Mailbag: Young players add value

Mailbag: Young players add value

You frequently have to respond to the e-mailers' unrealistic expected returns in trade offers for some of the younger players in the organization. Is there more value in an older soon-to-be free agent with a proven Major League history (i.e. Marcus Thames, Craig Monroe, Zach Miner, Roman Colon, Omar Infante, etc.) or an unproven upper/mid-level prospect who hasn't incurred any Major League service time counting toward arbitration (i.e. Kyle Sleeth, Dallas Trahern, Jair Jurrjens, Jeff Frazier, Jeff Larish, Kody Kirkland, etc.)? Additionally, is a position change to the outfield anticipated if Wilkin Ramirez repeats another season in Lakeland in 2007?
-- Chad A., Royal Oak, Mich.

Regarding the first question, it depends on a team's needs, financially as much as competitively. Where a team like the Tigers might need a proven veteran for no more than a few years to get them over the top, a club like the Devil Rays might want younger guys to develop around. If there's any common thread among a lot of teams, it's that young (inexpensive) pitching is the most valued commodity out there. The idea of building a contender by bringing in free-agent pitching is no longer practical for a lot of clubs. Even the Yankees seem to be shying away from it.

As for Ramirez, assistant GM Al Avila said during TigerFest that he'll be moved to a corner outfield spot this year. Not only has Ramirez gone through injuries and errors, but he's just too big for the infield.

Do we have a chance of seeing a prospect-filled starting rotation in Toledo of Virgil Vasquez, Eulogio De La Cruz, Jordan Tata, Nathan Bumstead, and Minor/Colon this season? Also, who will be the closer for Toledo? Does Ian Ostland have a shot at that job?
-- Eric H., Monroe, Mich.

Not prospect-filled, but at least prospect-rich. Tata will most likely be back unless he fits into Detroit's bullpen. De La Cruz will probably work in Toledo now that the Tigers have decided to work him full-time as a starter. Jurrjens has a chance of making the jump from Double-A Erie, as could Vasquez. But at least one, and possibly two, rotation spots could go to veterans such as returner Chad Durbin and newcomer Dennis Tankersley.

Not sure yet how the closer's role will shake out, but the Tigers have brought back ex-closer Jason Karnuth with a Minor League deal.

Why is it that the Tigers' top prospects most often are at Double-A ball (Brent Clevlen, Vasquez, De La Cruz, Jurrjens) and that Triple-A seems to be stocked mainly with non-prospects or utility prospects (Kevin Hooper, Josh Phelps, Ryan Raburn)?
-- John H., Trumansburg, N.Y.

There are a lot of differing opinions around baseball about how much prospects benefit from time at Triple-A. In the Tigers' case, Justin Verlander skipped Triple-A Toledo altogether, while Joel Zumaya had only a late-season stint there. Just about every team has more veteran players at the Triple-A level for both depth in the big leagues and for guys wanting to hold onto a shot at the Majors.

What are the Tigers' plans with Andrew Miller next season? Will they start him at Double-A Erie or send him to Toledo?
-- Gareth R., Okemos, Mich.

Miller will start the season at Class A Lakeland and probably advance to Erie later on in the season after the weather warms up.

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What are the chances of Cameron Maybin making the 25-man roster this season? If not good, what is the timetable to get him to the Majors?
-- Justin A., Wayne

Maybin's only chance to make the club this year would be as a late-season callup. He would have a better chance next year depending on the Tigers' roster situation.

Other than Omar Infante, the Tigers have no solid hitters among their infield reserves. And they could still use that extra left-handed bat. With all their pitching depth, why haven't they made a deal?
-- Joe B., Amherst

Considering there's only room for two reserve infielders on the 25-man roster, and neither Carlos Guillen nor Placido Polanco require a whole lot of pinch-hitting, there isn't a pressing need to get another utility infielder. Detroit already has more than $4 million invested in the three it has, one of whom probably won't make the club out of Spring Training. Plus, to trade pitching for a reserve bat not only hurts pitching depth, which teams covet, it also creates a roster logjam on the positional side.

I realize as an adult with a job and responsibilities this question seems juvenile. But what is the deal with Gary Sheffield wearing number 3? Alan Trammell is an icon to Tigers fans and represents that era of success to so many. What was the organization thinking, and is there a chance to change this?
-- Jeremy C., Erie, Mich.

Actually, Sheffield told the Detroit Free Press at TigerFest that he chose the number out of admiration for Trammell, who was still in his prime when Sheffield made his Major League debut in 1988 as a shortstop. Sheffield's first big-league game, coincidentally, came in Tiger Stadium. Trammell didn't play in that series, though.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.