Placido Polanco has been a tremendous bargain. First, the Tigers gave up Ugueth Urbina to get the guy and Urbina has basically been in prison since then. So that worked out pretty well. He’s also been healthy most of the time, has been a great hitter at times and a great fielder as well. Finally, there’s his contract. Prior to the 2006 season, Polanco agreed to a four-year contract that paid him $4.6M a season. Not bad for a guy who usually hits over .300, right?
Sadly, his performance has really dropped off in 2009, this the final year of his contract with the Tigers. If you’re the Tigers then you can say, “Hey, we judged the length of the contract almost perfectly.” Polanco his hitting only .255 this season and his OPS+ is a pathetic 80, a tick below Adam Everett. He still plays a solid second base, but he’ll be 34 in October and it’s likely that his best years are now behind him.
With the Tigers looking to cut costs in most of their decisions, it really doesn’t seem all that likely that Polanco will be with the Tigers in 2010. Here’s a quick look at some of the guys who will free agents this fall and could be options for the Tigers:
- Mark DeRosa
- David Eckstein
- Orlando Hudson
- Akinori Iwamura
- Omar Infante
- Felipe Lopez
Most of these guys are fossils. DeRosa and Hudson are having pretty decent years but they will cost more than the $4.6M Polanco is currently making and they are both on the wrong side of 30 (Hudson will be 32 in December and DeRosa will be 35).
David Eckstein is the 2B version of Adam Everett. He doesn’t hit a whole lot, but he’s decent with the glove and would not demand a lot of cash.
Omar Infante, a former Tiger, has carved out a nice little niche’ in the National League with the Atlanta Braves. He hit .293 last season and his hitting a robust .349 this season. However, he hasn’t been a full time guy. He’s a good NL player because he can play multiple positions reasonably well. He made it pretty clear with the Tigers that he’s probably not an everyday type of player.
As the season moves along this summer, some guys may become available via trade. There may be some new names to consider once the season ends.
The other option is to fill the space internally. That would save a lot of money. Here are the internal options:
- Ryan Raburn: Raburn has been a beast with the bat lately after a sluggish start. He, like Infante, is probably best suited to fill multiple positions as a utility guy. However, if the Tigers are looking to save money and their best free agent options are the David Eckstein’s of the world, then Raburn wouldn’t be that bad.
- Will Rhymes: Rhymes will be 27 when the season starts next year and the 5′9” Rhymes has never appeared in the big leagues. He is currently hitting .252 in Toledo but has 13 steals and is very good with the glove. He also hits from the left side.
- Michael Hollimon: Hollimon had a cup of coffee with the Tigers last season and hasn’t played second base at all in 2009. He’s currently hitting only .212 in AA, so he probably is not the answer.
- Scott Sizemore: Sizemore is swinging the best bat of this group down in the minor leagues. He has split time between AA and AAA this season and has hit well above .300 at each level. He has a combined OBP of .399 between the levels this season with 11 home runs. He hits from the right side and will be 25 by the time the Tigers start the regular season in 2010. I would guess that if a Tigers middle infielder were to go down right now that Sizemore would earn a promotion, if only for a moment.
There is always a chance that the Tigers and Polanco agree to a modest one-year deal for 2010. The market for aging players is not good at all and Polanco and the Tigers may find it mutually beneficial to extend their relationship by a year.
If not, the free agent crop doesn’t have a lot to offer (outside of Orlando Hudson). Hopefully, Scott Sizemore can continue to rake down in the minors and maybe earn a spot in 2010.