Don't expect the Tigers and Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson to reunite this offseason. (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)
Issues and answers following Wednesday’s seismic trade that delivered Prince Fielder to the Rangers and Ian Kinsler to the Tigers:
Any chance the Tigers will welcome back Curtis Granderson in their quest for a new left fielder?
Granderson is 32 and no longer is the Granderson who helped stampede the Tigers to a World Series in 2006. He turned down $14.1 million to play another season for the Yankees and is looking for something lucrative spread across multiple years.
The Tigers aren’t interested. Not when they would part with their first-round pick in 2014 as part of the penalty (including a fat contract) for signing a player who these days is more average than above average. It’s nice sentiment, this notion of Granderson returning to Detroit.
But the sentiment flows from fans. It is non-existent in the Tigers front office.
Now the Tigers have lots of money to splurge on extending Max Scherzer.
The people cheering for a Scherzer extension are largely the folks who set records for Motown euphoria the day Prince Fielder signed his $214 million deal. And we know how that worked out.
Fielder was fine for a year. He was less fine in his second season. And he loomed as a Hindenburg-grade contractual disaster as the Tigers pondered his next seven seasons at $24 million per year.
Scherzer, of course, is not a comparable case. He is a starting pitcher. And that’s precisely why the Tigers are probably better off letting him hit free agency next autumn and taking their first-round pick in 2015 as compensation.
Pitchers are even more dangerous risks than hitters when long, expensive deals are considered. Their arms are fragile. And once they blow out the candles on that 30th birthday cake, as Scherzer will do next summer, their performance often wanes.
Fans don’t want to hear it, of course. They didn’t want to hear any dark scenarios 22 months ago about Fielder.
But you have to know when to let a contract run out. Scott Boras is Scherzer’s agent. Any renewal ahead of free agency will be for something, minimally, in the six years, $150 million range. The Tigers are better saddling that brand of bill with another club, even for a pitcher as exceptional as Scherzer.
Thoughts on a new left fielder?
Again, caution is advised, although Shin-Soo Choo’s wide world of skills will make him a tempting Tigers target. He has the left-handed bat, the defense, arm, and speed that qualify him as a potentially sane investment.
He turns 32 next July, a number worth pondering for any team offering him $100 million-plus for five seasons, which is in the vicinity of Choo’s ultimate sale price.
Most fans will say go for it. After all, the Tigers need to win now.
But they said that when Fielder was signed. And, unless I had tapped into a different fan base, the same folks were partying hearty when their favorite team had become emancipated from its Fielder obligation.
As a general rule — Miguel Cabrera’s situation an exception — most teams are better off going easy on contracts. It makes them healthier and more versatile. And that frequently goes farther than a crazy contract in delivering a championship.
Will third base be placed in Nick Castellanos’ tender hands?
I would bet yes.
The kid has enough talent to be next season’s rookie of the year. He will hit, no question. How he handles his return to a position he hasn’t played in 17 months, is the more critical question.
Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers’ front-office elder, conceded neither he nor his lieutenants were sure how quickly Castellanos could reclaim his sea legs at third.
“That’s a question for discussion between a lot of people at this point,” Dombrowski said. “He hasn’t played there over a year. We made sure he at least took ground balls there (during his September call-up). We have talked about the possibility of this happening, and how we would handle it.
“I would think he could make the transition pretty quickly. But we need to get a lot of people’s feedback on that.”
For the record, I asked Castellanos about moving back and he said: “Like riding a bike.”
Well, at first, it might be like riding a boneshaker. But the Tigers figure to give him a whirl, with an Opening Day assignment not out of the picture.