Detroit Tigers Off-Season: How and Why the Bench Must be Improved

Bench

While the bullpen is, and will continue to be the biggest blemish on the Tigers’ roster, the bench isn’t spectacular either. More depth and quality will be needed in late-inning situations. Yes, the Tigers lineup is fantastic, but sometimes the bottom half of the lineup pales in comparison to the top half. And, as such is much easier to retire. This was brought into focus in the ninth inning of the second and third games of the ALDS against Baltimore as the bottom half wasn’t able to carry out or continue rallies with the game on the line. The Tigers need better hitters off the bench. Whether they arrive via waiver wire, the trade market, free agency, or what have you, help is needed. Dave Dombrowski has to be particularly active in fixing this during the offseason to improve the team’s chances for next year.

Dombrowski has become adept at plucking hitters out of relative obscurity and then watching them become contributing members on the team. He found Quintin Berry, who ended up being a godsend thanks to his added burst of speed into a slow lineup. Swiss army knife/utility specialist Don Kelly was another find. Matt Tuiasosopo was yet another find who provided Jim Leyland with a power hitting alternative off the bench in the legendary skipper’s final season. However, the greatest find may be that of JD Martinez. The former Astro was picked up by Detroit and, after fixing some mechanics with his swing, turned into a legitimate, middle of the order bat.

The Tigers need more production off the bench. Dombrowski isn’t going to find a JD Martinez in every transaction, but he should be actively looking for bench bats.

Yes, the Tigers’ starting lineup is fantastic, but their bench is comparatively futile. With the exception of Kelly, who has a knack for showing up in playoff games, there isn’t much to scare opposing managers or pitchers. Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera is light-hitting at best and is known more for his speed than anything. Andrew Romine and Eugenio Suarez manned shortstop for Brad Ausmus in 2014. With defensive wizard Jose Iglesias returning from injury next season, and neither shortstop’s play screaming “KEEP ME!” Detroit could look for a better hitting infielder. Another middle infielder, Hernan Perez shows the potential to be a solid two-way player, but if he wasn’t ready to play full time in the big leagues, or if he was unable to unseat Romine or Suarez, he certainly won’t surpass Iglesias next season.

Dombrowski needs to give Ausmus more pop off the bench. Catcher is an area where this could be achieved. Bryan Holaday hit .231 this season and the team might seek an upgrade to backup Alex Avila.

Avila is in a different situation. The Tigers’ starting catcher, who suffered yet another concussion during the season ending loss to Baltimore, should be moved into a backup role, or at least a platoon. This would not only minimize the inexplicably severe beating the he takes and preserve his health, but also allow Detroit to find an offensive upgrade. Avila grades out as a good defensive backstop, but hasn’t been able to replicate his offensive output of 2011 when he drove in 82 runs, garnered MVP votes and earned Silver Slugger and All Star honors.

Acquiring a new catcher to partner with Avila would be prudent. The job may go to James McCann. The Tigers’ top catching prospect is a defensive-minded backstop who also hit .295 in AAA. He’s no Victor Martinez offensively, but the .295 line is an encouraging sign from a player thought to reach the Majors because of his defense.

If catching reinforcements are looked for externally, Russell Martin or Evan Gattis would be ideal fits. Martin, one of the best at his position in the game, grades out favorably defensively and provides pop (47 home runs over the last three years) and the ability to hit for average (he hit .290 this past season). Detroit may lose yet another first round draft pick if they sign Martin, but if the former Dodger is the missing piece in terms of winning the World Series, then there should be no hesitation.

Gattis’ calling card, meanwhile, is his bat. The Braves’ slugger hit 22 home runs in only 108 games for Atlanta. Pairing him with the comparatively defensively superior Avila would be perfect. While Gattis’ bat can provide extreme power, his defense isn’t anything special. Platooning him with Avila would make his defensive deficiencies less of a sore thumb. Plus, Gattis has shown that he can be productive without playing every day. This partnership would also save Avila some physical punishment behind the plate. Gattis won’t come cheap in terms of what the Tigers will have to give up to acquire him, but the second year player isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016 at the earliest and won’t hit free agency until 2019. He made a little over $520,000 last year. This is exactly the kind of player a team looking to save money like Detroit needs—an extremely productive hitter who can play a large role without costing much. He also has played in left field for Atlanta. He’s not Gold Glove worthy playing there, but he does have the experience. Something that would come in handy if Brad Ausmus needed to wedge in an extra bat in a must-win playoff game.

