Tigers pay high price on Sheffield

March, 31, 2009
Well, this is a surprise. Bless You Boys' Ian Casselberry on today's big news:

    It didn't take long for the dominoes to start falling, in lieu of yesterday's trade for Josh Anderson. The Detroit Tigers released Gary Sheffield this morning, telling him they preferred a roster with more versatile players that could switch between positions.

    Sheff, as we know all too well, is pretty much restricted to playing DH, though he insisted all along he could still play the outfield. The Tigers are on the hook for the $14 million owed to Sheffield for this season.


    Sheffield ends his Tigers career with a .247/.352/.431 average, adding 44 home runs and 132 RBIs in 247 games. It just never quite clicked as everyone had hoped when he was acquired from the Yankees before the 2007 season, largely because Sheff just couldn't stay healthy. And now, he'll have to hit that 500th career home run someplace else.

    Where does this leave the Tigers, as their final roster needs to be determined? Well, it appears that Marcus Thames will remain in Detroit, now that he can toggle between the outfield and designated hitter. Jeff Larish will also likely find himself with the team as it heads to Toronto for Opening Day. Left field and DH probably once again become kind of a carousel, with opportunities to also give Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez a rest when needed.

That $14 million reminds a lot of Tigers fans of Damion Easley. Six years ago, the Tigers released Easley despite still owing him $14.3 million over the next two seasons. At the time, it was the biggest figure any club had eaten on a contract after releasing a player.

Dave Dombrowski was the general manager then, too. But he was not running the show when Easley got his four-year extension in the first place. Dombrowski inherited Easley and that contract, and it took some guts to let Easley go … and although Easley did get his career back on track eventually, he was particularly awful during the season immediately after the Tigers released him.

Still, the release of Sheffield -- while probably a good move for this club right now -- does remind us of another pattern that's definitely Dombrowski's: forking over large amounts of cash to players who don't "deserve" it. When the Tigers traded for Sheffield, he was coming off a season in which he'd played only 39 games and not been all that good when he did play. He already was under contract for the following season but had a no-trade clause he waived only after the Tigers offered a two-year extension that would pay him $28 million over 2008 and '09.

For their $28 million, the Tigers got one season and 114 games of below-average hitting.

And the pattern? The Tigers have committed $29 million to Dontrelle Willis -- after a subpar season with the Marlins -- and so far, they've gotten 24 innings and a 9.38 ERA for their money.

Perhaps two players don't constitute a pattern. But I look at Ordonez, who still is owed $21 million. I look at Cabrera, who's still owed $142 million. I look at Jeremy Bonderman, who's still owed $25 million. I look at Carlos Guillen, who's still owed $36 million. I look at Nate Robertson, who's still owed $17 million.

I look at all those millions, and I wonder.


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