Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Amazing what you can miss in a day...

Thanks to the great service at Comcast, much of the Jacksonville, FL area was without cable and internet yesterday. While I really don't like boring my eight readers with personal details, it sets up the shock I had when I checked up on the Tigers during my lunch break today.

The most obvious shock was the wave of transactions before and after last night's game.

Recalling Wilkin Ramirez makes sense. Curtis Granderson was in need of a day off, and there is a shortage of right-handed bats on the team. If you can make a roster move for a spot starting pitcher, why not for a spot starting outfielder? Sending down Fien also makes sense. His last two outings have been rough.

I particularly liked Jim Leyland's quotes about this from

"We might be tinkering with our rosters for the next month or so," Leyland said. "If we overtax our bullpen tonight, we may send [Ramirez] back down tomorrow. He'll start tonight and who knows, that could be it. For one day, we have enough [rested arms] in our bullpen so we went out and added another right-handed bat."


"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here," Leyland said. "If you have the flexibility with your Major League roster, why not tinker with it. So don't read too much into this move."

It makes sense to me to utilize roster flexibility and take advantage of the short distance between Toledo and Detroit. It's a way to effectively expand the roster for the rest of the season. In a tight division race, it's the type of strategy that could make a huge difference.

After the game, Ramirez, no longer needed to spell Granderson, was sent back to Toledo along with Dusty Ryan (Honestly, was he even on the roster?). Chris Lambert, effectively taking Fien's place on the roster, and top catching prospect Alex Avila came up.

Lambert is a quality choice. He's been rolling lately. Had I been a motivated blogger, you would have seen me calling for his promotion back when Eddie Bonine got the spot start.

Avila is interesting, because there are procedural roster implications to this move.
  1. He was not Rule 5 eligible until after the 2011 season. He'll now be using up a 40 man roster spot that could be used on somebody else for two years.
  2. He'll also be using up option years he wouldn't have otherwise been using if he's not ready for the big leagues. Recent history shows that there is a learning curve for top catching prospects once they reach the Majors. Look no further than Chris Ianetta, J.R. Towles, Ryan Doumit, Miguel Montero, and Matt Wieters as guys who came up with high expectations and took (or are still taking) years to live up to them. It's definitely a risk that could come back to bite the Tigers if Avila runs out of options as he's reaching his potential.
  3. He'll probably be riding a lot of pine. For whatever reason, Gerald Laird is still starting somewhere around 10 games per week. This, however, could be an intended benefit of purchasing Avila's contract. How could that be? Catchers take quite a toll. Often, in the minors, catchers' workloads are built up gradually, much like pitchers. Rather than have him start 20-25 more games with Erie the rest of the year, they may be wanting to limit his workload, much like a pitcher in his first professional season. Having him sit the bench in the bigs could provide him that opportunity, while allowing him to get comfortable instead of being shell shocked in April.
Finally, these moves are also intriguing because of the new postseason roster rules. Rather than having position player and pitcher quotas, the rules have changed to have players on the 40 man roster as of August 31 eligible. Alex Avila is now eligible for postseason play, if the Tigers make it. This gives the Tigers two choices for backup catcher, rather than the one if Dusty Ryan had remained on the roster and Avila had been called up in September. Cycling players like Ramirez, Fien, Freddy Dolsi, Ryan Perry, and Lambert through the roster give the Tigers an extra look at players if they need to make a decision on who to put on the roster in early October.