Lastly, the Tigers could, at the very least, use some depth in the outfield. Rajai Davis can get by defensively in center field, so an alignment of JD Martinez, Davis and Torii Hunter (if he returns) in the outfield wouldn’t be bad. In fact, it may win them the division again, but it probably won’t deliver a World Series. Signing an impact center fielder may be out of the question. Colby Rasmus is the most enticing option on the market, but the former Blue Jay may be more appealing, and better suited, to more of a rebuilding team like the Cubs or Astros than Detroit. Speaking of the Astros, Houston’s centerfielder, Dexter Fowler, would present a quality target. It may take a lot to pry him away from the Lone Star state, but the former Colorado player would mesh perfectly in Motown with his mix of speed and pop. Other potentially available center fielders such as Desmond Jennings, Denard Span or Peter Bourjos would all be attainable as well as being logical fits in the Tigers’ lineup.

Bringing in a new, starting caliber center fielder would be advantageous in numerous ways for Detroit. First, it would fix any issues defensively at the position. As much as Rajai Davis fits the profile of an old-school center fielder in terms of speed, he’s predominantly a corner outfielder. Having a center fielder who is more accustomed to playing the position defensively would provide an upgrade. Pushing Davis to the bench or into a role where he would potentially spell the aging Torii Hunter would greatly improve the pinch-hitting options. Throw in a healthy Andy Dirks, a couple of scrap-heap/waiver wire pickups and more polished versions of Stephen Moya and Tyler Collins and the Tigers all of a sudden have a plethora of outfielders who could contribute. Injuries and slumps are about as common as the changing of the seasons, so having too many options is a good problem to have.

The Tigers’ offense has long been deemed one of the best in baseball—maybe the best. But over that span the team hasn’t had the most fearsome bench. The bullpen will need some help too, but changing the bench could help make the difference in finally winning a World Series.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers Acquire David Price: How, Why and What it Means for the Tigers and the Pennant Race

Who Was Acquired: The Tigers acquired starting pitcher David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade.

Who They Gave Up: Centerfielder Austin Jackson, starting pitcher Drew Smyly and minor league shortstop Willy Adames.

Who Else Was Involved: The Seattle Mariners, who acquired Jackson while also sending infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay.

What it Means for the Tigers:

Detroit acquired one of the premier starting pitchers in the game, David Price. The cost? Austin Jackson, Willy Adames and Drew Smyly. The price to pay (if you excuse the pun) wasn’t as high as say the pieces Kansas City gave up for James Shields, but it was still high. Jackson is as good of a defensive centerfielder as you’ll find and brings pop and speed to the lineup. Smyly, on the other hand, is a young, controllable and versatile pitcher who has quality numbers in his career out of the ‘pen and in the rotation. Adames is in the lower minors and is a long way away from the Majors.

The Tigers didn’t pay a whole lot for Price. You could arguably say that the Red Sox got a better haul for either Jon Lester or John Lackey. Chicago may have gotten a better deal for Jeff Samardjiza. Detroit can now pencil in some combination of Price, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer for games one through three of the postseason. That’s not even mentioning Rick Porcello, who is finally showing all the potential and promise he had earlier in his career, or Anibal Sanchez who not only was ridiculously dominant against Boston in the playoffs last year, but also led the American League in ERA last season.

This trade was partly made possible due to offseason acquisitions Rajai Davis and JD Martinez. Before their acquisitions the outfield was very clearly Jackson, Torii Hunter and some combination of players filling the third spot. Now with Martinez hitting like a middle-of-the-order bat and occupying the corner outfield spot opposite Hunter, the team can slide Davis to center to fill the void created by Jackson. Davis’ skillset also made it easier to part with Jackson. Last season, Jackson was the lone source of speed in the lineup— something that was exposed in October. Davis can cover ground in the outfield, can steal a multitude of bases (even more than Jackson) and hit for some power. On a minor note, this solves the Andy Dirks issue. When he’s healthy, Dirks will be the fourth outfielder, something that wasn’t clear before, due to all the outfielders and Dirks’ injury.

