During free agent season, teams are frequently hesitant to sign players who were offered arbitration. "Type A" free agents will cost a team in the top half of the standings their first round pick in the next year's draft and will cost a team in the bottom half a second round pick. Today, I wanted to take a look back at some of the restricted free agents signed by the Tigers and what players they could have taken with the pick.
November 18, 2004: Signed relief pitcher Troy Percival
This contract cost the Tigers a second round draft pick that went to the Angels in the 2005 draft. Percival took the Tigers' closer's role and was supposed to provide stability to the team's bullpen. Forearm problems rendered him ineffective in 2005, before an elbow injury shut him down for the rest of 2005 and 2006.
Meanwhile, the Angels selected high school shortstop Ryan Mount with the draft pick. Mount has since been moved to second base and ranks as the Angels' 14th-best prospect by Baseball America. Players taken immediately after Mount include marginal prospects like Brad Corley, Travis Wood, Nolan Reimold, Mike Costanzo. Some of the top players taken later in the round include Chase Headley of the Padres, Braves shorstop Yunel Escobar, and Twins control artist Kevin Slowey. It's impossible to tell who the Tigers would have drafted with this pick, but it appears likely that they could have received somebody who contributed more than Percival.
November 13, 1998: Signed third baseman Dean Palmer
Palmer got a hefty five-year contract despite injury concerns, defensive futility, and problems getting on base. Plugged into the third base position, Palmer hit well his first two seasons, knocking in 100 runs each year to keep traditionalists happy, but his defense and plate discipline killed his overall value. Injuries rendered him useless during the last three seasons of the contract and the contract would have become a burden had it not been for the insurance included in the deal.
The Royals recieved the Tigers' second round draft pick in 1999, and used it on pitcher Brian Sanches, who never panned out for them. Other players who went right after Sanches include Rob Bowen, non-prospect James Perez, Wes Obermueller, and Brandon Phillips. Again, it was a mixed bag in the second round, and it is hard to tell who the Tigers would have gotten with the draft pick. The Palmer deal was a mistake on so many other levels, that the draft pick was likely inconsequential.
November 23, 1990: Signed outfielder Rob Deer
Rob Deer fit right in with the high power, low contact Detroit offenses of the early 90's. His batting average was always low, but he walked enough and hit for enough power to be useful. Deer was below average in '91 and '93, but hit very well in his 1992 campaign.
The Brewers received the Tigers 15th overall pick in the 1991 draft, and used it on Tyrone Hill, one of the bigger flops of the early part of that decade. Players taken immediately after Hill included Shawn Green, Eduardo Perez, career minor leaguer A.J. Shirley, Benji Gil, Pokey Reese, and juicer Allen Watson. Once again, it is impossible to tell who the Tigers would have taken with this pick, but Shawn Green would have been nice to have in a Tigers uniform across the outfield from Bobby Higginson. Rob Deer ended up not being worth the first round pick, even if the Tigers had wasted it on Tyrone Hill.
December 5, 1989: Signed utility-man Tony Phillips
Tony Phillips was an extremely underrated player in his five years with the Tigers. He spent significant time at third base before Travis Fryman's arrival, played superb second base as Lou Whitaker's platoon partner, and even played in the outfield. He posted OBP's of .361, .371, .387, .443, .409. Tony Phillips was everything you could have wanted out of a multi-positional leadoff hitter.
Oakland received the Tigers' second round draft choice in compensation for the loss of Phillips. They used it on Kansas Jayhawk Curtis Shaw, who never made the big leagues. The second round in 1990 was pretty thin, as there are several players who never made the Big Leagues, and only Bob Wickman ended up having a solid career. Tony Phillips was well worth the draft pick.