Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
While his spring success is nice, I don't think we'll be seeing too much more production out of Rodriguez. You might see a slight jump in his runs scored and RBI totals, but those will mainly be reflections of an improved lineup, along with potentially hitting leadoff against left-handers. Rodriguez, while talented and a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, is 36 and by all accounts, on the downswing of his career. Most catchers at his age would have long since retired. That doesn't mean he can't be a productive player for the club, but the days of Rodriguez hitting 20+ home runs and hitting the cover off the ball are likely gone.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
In short, no. Despite his nice spring numbers, I expect to see the same Pudge we've seen the last few years. That is a catcher who is still above-average defensively, still works well with his pitching staff, and is still and average to slightly above-average offensive performer at catcher. He's not going to suddenly start taking pitches and post a miraculous spike in on-base percentage. He's not going to suddenly start slugging 30-35 home runs. He's not going to suddenly become Pudge Rodriguez circa 1999. His offensive skills have declined, accept that. However, that does not mean he doesn't still contribute at the plate, and more importantly, behind the plate. He is our catcher for the 2008 season. He will be a more than adequate player in the context of what he is going to be asked to do, and everyday he proves he can still handle the load at an acceptable level, it becomes more likely that he could be our catcher in 2009.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
Hopefully Pudge Rodriguez has a terrific year, but it brings up an interesting scenario. If Pudge delivers a huge year, he could parlay that into one last big payday, as he will be a free agent at the end of the year. Pudge would also stand to be the most attractive target among the catchers available, and given the Tigers' dearth at that spot, they would have a tough decision to make. Would the Tigers pay a big contract to a catcher who will be 37 in November, and has had three so-so years out of his first four with Detroit? The last time Pudge was in a contract year, he hit .382 with three homers, and 18 RBI during the spring of '03 with the Marlins. He also had 35 total bases to lead the team. During the regular season, he hit .297 with 16 home runs and 85 RBIs. Interestingly, the 2003 campaign snapped a streak of eight straight years of hitting better than .300, and his RBI total was the most since his MVP year of 1999. He also drew a career-best 55 walks, but the biggest thing Pudge did was aid the Marlins to a World Series title, which the Tigers are certainly in the running to do this year. Pudge's performance during the season will certainly be one of the more intriguing stories during the 2008 season, and I think he'll bounce back and have a solid year.
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