Price’s acquisition also sets up an all-out war for the American League pennant. With all due respect to Anaheim and Baltimore, the AL champ will be from Michigan (more likely) or the Bay Area. The Tigers and A’s have met in the last two postseasons, with Detroit winning both matchups. Oakland has made big acquisitions as well, bringing in Jon Lester and Jeff Samardjiza. The A’s made these trades to win it all, but also to get by Detroit who have knocked them out of the playoffs the last three times Billy Beane’s team have made it.

The acquisition of Price also gives the Tigers insurance down the road. If Max Scherzer leaves, the Tigers now have Price as cover, if you want to call one of the best pitchers in the game “cover.”

If anything, this trade signifies pitching as king in baseball. The Tigers now employ the last three American League Cy Young winners in the league. If the previous thinking holds, and pitching is king, the Tigers have it in spades. Look out World Series, here comes Detroit.

Mapping the Tigers’ Off-Season Full

The baseball world was thrown into some disarray today. Jim Leyland stepped down. After decades in the game, according to Leyland, it was time to step down.

Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers will have their own check-list of items to accomplish this offseason. Here are some of them-

1.       Find a Good Fit to Lead the Team

With Leyland’s managerial days behind him, the team will need someone else to take the reins. The Tigers’ vacancy will automatically leapfrog the job opportunities in Cincinnati and Washington as the top gig on the market. After all, what manager wouldn’t want to take over a club who has made three straight LCS appearances as well as having arguably the best players at their positions (i.e. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, etc.)? The Tigers could go numerous ways here.

One would be to go the “Mike Matheny” route and hire someone with little- to-no managerial experience, but is familiar with the organization. Brad Ausmus would fit the bill. However, this may or may not fly. The team is a championship contender, and throwing a first time manager into the fire like that may not work. It worked for Matheny, but Walt Weiss, Robin Ventura and Mike Redmond’s respective career starts haven’t exactly gone swimmingly.

The second option would be the “John Farrell” route: hiring someone who is familiar with the team, and has previous experience. Gene Lamont would fit this bill, and Leyland will surely give his old friend his backing, but whether Dombrowski wants to go this route remains to be seen.

Finally, the last option is the “Terry Francona” route. The team would go with an experienced, proven winner as their manager, someone who knows how to win. Francona, Buck Showalter and Clint Hurdle are recent examples of this route that have worked out well. Dusty Baker, Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella’s respective names have already been tossed around. However, all that being said, the Tigers can’t afford to have a Bobby Valentine hire. It would be disastrous.

2.        Free Agent Decisions

With numerous potential free agents, the Tigers will be faced with plenty of tough choices come decision time. Brayan Pena, Omar Infante, Ramon Santiago, Jhonny Peralta, Octavio Dotel, Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit could all be out of contract. Resigning them or finding replacements will be important. Veras has a modest club option in his contract, meaning he will likely be back. Infante probably will be resigned if he doesn’t ask for too much money relative to his worth. Pena is another good bet to resign thanks to his strong offensive numbers filling in for Alex Avila behind the plate. Meanwhile, players like Santiago and Dotel could be phased out in favor of younger, cheaper options like Hernan Perez and Luke Putkonen. The trickiest cases could be Peralta and Benoit. Peralta has stated that he would be open to returning to the Tigers as an outfielder, and while his bat would be welcomed, I’m not sure how comfortable the Tigers would be with sticking him in left field from a defense standpoint. Benoit might be harder to predict still. The former Texas Ranger justified the three-year, 16.5 million dollar contract the Tigers gave him with another strong showing in his walk year. After taking over for reclamation project Jose Valverde, Benoit went on to convert 24 saves. Sadly, he will likely be remembered for his postseason shortcoming in Boston. Detroit would probably like a closer with more experience in the role. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Benoit return to the Motor City, however, it will likely be for less money than he previously got, and he probably won’t be closing.

