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Urbina to Tigers
On Friday, Ugueth Urtain Urbina signed a one-year $3.5M contract with the Detroit Tigers. (story) Any team that signs a reliever in his prime who owns a career ERA in the low 3’s is making a good move. The Tigers definitely are a better team today, but then again,
Who really cares?
The Tigers were active this offseason, and for good reason. They sucked to the tune of 119 losses in 2003 and just narrowly beat out the 1969 Mets (an expansion team) for the worst record in the history of baseball. The Tigers could improve by 20 games this year and still be 20 wins away from a .500 record……but at least they’re making progress.
Signing Pudge, UUU, Jason Johnson, Rondell White, and Fernando Vina now gives the Tigers a grand total of nine players that should be wearing a major league uniform. Yes, that’s right, nine. The rest of the team, especially the pitching staff, looks like a AAA roster. Signing these free agents is like putting rims and a two-foot spoiler on an Escort, or maybe its like putting a whistle tip on a station wagon, depends how “good” you actually think Fernando Vina is. It might make the car look a little better, but everyone knows its still a piece of crap. And the Tigers still are a piece of crap. When you’re preseason projection is for 70 wins if everything breaks exactly right, then you are in trouble.
Lets think positive for a minute because who knows, a Tiger fan might be reading this. The Tigers farm system is a mess, they have no help in the immediate future. So they can't hope to rebuild the way the Indians, Padres, Minnesota, or Anaheim could. They have to be able to sign free agents, and in order to convince a free agent that Detroit doesn’t suck, they are going to have to be at least sniffing .500. Most of these signings are for two years, but Urbina is for one, and if they flip some of these guys for solid prospects late in the year, they could really help the organization down the road. Last year the Marlins traded Adrian Gonazalez for Urbina late in the year. If the Tigers dealt for Gonzalez, he would instantly become their top prospect. So maybe they are stealing the 2003 Pirates plan by signing all these mediocre free agents. Maybe they can trade them for a few failed and a few B level prospects to populate their barren farm system. Trading Urbina to a team in need of bullpen help later in the year would be a start. I'm sure the three teams likely to be in the race of suck in the AL central will be looking for another bullpen arm down the stretch. Then again, strategy that has already been tried by the Pittsburgh Pirates shouldn’t really be on a GM’s list of things to do.
These signings help the Tigers in their search to be a respectably bad team and not a running joke. In that case, things are looking somewhat up; I just hope Tiger fans don’t get too anxious. It is going to be several years before the Tigers will even be thinking about fielding a competitive team, and if management isn't careful, its not a stretch to say that we could be looking at the Arizona Cardinals of MLB.