Last Tuesday, the Tigers released utility man Ryan Raburn, officially making him a free agent. They also added relievers Bruce Rondon and Melvin Mercedes and shortstop Dixon Machado to the 40-man roster and outrighted reliever Tyler Stohr before the deadline. The deadline is to protect players for the Rule 5 Draft. Players have to be protected if they were:
1. Signed at age 19 or older and have been with the organization for 4 years or
2. Signed at age 18 or younger and have been with the organization for 5 years.
Raburn batted .256/.311/.430/.740 with 54 HR and a 96 OPS+ in parts of 7 years with the Tigers. He had his best years in 2009-2011 when he batted .274/.329/.473/.802 with 45 HR and a 113 OPS+, prompting the Tigers to make him the starting second baseman to start the 2012 season. He has always hit well against left-handers, hitting .282/.355/.547/.902 against southpaws in those 3 years, suggesting that he’d at least make a great platoon player. And for reasons unexplained by the SABR community, he has always hit well in the 2nd half of the year, hitting .320/.374/.552/.925 after the all-star break in those 3 years.
Unfortunately, those numbers did not transfer in 2012 as he only hit .171/.226/.254/.480 with only 1 HR and a 30 OPS+. He did just as bad against lefties (.165/.224/.253) as righties (.175/.228/.254/.482). He was eventually sent to AAA right before his 5 years of ML service time came, so he couldn’t refuse the assignment. Then finished the year on the disabled list, so he couldn’t demonstrate if he could duplicate his 2nd half magic. His poor defense added to his misery of a season; his -1.5 fWAR and -2.0 rWAR were among the worst in all of baseball. MLB Trade Rumors projected Raburn would get $2.1 million in arbitration for 2013, which would’ve been too much money for the kind of year he had, so releasing him was the obvious choice. He’ll be 32 years old next year, so he might have his best years behind him, but could be serviceable if he could get back to hitting left-handed pitching. He’s a prime change of scenery candidate if I ever saw one.
Bruce Rondon is the big name added to the roster. Baseball America has him ranked 3rd on the Tigers’ top 10 prospect list for 2013. Rondon pitched at 3 levels for the Tigers, ending in AAA with an overall line of 53 IP, 1.53 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 30.1% K rate and 11.9% BB rate, good enough to earn Tigers’ minor league pitcher of the year. Rondon is expected to make the team out of Spring Training and be in the mix to be the closer, but lack of major league experience is worrisome. Personally, I’d like to see Al Alburquerque get the first shot at closing next year.
Melvin Mercedes spent most of 2012 in A-ball, pitching 64 1/3 IP, 2.80 ERA, 1.197 WHIP, 16.5% K rate and 8.8% BB rate. He also pitched 1 inning in Lakeland, giving up 1 hit and 1 BB with no ER. Motor City Bengals did a great scouting report for this guy, but it’s a year old. He’s definitely one to watch. According to Minor League Central, he had a great 54.4% GB rate in 2012; if he can carry that to the majors, he can have success. But I expect the Tigers to proceed with caution after having Tommy John Surgery by starting him in Lakeland with a possible call-up to AA half-way through the year.
Dixon Machado played all of 2012 in Lakeland, hitting a pathetic .195/.283/.252/.534. His real asset is his defense. Baseball America rates him as the best defensive infielder and best infield arm in the Tigers’ system. If he doesn’t learn to hit better, he could be another Cale Iorg-type of a player – all glove and no bat.