One of the more interesting things about writing the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook was the internal debates that raged. The obvious ones are about Twins players. For instance, Nick Nelson and I have never seen eye-to-eye on whether Carlos Gomez or Delmon Young should be the Twins starting outfielder. I believe Young should play simply because the Twins have a substantial investment in both players and Gomez can play in Rochester. Nick believes Gomez should play because Nick is terribly, almost tragically, wrong.
A smaller debate flared up about the value of Placido Polanco during our meetings, mostly because I have a man-crush on Polanco, and have ever since he was with the Phillies. To me, he's a top-notch defender and a terrific #2 hitter. Polanco's career batting average is .303 and his ability to avoid strikeouts borders on legendary. In my offseason blueprint, I wrote:
"The market for second basemen is so thick you can take your pick. I’m budgeting up to $7 million for Placido Polanco, Freddy Sanchez, Mark DeRosa, Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez. Heck, I’ll even jump on Akinori Iwamura if his option isn’t picked up. I’m not that concerned about which one, and I’m not hesitant to offer a multi-year deal."
I wrote that I didn't care which one we got, but if you look at my final grid, the name that's in the slot for second base is "Polanco." And the Twins stealing him from their main division rival would only add to the impact. Mmm - sticking it to the Tigers. I recognize that warm feeling inside is a little ugly. It's still pleasant.
My feelings waned a little bit the final week of the season. Watching the Tigers, the 34-year-old Polanco looked old and tired. His defense, which has always been praised, looked limited. (Though I should mention, his UZR metric is +12.1, which is very, very good.) And while he looks like Chase Utley compared to what the Twins trotted out there last year, his OPS has fallen from 846 to 767 to 727 over the last three years. Of the available free agent second basemen (and there are a lot of good ones) he had one of the worst years.
There's also some question about whether Polanco will be available. The Tigers have a 24-year-old prospect named Scott Sizemore who hit over .300 this year in AA and AAA. He just broke his ankle in the Arizona Fall League, but that shouldn't affect his status for next year. So a possible replacement is in place.
Which means the Tigers have a decision to make. Although Polanco is a free agent, they essentially have a $6-7 million option on him for next year. That's because Polanco will be a Type A free agent, which means that if the Tigers offer him arbitration and he doesn't accept it, he'll cost a signing team a first or second round draft pick. Lots of younger second basemen last year with better years found out how tough it is to sign with a team with that artificial price tag hanging around their neck. If Polanco is offered arbitration, he would likely need to accept it.
The Tigers surely know this, and need to decide if their bloated payroll can handle another $6-7 million for Polanco. Detroit spent over $120 million last year while playing in the most economically depressed city in major league baseball. And they're going to have some raises to give, like to pitchers Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson. To be honest, I don't know how they could afford their team last year, and I don't know how they can afford it next year, so I'm not about to rule anything out.
We'll know on December 1st if the Tigers are offering Polanco arbitration. I have until then to try and talk some reason into myself. 34-year-old second basemen whose OPS has dropped 120 points over the last two years are not a good investement. They're certainly not a good investment if you need to offer a multi-year contract. I know this, just like I know that it isn't 2007 anymore.
But I still need to get over this Polanco crush.