Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
There's an obvious upside to making a move for a good young catcher right now that could spend the next season or two as the apprentice to Ivan Rodriguez, before sliding into the role. On the other hand, the Tigers are in a win-now mode, and if Rodriguez should go down, the Tigers would be handing the everyday catcher position over to a likely-unproven youngster as opposed to someone with a veteran make-up and presence. As much as it would be great to be able to point to a catcher of the future on the bench, the Tigers have invested plenty in making this team ready to compete right now. Plenty can happen between now and 2009 or 2010. James Skelton could be ready. The Tigers could stumble into a stud via the six-year minor league free agent pool or the Rule 5 Draft. Either way, the Tigers are better off for now riding it out with Vance Wilson (or a similar established veteran) and worrying about the spot when they have to.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
In a perfect world the Tigers would have something in the works for life after Pudge; but the world is not perfect. Good catching is a very scarce and valuable commodity. Few teams have one heir to the throne at catcher, let alone enough options that they can afford to start dealing catchers. With the current state of the Tigers lineup, they can get by with a relatively weak offensive catcher, provided that player manages the game and the pitching staff well. There are plenty of light hitting catchers with good leadership ability out there in any given offseason, so if the Tigers are opting to go that route, they should be fine. Finding a young solution to the problem could be more of an issue. Fans often like to try and identify various young catchers that teams may be willing to trade, without fully realizing the actual cost to inquire them. Going out and getting someone like Jeff Clement of the Mariners or Taylor Teagarden of the Rangers, is going to cost a pretty penny in trade, and that will be a price I'd be surprised if the Tigers were willing to undertake. There are still plenty of questions surrounding the organization's current top catching prospect, James Skelton, and it would be foolhardy to begin planning on him taking the reigns. The Tigers need to have a plan in place, but that plan does not have to be as grandiose as some believe. That plan can simply be to take a look at the free agent crop when Pudge's contract expires and determine if there is a better option available, or if the wise move is to bring Rodriguez back for another year.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
I'm sure the Tigers are at least thinking about it, but blue-chip catching prospects are very difficult to trade for, and the Tigers don't have much left in their system for a swap. Perhaps if (or when) they trade Brandon Inge, they could try and get a catching prospect in return. However, the bullpen still needs help and the Tigers could use Inge to help there, and they could always try to trade for a young catcher during the season. The Tigers are reportedly interested in Miguel Olivo, but although he hit 16 homers last year, he hit just .237 with a horrid BB/K ratio. James Skelton is the best in-house candidate, but he's a few years away from the majors provided he develops. Depending on how things develop this year, the Tigers may have to bring back Pudge next year, if no other options present themselves between now and the end of next season.
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