The Detroit Tigers announced today that they have exercised a $13 million option to bring catcher Pudge Rodriguez back to the team for a fifth season. General Manager Dave Dombroski made clear today he sees Pudge as a key part of the Tigers going forward.
Dave Dombrowski, the club president/general manager, said in a statement that Rodriguez “has done a tremendous amount for our franchise in his four seasons in Detroit.”
“Pudge remains a quality major league catcher and we expect him to be a key player for our club in 2008,” Dombrowski said.
As I last month when word came out the Tigers may not bring Pudge back I think this absolutely was the right decision, and a decision the Tigers had to make. Is Pudge Rodriguez worth $13 million for one season? No. Not when considered in isolation. But when you look at the other options, and the stability that Pudge brings to the team, and add in the fact that $3 million was gone regardless (because of a $3 buyout the Tigers would have had to pay had they chosen not to exercise their team option), I am convinced this was the right move.
Could the Tigers have wrestled Jorge Posada away from the New York Yankees? Maybe. But that's not a risk I'm willing to take when the other options are Jason Kendall and Paul Lo Duca, neither of whom is any better than Pudge at this point in their careers. And while defensively, Pudge does not throw out runners like he used to, he still has a strong reputation which prevents teams from running on him like they do most other catchers in the league.
The Detroit Tigers have a small window to win now. With the core of Bonderman, Verlander, Zumaya, Miller, Maybin, and Granderson, the team should be a contender for years to come, but they have a chance to be an elite team for the next one or two years if they stick with the players they currently have. The best chance for them to win a World Series is to bring the core back for another season. That included Pudge, and includes Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones (though I don't think anybody will complain if the Tigers go after Mariano Riveria, who ESPN.com reports will test the free agent market. In two years, Rogers and Jones will be retired, Gary Sheffield likely will be too, and Pudge may be gone as well. But by bringing the band back together, a process started today with the exercising of the option for Pudge Rodriguez, the Tigers have given themselves a chance to win the World Series in 2008, an opportunity, no matter how few walks Pudge takes, or how much his skills have declined since the Tigers signed him four years ago, which is more likely to occur with Pudge than without him.