The Viable Venezuelans

Originally published in The Tigers Den Blog | 22 December 2010

Miguel_Cabrera_and_Magglio_OrdonezWell, it took about five minutes but I found enough V words to come up with some alliteration clever enough to initiate a chuckle (or at the very least, an eye roll) from those reading such as yourself. If not, well then stage your Vendetta against me, I can take it.

The reason for a whole bunch of V’s should be obvious, but if not, V is a popular letter right now in the Tigersphere due to Magglio Ordonez’s resigning. It brings the four Venezuelans, Cabrera, Guillen, Martinez, and Ordonez to the same clubhouse. Four is also popular right now thanks to a certain lefty who re-signed with his former flame. And, yes, while four Venezuelans may not be as mighty or as popular as the Four Aces (A Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and a Hamels) over in the city of brotherly love, they certainly can take on the Four Carlos’s (A Zambrano, Pena, Silva, and a Marmol) from the North Side of Chicago in the league’s battle for fantastic groups of foursomes.

I last wrote that the Ordonez signing was good, not only because he is a solid major league hitter and one of the finer options out on the market, but also because he simply provides the protection in front of Cabrera, just as he did in the first part of last year.

Miguel Cabrera came into the 2010 season having been severely criticized at the end of 2009 and rightfully so. I don’t care who you are, there’s no situation where you can show up to work still drunk from the night before, with rumors scarring your guilt ridden face.  The young star had a lot to prove and during the second game of the new year, he helped his cause as he crushed a 2-2 Joakim Soria pitch into right field bleachers with two outs in the ninth inning. That solo shot tied the score at 2 and sent the game into extra innings. While the Tigers eventually lost in the eleventh, Cabrera certainly helped his cause as the go to guy in the lineup among the fans. While that was expected, it sure was nice to see it come as soon as it did.

And boy, did he use that as a foundation for the season or what? He hit .328 on the year with 38 HR and 45 2B. His on base percentage was .420 and he scored 111 runs while driving in 126. His WAR was an outstanding 6.9, which was the highest of his career. While his defensive WAR was -0.5 (his offensive was 7.4) I think it’s safe to say that everyone is okay with him playing first base every single game for the next five years as long as that big stick continues to clout doubles and launch homers at the current historic rate.

Providing protection for Cabrera will be former Cleveland power bat (and yes, Red Sox power bat as well) Victor Martinez. Sure, we can easily criticize Martinez. We can say he’s a horrible defensive catcher. He’s too overpaid to be simply a DH. He’s old. He’s going to be a problem not two seasons from now.   And on the other hand he can look at it in a positive light. You can take away the influence of money and time, which for the simple analysis of this piece is appropriate, and look at the impact his professional bat will have on the Tiger lineup. When healthy, he will hit .300, smack 50 extra base hits and drive in 100 runs. What more can you ask for from your 5th place hitter? You can’t. That’s roughly the production you’d expect out of the Nationals $126 million man, Jayson Werth, and while Martinez isn’t as sexy a signing as Werth or even Carl Crawford, he’s going to be worth the four years and $50 million that the Tigers are going to hand over to him.

So, as we’ve intentionally ignored salary up to this point, let’s backtrack, take a look at that value and compare it to the current list of free agent signings. This table will serve as a nice little transition into our next paragraph.

PLAYER

POS

AGE

2010 TEAM

2011 TEAM

YRS

TOTAL $

AVG

2011

Carl Crawford

LF

29

Tampa Bay

Boston

7

$142,000,000

$20,285,714

$14,000,000

Jorge De La Rosa

SP

29

Colorado

Colorado

2

$21,500,000

$10,750,000

$9,500,000

Adam Dunn

1B

31

Washington

Chicago Sox

4

$56,000,000

$14,000,000

$12,000,000

Aubrey Huff

1B

33

San Francisco

San Francisco

2

$22,000,000

$11,000,000

$10,000,000

Derek Jeter

SS

36

NY Yankees

NY Yankees

3

$51,000,000

$17,000,000

$15,000,000

Paul Konerko

1B

34

Chicago Sox

Chicago Sox

3

$37,500,000

$12,500,000

$12,000,000

Hiroki Kuroda

SP

35

LA Dodgers

LA Dodgers

1

$12,000,000

$12,000,000

$12,000,000

Cliff Lee

SP

32

Texas

Philadelphia

5

$120,000,000

$24,000,000

$11,000,000

Victor Martinez

C

31

Boston

Detroit

4

$50,000,000

$12,500,000

$12,000,000

Magglio Ordonez

RF

36

Detroit

Detroit

1

$10,000,000

$10,000,000

$10,000,000

Carlos Pena

1B

32

Tampa Bay

Chicago Cubs

1

$10,000,000

$10,000,000

$10,000,000

Mariano Rivera

RP

41

NY Yankees

NY Yankees

2

$30,000,000

$15,000,000

$15,000,000

Jayson Werth

OF

31

Philadelphia

Washington

7

$126,000,000

$18,000,000

$10,000,000

Taking a look at the graphic only Werth, Crawford, and Cliff Lee received longer contracts, but those three along with Rivera, Jeter, and Dunn will make more annually. Offensively, he and Konerko are very similar, both are slight injury risks and while Konerko is three years older, they roughly provide the same kind of offensive spark. Dunn is worth a little more due to his home runs, Huff a little less due to his inconsistency.

And while we’re comparing, it’s the perfect time to transition to Magglio Ordonez and his $10 million contract, which is the same contract awarded to Carlos Pena, the owner of a .198 batting average in 2010. Yes, Ordonez is aging and is a greater injury risk than most fans and personnel would like to admit, but $10m is cheap in this market, the signing is worth it, especially when it is tied to a legitimate number three hitter (who would be penciled in on the third line in any managers lineup card in the league, mind you).

I look at it this way; we have a pair of solid bats bookending a great cleanup hitter for the price of one Crawford or one Werth. That is worth the cost, even by the most simplest of merits.

This could also offset the cost of our final member of the Viable Venezuelan band of Virtually Vivacious Veterans, a certain Carlos Guillen, who, is a good offensive player in his own right, but just can’t seem to stay healthy enough to show anyone that he is more than just a name on the roster.

At $13 million in 2011, it will be hard to defend any sort of argument that Guillen is worth even half of that. Even painting it in a broad spectrum as we did with Martinez, Guillen is not as talented a hitter as the newest Tiger, even in his glory days back in 2006-2007 he could only match what Martinez does on a regular basis.  That alone tells you he doesn’t really play to his salary. In 2011, Carlos Guillen will be making almost as much money as Adam Dunn, and more money than Magglio Ordonez. Weird.

Of course, who knows? He could get healthy, start at second base, hit .300, and smack 55 extra base hits and everyone calls it even. Jose Valverde could also calm himself down when he pitches. There are things that just don’t happen

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