3.       Upgrade in the Lineup and the Field

Even teams that win it all need to make changes and upgrade. You have to keep up with the Joneses.

With Infante in danger of walking in free agency, second base could be a potential hole, once again, for the Tigers. It may sound radical, but what about Brandon Phillips? Not only is he considered, and probably is, one of the best defensive players at his position, but he can also swing with the best. Phillips may be the most polished all-around second baseman in the game not named Dustin Pedroia.

He drove in 103 runs in a down year and reports out of Cincy are that the team is looking to trade him. If the Reds are bent on dealing him, and are willing to eat the majority of his salary to do so, the Tigers should engage in trade talks. As good as Infante is, Phillips would be a massive upgrade with the bat and in the field. All of a sudden the defensively challenged Tigers could possess the slickest fielding double play tandem in the league with Phillips and Iglesias up the middle.

Not only that, but he could help lengthen a lineup that is a smidgen top heavy. Hitting the former Indian sixth behind Victor Martinez would give the team a formidable lineup that would only get more formidable should they find a new left fielder.

As much as Jhonny Peralta wants to come back to Detroit, I’m not sure the team could stomach his defense in left. It’s unfair to ask Peralta to become a whiz in the outfield after learning the position for the first time in his life just a few weeks ago. That being said, he will have growing pains should he stay there. Growing pains the Tigers cannot afford.

Top hitting prospect Nick Castellanos could be ready for a full season of big league at bats next season, and all indications are that the former third baseman is going to be very good for a long time. They may hand the left field job to him outright, or bring him along in slowly in a platoon with Andy Dirks, or a low-buy free agent. Should the team go with the “bring along slowly, platoon” route, Grady Sizemore, Nate McClouth and Jason Kubel are all viable options in that regard.

If the team feels their top hitting prospect isn’t ready for the big time, the last option is signing someone similar to Torii Hunter, a veteran on a short contract who can still produce at a high level. Old friend Curtis Granderson might be too expensive, but if the money isn’t too obnoxious and the team doesn’t feel Castellanos is ready, the Grandy-Man could find himself in Detroit once again. It could be beneficial for Granderson as well. Not only would he get the chance to win, he would also improve his free agent stock for next season on a one-year contract if he doesn’t find a multi-year deal to his liking this offseason.

4.       Upgrade the Bullpen

Many will probably tell you the Tigers shortcoming in the ALCS was their bullpen. That and nagging injuries and slumps to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, respectively. The Tigers don’t have a bad bullpen. Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Benoit and Al Albuquerque are all quality options. The Tigers just need more depth and a true closer. Whether it is by trade or by free agency, the club needs a closer. Edward Mujica could be had in free agency should the Cardinals chose not to resign him. However, his general inexperience as a closer before this year could make the Tigers think twice. Another former Tiger who could interest the team is Fernando Rodney, who after struggling in Anaheim, has experienced a career renaissance in Tampa Bay. Other intriguing closer candidates that could be had are Steve Cishek, Huston Street and Joe Nathan.

Outside of closer, the Tigers need more quality arms in the ‘pen. Free agents such as Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier as well as low-buy, reclamation projects Joel Hanrahan and Francisco Rodriguez are fits.

It all starts at the top for the Tigers. They need to find a new manager before moving on to the rest of their offseason tasks. Here’s hoping they find the right fit.

Mapping the Tigers’ Off-Season Part Three: Upgrade in the Lineup and the Field

Even teams that win it all need to make changes and upgrade. You have to keep up with the Joneses.

With Infante in danger of walking in free agency, second base could be a potential hole, once again, for the Tigers. It may sound radical, but what about Brandon Phillips? Not only is he considered, and probably is, one of the best defensive players at his position, but he can also swing with the best. Phillips may be the most polished all-around second baseman in the game not named Dustin Pedroia.

He drove in 103 runs in a down year and reports out of Cincy are that the team is looking to trade him. If the Reds are bent on dealing him, and are willing to eat the majority of his salary to do so, the Tigers should engage in trade talks. As good as Infante is, Phillips would be a massive upgrade with the bat and in the field. All of a sudden the defensively challenged Tigers could possess the slickest fielding double play tandem in the league with Phillips and Iglesias up the middle.

