine job of relating to the players, as he just retired 3-years ago. He will also take his intelligence and start to “fuse” the more old-school type style of Leyland with some of the current metrics that clubs are using to evaluate talent, something that Leyland didn’t necessarily take advantage of.

His strengths will be working with Jeff Jones in handling the pitching staff, which should remain to be stocked, and Dombrowski has stated that he intends to have a proven closer at the back end of the bullpen, something that Leyland had to struggle with his last season.  He will also excel at communicating with both veterans and younger players and with his ability to speak Spanish; there will be nothing “lost in translation”.

Ausmus lack of experience as a game manager will also be offset by a quality coaching staff, led by bench coach Gene Lamont.  The 2014 Tigers will expect to contend for a World Series, and like 2013 not getting there will be a disappointment. Expect this team to also be better in some of the nuances of the game such as limiting base running errors and errors on defense.

*- Hired as Cubs Manager on Nov 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

McClendon to be named Seattle Mariners Manager

Lloyd McClendon
Reports out of the Pacific Northwest have been confirmed by multiple sources, former Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon will be named manager of the Seattle Mariners.

There had been no confirmation that McClendon would have been retained by Brad Ausmus in some capacity for the 2014 season, but even if Ausmus had wanted McClendon to join Gene Lamont, on his staff, the point becomes moot. McClendon had interviewed for the Tigers opening, and according to Dave Dombrowski, he was the first person that DD called when the decision was made to hire Ausmus instead.

Congrats to Lloyd on this opportunity.

Big Buck$ and team turnover- roster and coaches edition.

Details are starting to emerge regarding the contract of Brad Ausmus, who according to mLive’s Chris Lott, who says that Ausmus has signed a 3-year deal with a club option for the 4th season.   Financial details were not disclosed.

New Manager Brad Ausmus hasn’t completely filled out his coaching staff, as of yet. Bench coach Gene Lamont is going to stay on staff, filling the same role as last season, that point was made clear when Ausmus held his introductory press conference.

According to Tigers MLB blogger, Jason Beck, and others, pitching coach Jeff Jones is likely to return, as he has the support of the Front Office and has done a fine job keeping the Tigers staff ranked at the top of the AL stats-wise, and relatively injury free.

Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon still is in the mix for the vacant Seattle Mariners managerial post, so his availability to return is at best- up in the air.  No other comment has been made on the status of the remaining Leyland coaching staff members.

The Tigers have 17 players from last season’s team that are either Free Agents or Arbitration eligible. For the complete list, click here.

Of that list of 17, these players are not expected to return.
SS Jhonny Peralta
RP Octavio Dotel
C Brayan Pena
RP Jose Veras
IF Ramon Santiago
P Jeremy Bonderman

Free Agent 2B Omar Infante, OF Don Kelly, could come back depending on offers they receive from other teams, or what type of contract they will accept.  RP Octavio Dotel could also return if he is willing to sign a minor-league contract, which would option to MLB minimum if he performs well enough. Don’t expect Detroit to sign him to anything but a minor-league contract.

Taking a look at those who are arbitration eligible for Detroit, this is where market value and filling holes comes in.

Expect Fister, Porcello and Scherzer to receive large raises, with smaller ones expected for Austin Jackson, Alex Avila, Al Alburquerque, Phil Coke and Andy Dirks.

The guys at have put together and anticipated salary scale for the Arbitration Eligible Tigers, to view the complete article, click here.

This is what the salary increase(s) might end up looking like.

Porcello 2013 2014
$5,100,000 $7,700,000
Fister 2013 2014
$4,000,000 $6,900,000
Scherzer 2013 2014
$6,725,000 $13,600,000
Al Alburequerque 2013 2014
$500,000 $700,000
Avila 2013 2014
$2,950,000 3,700,000
A Jackson 2013 2014
$3,500,000 $5,300,000
Dirks 2013 2014
$505,000 $1,700,000
Kelly 2013 2014
$900,000 $900,000

That is an increase to the Tigers payroll of $16,320,000.  Ready for another ticket price hike, everyone?

