Friday, June 29, 2012

Jim Thome and Placido Polanco

The worst part of fan-based trade ideas is that oftentimes they are not realistic.  Sure, we all know the weaknesses of the Tigers (2B, RF, DH) and we all know who will be an upgrade (virtually anyone). But we generally don’t know who is available and at what cost (the value of the prospects).  It’s even harder this year with the added Wild Card team as more teams will think that they can make the playoffs, limiting the amount of players available for trade.

Recently the PhiladelphiaPhillies have placed Jim Thome on the trading block and with them in last place and 9 games back, he probably won’t be the only one on the trading block.  So I’m going to propose one of those crazy fan-based unrealistic trades: Thome and Placido Polanco for Adam Wilk and a PTBNL.

The Tigers have gotten .235/.261/.343 production out of the DH spot this year.  After hoping for an August return from Victor Martinez, it has been announced that he won’t be back until mid-September at the earliest.  The Tigers are not about to move Fielder or Cabrera to the DH spot, so Thome makes a lot of sense for the Tigers to fill this gaping hole.  Thome has hit .242/.338/.516 so far this year with 5 HR.  All 5 HR have come in June in which Thome is hitting .295/.380/.682.  Not only will this upgrade the Tigers DH position, but it’ll also fill in the void in the 5th spot in the lineup.  The downside is that Thome is 41 years old and there’s no guarantee how much production he’ll give the Tigers.  But that’s what makes him so cheap; the Tigers can get him without giving up any of their top 10 prospects.  The last 2 times Thome has been traded, it was for Justin Fuller and a PTBNL (who hasn’t even been named yet).    

What happens if Victor Martinez comes back healthy?  In September, the rosters will be expanded, so they won't have to make room on the 25-man roster.  They can play the match-ups for the last two weeks of the season and in the play-offs.  Having an extra bat in the play-offs will benefit the Tigers; Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly aren't very good pinch hitter options as Jim Thome or Victor Martinez.  They will only use a 4-man rotation in the play-offs, so carrying an extra bat won't be difficult (even though normally that spot is used for an extra reliever).  

The other player I think the Tigers can get is Placido Polanco.  No, I’m not one of those people who thought the Tigers made a mistake for getting rid of him in the first place.  Polanco wanted 3 years and a lot of money for someone on the decline of his career.  It simply wasn’t worth it when it looked like the Tigers had a good replacement in Scott Sizemore.  It just didn’t work out.  It’s just a coincidence that he just happens to be one of the few players who will likely get traded that is capable of playing 2B.  Polanco is currently playing 3B and hitting .278/.324/.363 for the Phillies and he’ll be a big upgrade to what the Tigers have had at 2B.  Dombrowski has shown to get past players that played for Leyland before with the acquisitions of Gary Sheffield and Edgar Renteria.  The best thing of all, Polanco will come cheap, just like Thome.  Polanco knows his way around the clubhouse and is familiar with Leyland’s managerial style and could provide a veteran presence.  His defense and offense have declined from the last time he was here, but will probably be better than who the Tigers have currently.  It’ll be a smooth transition if nothing else.

Thome and Polanco are not long-term solutions.  However, if the Tigers think they can make the play-offs this year, they don’t need to think long-term right now.  Get through this year first and worry about long-term in the off-season (hopefully V-Mart will be healthy enough to take over the DH role).  Thome is signed cheaply for $1.25 million and Polanco is signed for $6.25 million with a $1 million buyout.  Because they will be getting these players in the middle of the season, they will only have to pay a prorated portion of that contract; it’s well within Dombrowski’s budget, I’m sure.  And because they aren’t big time players, it shouldn’t cost the Tigers much in prospects.  The Tigers have a pitching surplus in the minors, so Adam Wilk and a PTBNL (maybe one of Luke Putkonen or Luis Marte or the like) should be enough to pry them away. 

No, Thome and Polanco will not be a huge trade deadline acquisition and I’m sure you can tell me a list of other players who will be bigger upgrades in the comments.  However, the Tigers don’t have a lot of options in terms of who is available and who they will be willing to give up in a trade (I’m sure they will like to keep Turner and Castellanos).  Thome and Polanco will be an upgrade to who they currently have, but the question remains, will it be enough to get them in the play-offs?

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