Not only that, but he could help lengthen a lineup that is a smidgen top heavy. Hitting the former Indian sixth behind Victor Martinez would give the team a formidable lineup that would only get more formidable should they find a new left fielder.

As much as Jhonny Peralta wants to come back to Detroit, I’m not sure the team could stomach his defense in left. It’s unfair to ask Peralta to become a whiz in the outfield after learning the position for the first time in his life just a few weeks ago. That being said, he will have growing pains should he stay there. Growing pains the Tigers cannot afford.

Top hitting prospect Nick Castellanos could be ready for a full season of big league at bats next season, and all indications are that the former third baseman is going to be very good for a long time. They may hand the left field job to him outright, or bring him along in slowly in a platoon with Andy Dirks, or a low-buy free agent. Should the team go with the “bring along slowly, platoon” route, Grady Sizemore, Nate McClouth and Jason Kubel are all viable options in that regard.

If the team feels their top hitting prospect isn’t ready for the big time, the last option is signing someone similar to Torii Hunter, a veteran on a short contract who can still produce at a high level. Old friend Curtis Granderson might be too expensive, but if the money isn’t too obnoxious and the team doesn’t feel Castellanos is ready, the Grandy-Man could find himself in Detroit once again. It could be beneficial for Granderson as well. Not only would he get the chance to win, he would also improve his free agent stock for next season on a one-year contract if he doesn’t find a multi-year deal to his liking this offseason.

Torii Hunter’s Impact with the Detroit Tigers

I’ll admit I didn’t see the signing coming; I’m a bit of a homer when it comes to placing trust in Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch and Quintin Berry, so I didn’t want the signing initially. But the more I look at it, the more there is to like.  Yes, Hunter is getting up there in years, but after further digging, he’s still a very good player in this league despite being 37.

Last season, the Tigers were knocked for not having a good defensive team. That criticism was mainly placed on the infield. But in terms of “elite” defenders, the only one the Tigers had who could change a game in the field was Austin Jackson. Infield aside, the corner outfielders were a tad suspect with the glove. Dirks, Boesch, Berry and Avisail Garcia’s collective number of runs saved above average per 1,200 innings (from the folks over at baseball-reference) was -26. Dirks was the only one of the group whose number was a positive one with three runs scored above average. The point here is that the overall defense in the outfield corners could have been better. Enter Hunter, who despite being nearly a decade older than every one of the previous four, saved 16 runs above average per 1,200 innings.

The beauty of the signing is this: yes, Hunter is valued defensively, and maybe he was needed defensively, but he also brings a whole lot to the table offensively. So often teams bring in an outfielder or use an internal option that is a far superior defender, but lacks completely with the bat.  Teams feel they need to upgrade defensively and save runs there and completely mail it in offensively. But this is the beauty of the signing. Hunter upgrades the defense and offense drastically.

The other bonus of having Hunter as well as Jackson in the outfield means Jim Leyland has his pick of outfielders to use strategically on a game-to-game basis, whether that be Berry, Garcia, Boesch or Dirks.

The Tigers won the American League pennant last year. They also won it, when at times the death-row duo of Miguel Cabrera and Fielder looked like the walking dead. But now Victor Martinez will be 100% healthy, and Torii Hunter joins the mix. Death row just got a whole lot deadlier.

MLB Trade Deadline Roundup

First off, Happy Birthday to my Aunt Joyce. Last year I promised that I would mention her birthday here, and because I’m a man of my word, I am. So, Happy Birthday Aunt Joyce!

Today is the baseball trade deadline. It’s one of the Holy Grails of sports. A day when the deals go by fast and furious and without a Vin Diesel reference. Oops.

Anyways, since the MLB Network has been so kind as to air a trade deadline special, I’ll just run through the trades in the order that they show them, use it as a framework almost. Continue reading

Detroit Tigers Fans: Go Away “Panic Mode”

I’m not panicking yet. And I’ll tell you why. The Tigers not only feature a plethora of All-Stars, but they also play in the pick-your-expletive -est division in the game. Have you noticed how bad the AL Central is? Yeah Chicago is “hot” right now, but come on; third base is a general black hole, and I’m sure as heck not buying their bullpen (and that’s without swearing). Their numbers may be high right now, and you can argue those numbers till the cows come home, but come on, Chicago? Just wait, you can bet there is a colossal ice-age-like cold streak coming. Tell me I’m wrong.

