April 15, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Tony Paul

Tigers Mailbag: Were Tigers foolish not to make qualifying offers to Jhonny Peralta, Joaquin Benoit?

Jhonny Peralta is hitting .150 in 12 games with the Cardinals. Joaquin Benoit has a 3.60 ERA in five innings pitched with the Padres. (Getty Images)

Detroit Another day, another day off for the Tigers who already, since April 1, have had three scheduled days off, one game rained out, and another game frozen out.

And it was a wise decision by the Tigers brass to not push the issue Tuesday.

There was no good reason to force fans to sit through 20-degree temperatures, just to see one of 19 or is it 1,900? games against the Cleveland Indians this season.

The game can easily be made up later in the season, where both the team and fans win: the fans should get much nicer weather, and the Tigers should get a much larger crowd, which, in turn, will buy a lot more hot dogs and beer.

No word, by the way, on when the game will be made up, though it's likely to be part of a day-night doubleheader in July or September since the only mutual off day they have before or after a scheduled series in Detroit is the Thursday after the All-Star break, and neither team's players will be too keen on cutting short the already-brief holiday to play a makeup game.

They could always play Monday, June 23, as a one-game continuation to the series in Cleveland, but the Tigers play in Texas the following day, and the Indians in Arizona. So that's probably not ideal, either.

In any event, we'll know soon enough.

Now, on to this week's Tigers Mailbag.

Question: Signing Stephen Drew before June would cost the Tigers a draft choice, which we keep hearing is such a big deal. Yet the Tigers lost several free agents without draft compensation because they didn't make qualifying offers. Why didn't they offer low (on Jhonny Peralta and Joaquin Benoit especially) just to get some form of compensation? Mike, via email

Answer: This is a very legitimate question, particularly in the case of Peralta.

The qualifying-offer system still is relatively new, and many teams still are feeling their way around it. And the Tigers absolutely got caught flat-footed in regard to Peralta.

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told me shortly after Peralta signed with the Cardinals for four years and $53 million that the team had no clue his market value would be that high. Makes some sense, given he has limited defensive range and is coming off a 50-game PED suspension. Before Peralta signed, the most a guilty juicer had signed for was two years and $16 million.

Therefore, the Tigers thought if they offered Peralta the qualifying offer this year, worth $14.1 million for one year that Peralta would've taken it.

And here's where the Tigers flubbed, in my opinion. The worse that would've happened is Peralta would've accepted the deal and remained a Tiger. And would that have been so terrible? He's well-liked in that clubhouse, is coming off a fantastic season offensively, and he's versatile enough to play shortstop and third base, and even the outfield, in a pinch. In many ways, he made them a better team.

Obviously, the Tigers would love to have Peralta now, given Jose Iglesias is likely to miss the entire season, and the make-shift platoon of Alex Gonzalez and Andrew Romine is not good.

But this isn't some lazy, hindsight thinking. This made sense well before Iglesias went down with shin splints, or whatever doctors are calling it now. And it especially made sense if Dombrowski knew early that he would be making every effort to trade Prince Fielder, and thus the team would lack offense.

Now, there is a caveat here: Had the Tigers made Peralta the offer and he declined, would he still have been signed by the Cardinals? Remember, Stephen Drew is a decent offensive shortstop who is better defensively than Peralta, and yet he stunningly remains unemployed because he received a qualifying offer and no team is willing to part with the prime draft pick for his services.

Kendry Morales got burned too, and still is seeking a team. Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez got offers, too, and signed well after Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco, and in Santana's case for much less money, if you can make sense of that.

Teams are protecting those early draft picks with their lives, not just for the pick but for the money. If a team forfeits a first-round pick, it also forfeits from its draft budget the money slotted for that pick.

So, would Peralta have found himself in the same boat as Drew, still to this day out of work and, thus, the Tigers out of a draft pick?

We'll never know, but I highly doubt it. The Cardinals thought enough of him to pay him more than twice what most experts expected him to go for. The Mets were very interested. So, supposedly, were the Yankees, among others. If anything, Peralta might've received less money than the $53 million he got, as the team might've looked to recoup some cash in exchange for the lost pick. But somebody would've bit because clearly, the Tigers, and others, grossly misjudged his value.

