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December 8, 2008 at 1:45 PM

Putz trade possibilities? Here’s one

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Just got back from walking the hallways and main lobby (pictured above) here at the Bellagio Hotel. Many of you are writing in and asking about whether J.J. Putz to the Detroit Tigers is something that could possibly happen. Yes, it could happen. Putz is to earn $5.5 million next year and that’s much lower than a top free-agent closer could command. The big question is what do the Tigers have to offer up. One name I keep hearing, and which has attracted attention from Seattle in the past, is corner infielder Jeff Larish. He’s a big lefthanded bat who just turned 26. But it’s a young 26, as he played college ball for Arizona State University. Three years ago, he became the third player to hit three homers in a College World Series game.
Photo Credit: Duane Burleson/AP
He’s a Scott Boras guy, and turned down a $660,000 signing bonus from the Dodgers after they drafted him in 2004 so he could complete college instead. Detroit took him in the fifth round in 2005. Larish broke into the majors for 42 games with Detroit last season, hitting .260 with a .681 OPS, two homers and 16 RBI. Nothing great there, but it’s only a tiny sample.
In the minors is where the big numbers were. He put up a .905 OPS, with a .390 OBP and .515 slugging percentage is Class AA in 2007. Then, last year, his OPS was .818 with 21 homers and 64 RBI in his first 384 at-bats in Class AAA. The Tigers came calling soon after.
I’m told that his best position is first base. Yes, the M’s already have Russell Branyan being looked at for that position, but he can also be a DH. Larish is a much longer-term guy. He’d be under club control for six years. I’m not saying he’s already the centerpiece of a deal. Just saying I’ve heard the m’s might be interested and that their scouts have been interested in him previously. He’s an obvious fit.
Take it for what it’s worth. You aked me who the M’s could acquire. Larish is one possibility.
Other names the Tigers have that could be of interest, conceivably as secondary components to a Putz deal?
There’s outfielder Brent Clevlen, 25, a second-rounder from 2002 who can play the corners and was Curtis Granderson’s backup in center for some periods in 2008. In 55 games with the Tigers over the past three seasons, he’s put up a not-so-impressive .707 OPS. But again, that’s just for very short sample sizes that really don’t tell us much.
In the minors, Clevlen put up an .854 OPS in Class AAA last season in a much larger 476 at-bat sample. That included a .358 OBP and .496 slugging combo. Both very good numbers.
Clevlen was blocked last year by Marcus Thames from making a full-season ascension to the majors.
There is also a young starting pitcher named Luis Marte, 22, who has a fastball that can his 96 or 97 routinely. Marte began last season in rookie ball, but made it up to Class AA by season’s end. Control has been his big issue, but he’s still mighty young. He’d fanned 41 batters over seven starts covering 41 innings of Class A ball, while walking only 11, before the AA promotion. His ERA was 1.98.
In AA, he struck out 32 while walking a hefty 26 over 10 starts spanning 57 innings. His ERA soared to 5.05. A work in progress, but, I’m told, the best live arm in the Tigers’ system that the team would consider dealing.



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