Cleveland is another matter entirely. While I acknowledge that the Sox have some actual talent and it isn’t too surprising that they are doing well, the Indians puzzle me. Asdrubal Cabrera is nice and Carlos Santana has tons of potential, but this team confuses me. Their outfield is decent if Johnny Damon can actually swing a bat. But here’s the thing, the pitching isn’t all that great. I wouldn’t trust the back end of the… let me rephrase that:  I wouldn’t trust any of their starters other than Derek Lowe.

I’m not even going to go into detail on KC and Minnesota because, well they’re rebuilding and that’s about as nice as you can be about those teams at this stage of the game (pun intended… yadda yadda yadda…).

If you’ve forgotten what the aim of this lovely piece is, well then you are in the same boat as I am. No, I’m only kidding, but the point of the whole ranting that you can conveniently view above is that it’s definitely not panic time for the Tigers. Call me an exceedingly loyal fan or someone who has his head screwed on straight, but it’s true.

I’m not going to blame injuries to the team’s recent shortcomings, but I am going to tab injuries as the reason for a second-half (or sooner) surge. By tabbing injuries, I mean guys getting healthy. Alex Avila has taken more hits than an armored truck in a crossfire and is the best catcher in the AL when fully healthy; Doug Fister is one of the better number two options in the rotation when he can actually get run support. But perhaps the two biggest injuries of all were to Andy Dirks and Austin Jackson. Jackson is having an All-Star season (yes, let out your groans of annoyance, I said it again) and is really starting to show his worth offensively. Jackson and Dirks are the table setters for Death Row. And let me tell you, they were doing a pretty damn good job of it before they got injured. Granted had they never been injured we would have never experienced the revelation that is Quintin Berry.

With Berry’s success there have been speculations by fans that he would take over in left for Dirks or in right for Brennan Boesch. I like Berry as a speed/energy guy, but I’d much rather have that weapon off the bench to pinch run. Where, if you haven’t noticed yet, our fastest option after Don Kelly is Ramon Santiago. Let me rephrase that, our only non-catching option besides Don Kelly is Ramon Santiago. Those two guys have good speed, but not necessarily game-changing speed. The kind of speed where everyone including the foul pole knows you’re going to run, and you steal second anyways. As it is, Jackson and Berry are the only guys with that speed on the roster. I’ve just realized that I probably said “speed” and “steal” more times than a healthy human being should. I’m sorry readers.

So after all that, healthy lineup and pitching staff, plus playing in a terrible division, the Tigers should be fine. Not to mention the possibility of a scrap-heap/deadline addition at second base, not because the Tigers’ current situation isn’t satisfactory, just because we could use another option to platoon with Worth and Santiago, for all it’s worth. (Again, sorry, had to do it. Too corny to pass up.)

The point is… (Reshuffles fake paper notes, adjusts glasses and starts speaking in a British professor’s voice) just kidding, scratch the British accent. No, but the point here, and one that I have strayed from, is that the Tigers aren’t out of it, and I am not panicking yet.

A Few Quick Thoughts on the All-Star Ballot

On my recent yearly pilgrimage to Safeco Field to see the Tigers play they were handing out All-Star Game Ballots. It goes something like this: You pick the roster right, you submit it and (key word obviously being “and”), you win something if you get it right. Seems to have escaped me. Octavio Dotel’s closing mishap must have done that to me………………………………. Moving on, anyways here are my thoughts on it.

Positional Mix and Mash-

Jesus Montero is officially listed at DH, which actually might be more difficult to make it into the game than behind the plate.

Andy Dirks and Delmon Young have flip flopped positions since the ballot came out. Young is the current DH and Dirks has taken his spot in left for Detroit.

Michael Young is listed at DH, but really can play everywhere around the infield for Texas.

