After entering the offseason with some noticeable holes and some obvious work to do to get the team ready to contend with the American League powers in '08, general manager Dave Dombrowski needed to make some big moves, and ultimately, he decided to make them quickly.
After opening up with the acquisition of shortstop Edgar Renteria, the Tigers added a pair of Joneses to the squad. And much like the Renteria deal, each move solidifies a gaping hole that needed to be addressed.
Resigning Todd Jones to be the team's closer was considered important even before the season ended. But the need took on additional importance when it was announced that Joel Zumaya suffered a dislocated shoulder, and would likely be out for the first half of the season. Jones came to terms on a one-year deal worth $7 million.
While some question if the Tigers might have spent too much, many have undervalued Jones because of his "rollercoaster" nickname, and his penchant for making ninth inning's interesting. But over the past three years, Jones has turned in a 3.36 ERA, a .257 average against, and 115 saves in 132 save opportunities (good for an 87% conversion rate).
However, over that same three year period, the closers that can boast a better save conversion rate (with at least 100 opportunities) are few and far between, and among them are the best in baseball; Trevor Hoffman, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Nathan, Billy Wagner, and Mariano Rivera. Not a bad list to be in the company of.
Meanwhile, the acquisition of Jacque Jones killed two birds with one stone really – adding a left-handed bat to the lineup, as well as providing a defensive upgrade in left field. The former Minnesota Twin is all too familiar to Tiger fans, wreaking havoc on the Tigers on more than one occasion. And the Tigers only had to relinquish Omar Infante along with cash considerations.
Giving up Infante was not a tough sell for the Tigers as he didn't appear to fit in the team's long or short term plans. Manager Jim Leyland had already stated a preference for Ramon Santiago as his main utility infielder and defensive replacement, and 2007 Tiger Rookie of the Year Ryan Raburn can play second base and third base, and hit over .300 in his debut season.
Jones, a career .280 hitter, is primarily a corner outfielder but has spent time in centerfield before as well. He's in the last year of a three-year deal he signed with the Cubs, and he'll most likely split time with Marcus Thames in left, where the Tigers can maximize the righty/lefty combo.
Over the past three years, Jones has an OPS of .777. Over that same time, Thames has an .813 OPS. But combine the two, with Jones only against righties, and Thames only against lefties, and the two put together an .835 OPS, which would have put their production among the top ten in left field. In addition, acquiring Jones means Thames can continue to be the backup option at first base, and Raburn can be available to fill in all over the diamond.
The organization is still waiting on Kenny Rogers and whether or not he will decide to return to the team for one more season. If he doesn't, the team will likely be on the market for a starting pitcher to help fill that hole.
But for the second straight offseason, the Tigers have moved quickly, addressing their major needs. The message from Detroit is loud and clear – the Tigers have every intention of keeping up with the Joneses – they're not going to let the A.L. crown get away without a fight.