As for Benoit, the Tigers made the right move not making the offer. He would've accepted in a heartbeat and the Tigers would be better off in the bullpen. But nobody pays $14.1 million for a reliever, any reliever. He ended up getting $15.5 million for two years with the Padres.

Question: Why are people so obsessed with making conclusions based on a 10-game sample? Dan Gladstone (twitter.com/gladdyontherise)

Answer: Thank you Dan. Somebody finally said it.

This often is my biggest pet peeve in baseball folks making grand proclamations based on small samples.

Judging a baseball team on the first 10 games of a season is the equivalent of judging a football team based on the first game of the season. It's 1/16th, anyway you slice it up.

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers are on pace to win 125 games, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are on pace to lose 121. Neither has a snowball's chance in Maui of happening.

In baseball, good teams have slumps, and bad teams get hot. Remember, even the putrid 2003 Tigers had winning streaks including one improbable one the last week of the season to avoid setting the game's record for losses in a season.

Dombrowski, on Monday night during an appearance at TAP bar and restaurant at MGM Grand Detroit, addressed this and insisted it's far too early to make any long-term projections based on what he's seen so far. That's especially true with Detroit, which has been in start-and-stop mode for more than a week, with all the off days and Tuesday's postponement. There's been no rhythm.

The Tigers also have played five games in National League parks, meaning the DH was out of play, and so was their regular lineup. Barring injury, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos will be in Detroit's lineup most every day this season, but that wasn't doable for every game in Los Angeles and San Diego.

So we're not really getting a good gauge of what this team can accomplish.

That's also true with the bullpen, which is off to a rocky start for seemingly the fourth year in a row.

The previous three, the Tigers made at least the American League Championship Series. Amazingly, the Tigers accomplished that in 2013 after losing two of three against the lowly Twins to open the season.

Remember that? Didn't think so. That's baseball.

Question: Do you think the Tigers will sign another relief pitcher? StiffSock (twitter/_ZourGrapez_)

Answer: Tough to say, given the free-agent pool is slim as it should be this time of year.

This much is certain: The seven relievers in the bullpen right now won't be the same as at season's end.

I do know they will keep an eye on Joel Hanrahan's workout before scouts Thursday. The two-time All-Star with the Pirates is coming back from Tommy John surgery. But more teams will watch him than won't, so there will be competition for his services.

More than likely, you can expect a trade at some point remember, relief pitching is by far the cheapest commodity in a deal like that. The Tigers also are deep there in the minors, far deeper than they are in starting pitching or on the position-player side of things.

Melvin Mercedes and Corey Knebel, two hard-throwing right-handers, are on the short list for a ticket to Detroit, perhaps as soon as next month.

Question: Is the Tigers catcher for 2016 in the system, and if so, who? Adam Johnson (twitter.com/RealMrJ)

Answer: Oooh. I'm good at predictions. I once said newspapers were the invincible industry. Nailed it!

This is impossible to say. Obviously, the Tigers are praying that it's Alex Avila but let's be honest, he's not the same hitter he was when he was the starting catcher for the AL in the 2011 All-Star Game. His arm also isn't as strong as it once was.

Some of this is not Avila's fault. He's been battered like no other the last few years, and no question, that's taken a heavy toll.

But the truth is, the Tigers can't and won't wait forever. At the moment, they're keeping a close eye on James McCann, who's at Triple A, as well as Ramon Cabrera, who's at Double A. Beyond that, it's hard to project those at Single A.

Bryan Holaday is another possibility. Currently he projects more as a backup, but that could change.

A trade or free-agent signing is another possible route, but given the money the Tigers will have locked up in a handful of players, they must go internal from time to time.

This could be one of those times.

Question: What's going on with Evan Reed? Is there real concern he is going to be charged? JJ (twitter.com/JJoseF13)

Answer: This is a very serious situation, JJ. As is every investigation into an alleged sexual assault.

But it can't be stressed enough: Reed has not been charged with anything, and there's no guarantee that he ever will.

Until the Tigers hear otherwise, and again there is no guarantee that they will, they will stand behind him and continue to pitch him and rightly so.

If you want to ask Tony a question about the Tigers, you can e-mail him at tpaul@detroitnews.com or hit him up on Twitter at tonypaul1984. Every Tuesday, he hosts a Tigers chat on Twitter.