Now that the Tigers have signed Justin Upton, do you think they may not sign J.D. Martinez long term and hope Steven Moya develops, or do you think they are giving up on Moya and use him as trade bait in July?
-- Mike H., Lansing, Mich.
I think Moya's situation is independent from Martinez. For one thing, Martinez is still under control for two more seasons (as is Upton with his opt-out clause), and the Tigers will have to decide something on Moya before then, since he has only one year of Minor League options remaining. Besides that, scouts have varying opinions on Moya, based partly on whether they believe he can make more consistent contact. The huge difference in Moya's prospect rankings across different publications reflects this. While Moya's winter ball results help, a hot start at Triple-A Toledo would do a lot for him, both for this organization and others. I also still believe the Tigers would like to get a multi-year deal done with Martinez.
If the Tigers tank this season, do you see any of their big names being traded for prospects?
-- Garrett A., Tooele, Utah
While the notion of this season being one last big run at a postseason spot has been well debated, it's worth noting that the Tigers are in a different position than last summer if it doesn't work out. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria were all in contract years last year; the Tigers knew Price was headed out in free agency, and they knew they had little incentive to hold onto Cespedes to season's end. All of the Tigers' current veteran talent is under contract through at least 2017. Aside from Anibal Sanchez, Ian Kinsler and Martinez, the biggest names have deals well beyond that. That clearly doesn't rule out a deal -- given the weak free-agent market next winter, some teams might like to acquire a player under control for a year and a half -- but it also involves teams taking on a full year of salary rather than just a couple of months.
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The Tigers' payroll structure sets up for the team for the next two seasons before facing a number of player decisions that will impact the franchise's direction. If things go wrong this season, maybe that could change. Short of that, I would suspect if owner Mike Ilitch put this much into going for it, he'd see it through.
Last season, I heard a lot about Justin Verlander's high "spin rate" metric potentially increased his effectiveness. What is the consensus on the value of this analytical statistic, and how do the other four in the Tigers' potential starting rotation rank in this category?
-- John K., Wyandotte, Mich.
I know Brad Ausmus put interest in spin rate in the past, though he wasn't necessarily sold on it as a scouting tool. Where a pitcher stands in spin rate depends partly on style, because a pitcher with a sinking fastball isn't necessarily going to want a high rate of spin.
That said, a cool addition to MLB.com's player pages is average spin rate for each pitcher's main fastball last year, and how it compares to the Major League average, both courtesy of Statcast™. Verlander's four-seam fastball averaged 2491 rpm, Daniel Norris at 2385, Sanchez at 2383, and Jordan Zimmermann at 2313. The Major League average was 2213. Meanwhile, Mike Pelfrey's sinker -- a lower-spin pitch, as mentioned -- averaged 1884 rpm, compared to the MLB average of 2084.