During the off-season the Detroit Tigers and went out and signed all-star first baseman Prince Fielder. Everyone pegged the Detroit Tigers as the team to represent the American League in the World Series, but as we head into the All-Star break that doesn’t look like it will happen. The Tigers’ hopes aren’t over though. I believe if they make at least one critical move it could help them get right back into the mix. I believe that move has to be acquiring San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley. Headley is one of the more underrated players in baseball and is easily one of the biggest snubs as we head into the all-star break. He currently has 3.3 WAR and is a player that can easily make a team better. More after the jump.
A lot of people in the sabermetric community speculated that the Tigers would suffer tremendously with their defense when Fielder was signed via free agency. As it turns out they were right. Fielder has never been known as a viable defensive first baseman and he currently has a UZR of 3.9. Among all qualified first baseman that puts him second to last, just ahead of Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. At third base Miguel Cabrera isn’t any better. His UZR is currently -3.6 and that puts him dead last when looking at all qualifying third baseman. As a result the Detroit Tigers defense is suffering as a whole. They currently rank 23 in team UZR with a -4.2 mark. Defensively Chase Hedley would be a huge help. Among all third baseman he ranks fourth with a UZR of 7. If the Tigers where able to acquire Headley they would be able to shift Cabrera back to first and then make Fielder their everyday DH. This leads me to my next point.
The Tigers have had three players play designated hitter so far, and the results have been subpar. Delmon Young has gotten the majority of plate appearances and doesn’t have much to show for it at all. He has produced hardly any power at all. His ISO is a poultry .117 and he’s only drawn walks 2.8% of the time. When you compare him to the rest of the league he’s tied for last with -.7 WAR. If Fielder was shifted to the everyday DH he could focus on offense rather than being forced to go play terrible defense, and give the Tigers more value than they are currently getting.
It’s also likely that Headley would see an increase in his performance if he was traded away from Petco Park. As we all know Petco is horrible for hitters when it comes to power. For 2011 the park factors for home runs for lefties was 83 and for righties it was 95. On the contrary home runs for righties was 104 and 98 for lefties in Comerica. Comerica also had a slight advantage when it came to doubles. For righties it was 100 vs. 87 and for lefties it was 99 vs. 95. Headley has also shown a lot more power when hitting on the road. His ISO while at home has been .103 and while he’s been away it’s been .191. Clearly Headley has a lot more power than his career average gives him credit for. It’s unlikely that the .191 ISO is his true talent level but it’s certainly possible that it could be in the .150 range.
He wouldn’t come cheap though. He’s scheduled to only make $3.47 million dollars this season and doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2014 season. The Padres would probably require at least two of the Tigers top 10 prospects. The Padres could use some pitching so it’s possible that they ask for a package centered around 19 year old Brenny Paulino and or Drew Smyly. Whatever the Tigers have to do though I think they have to go after Chase Headley. He easily makes them a better team and could help them achieve their goal of making the playoffs.