That is without the price of a Closer (Benoit??) and whatever salary increase he would command, or bringing in Chris Perez, Joe Nathan, Edward Mujica, Grant Balfour, Kevin Gregg, Brian Wilson or former Tiger Fernando Rodney, all of whom are Free Agent’s.

The 2013 Detroit Tigers salary obligations ($148,693,600) set a franchise record, and just adding the arbitration increases that number climbs to $165,013,600.  

Add in the price of a closer, and/or leadoff hitter like Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin Shoo-Choo, and the Tigers payroll could easily approach $200,000,000.

Every MLB team is getting and additional $25M of revenue from TV contracts, and this money will most likely be applied to pay these salary increases, as opposed to invested into the minor league system or other areas.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Brad Ausmus named Manager. Who will he have to play, and where?

Dave Dombrowski (Left) and Brad Ausmus (Right) 
Sometime over the weekend, culminating in a press conference called Sunday at 4:30 local time, the defending American League Champion Detroit Tigers announced that former catcher Brad Ausmus will replace the departed Jim Leyland as Manager of the Tigers.

For fans of the Tigers, reaction seems to range from “I like it” to “I hate it” and everywhere in between. 

Brad Ausmus
Dave Dombrowski had no second thoughts, turning the keys over to a manager who has no big-league managerial experience.  Dombrowski interviewed 4 candidates to replace Leyland, and the one he knew the least, is the one who impressed him most; Detroit’s new manager Brad Ausmus.

Now, that we know who is in charge, at least on the field, who will be playing, and where. 

Of the 2013 AL Central championship roster,

these are the players under contract:
Justin Verlander (SP1)
Anibal Sanchez (SP3)
Victor Martinez (DH)
Prince Fielder (1B)
Miguel Cabrera (3B)
Torii Hunter (RF)

That is it. 

Now, news isn’t all bad, as the Tigers have a club “control” over the following players:
Matt Tuiasosopo (OF)
Danny Worth (IF)
Jose Iglesias (SS)
Drew Smyly (RP)
Bruce Rondon (RP)

The following group is either a Free Agent, or Arbitration eligible.
Max Scherzer (AE)
Rick Porcello (AE)
Doug Fister (AE)
Al Alburquerque (AE)
Alex Avila (AE)
Austin Jackson (AE)
Andy Dirks (AE)
Phil Coke (AE)
Joaquin Benoit (FA)
Jose Veras (FA)
Jeremy Bonderman (FA)
Brayan Pena (FA)
Omar Infante (FA)
Ramon Santiago (FA)
Don Kelly (FA)
Octavio Dotel (FA)
Jhonny Peralta (FA)

During the Press Conference announcing Ausmus as Manager, Dombrowski took time to address some concerns regarding the roster and basically admitted that the Tigers have little interest in re-signing SS/OF (?) Jhonny Peralta.  Despite his playing 9 games in Left Field for Detroit, after returning from his PED-related suspension, the Tigers view him as a shortstop only, and that position is filled by Jose Iglesias, whom the Tigers expect to have as their starting Shortstop for the next few years.

Dombrowski also admitted that the Tigers have interest in retaining the services of Benoit, but they will be searching for a proven closer, the role Benoit inherited during Leyland’s final season.  There are five Free Agent pitchers who have had success in the closer role in the past.  Benoit might end up with the Tigers, but not necessarily reprising his role from 2013.

From the list above of FA/AE players expect that at a bare minimum, Dotel, Peralta, Santiago, Bonderman, Pena, Veras, and Coke to depart. 

My guess also is that the Tigers re-sign Kelly, Infante, Dirks, Avila, Alburquerque, Fister, Scherzer, and Benoit. Fister and Scherzer are expected to receive big raises through the arbitration process.  Porcello will get an increase, of some value, but not to the degree of Fister and Scherzer.  

Austin Jackson, and either Porcello or Fister might be offered as trade-bait to fill holes, but of the trio of Fister, Scherzer and Porcello, I fully expect the Tigers to bring back two of them at a minimum. 

By my count, the Tigers “should” have 19 roster spots locked up as they prep their roster for the start of Spring Training, but Owner Mike Illitch has proven to have a “spend now to win now” mentality, so there could be a surprise in-store this off-season.