Joe Mauer is actually listed at catcher despite attempts to keep him out of injuries’ way.

 

Third Base Just Got a Whole Lot More Crowded-

Miguel Cabrera joins an AL group that includes mainstays Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis.

In the NL, Hanley Ramirez joins a positional battle with the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen and Pablo Sandoval. Not to mention last year’s All-Star Placido Polanco.

 

Other Things of Note-

Wilson Betemit is listed as the Oriole’s DH. A decent defender, seems like he’d be better defensively than Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis at first and third. Just a thought.

Ben Revere, one of the Twins outfielders listed, is currently in AAA.

Josh Donaldson, the A’s third base representative, was in AAA for a couple weeks before being called up.

Brandon Inge should at least be put in the running if he keeps going bananas.

Both Alex Gonzalez and Mat Gamel are out for the season and are presumably out of the running.

Franklin Gutierrez will have a tough time of it seeing as he hasn’t played yet. His teammate Ichiro could also have a tough time making it back to the Mid-Summer Classic.

Andy Dirks Slowly Pushing Delmon Young Out of the Tigers Future

Jim Leyland seems to have settled into the routine of writing Andy Dirks’ name not only in the second spot in the batting order, but also in left field. This, is good.

Dirks is a much better defender than Delmon Young is and covers (your choice of funky synonym for “more” here) ground than Young.

Offensively as well Dirks has excelled in the 2 hole. He has had a multi-hit game in each of his last four games and drove in three last night. Overall he is hitting at a .339 clip with 10 runs batted in and another 10 scored in 17 games. It’s probably safe to say it now, but the dude can hit.

He can hit. That is the main thing here.

For this season Delmon Young is likely staying put in Detroit due to his importance in the batting order. (You know that spot behind Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera where he has to protect them?)

But moving forward that role will probably belong to a guy who kind of gets lost in the shuffle here- Victor Martinez, the perfect complement to Cabrera and Fielder.

Also, something to point out is that the Tigers would love to get out of Young’s salary. If I’m not mistaken he is a free agent after the season, meaning that the Tigers would have almost seven million dollars to play with just thanks to Young leaving. Think about that. We could use it to find an addition at second base or where ever else they might have a position of need. (hold on…Quickly digests depth chart) Nope, don’t see any other glaring needs.

Yes, a lineup that contains Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez and Young in the 3-6 spots is a bit daunting, but I’d rather have the first three with Dirks getting on in front of them in the 2 hole with names like Avila, Peralta and Boesch behind the big boys.

Dirks, nonetheless, is one of Detroit’s outfielders of the future. Young situation or no, he isn’t going to Toledo any time soon.

Assessing the Tigers’ Needs

It’s starting to feel like the time of year when all the teams rush to the trade market and go after a new bat or arm. Just as with shoppers on Black Friday, baseball teams too rush out at some un-godly hour to get brand-new toasters. Only theirs aren’t toasters, but are rather players to help their post-season cause.

Injuries and other matters have struck, and while it might be a bit premature to start digging into trade possibilities, I’m going to anyway.

Rotation Help

When I say help, I don’t necessarily mean by trade at this point. Justin Verlander will be the best pitcher in the league, and Doug Fister will be a true frontline-starter. After that there are a few questions. Not big questions mind you, but more like questions off the back of a pamphlet-questionnaire than say off the SAT.

Max Scherzer is one such question. The 27 year old righty has shown flashes of dominance and something quite the opposite. The Tigers certainly aren’t going to give up on him, but he needs to pitch better.

Rick Porcello, on the other hand,  needs to stay away from the Rangers. After looking borderline spectacular against Tampa and the White Sox, Porcello ran into maybe the hottest team of the young season in the Texas Rangers. He got knocked around to a point that he gave up 10 hits, as well as 8 runs in one inning. He had a manila-folder start against the Mariners before recovering with a strong outing against the Royals. The Tigers likely don’t need to worry about Porcello if he keeps putting up numbers like his first two starts.

The Tigers last arm in the current rotation is one Drew Smyly. Smyly, or whoever was in the fifth spot in the rotation, was looked at as a huge question mark entering the season. It’s probably safe to say that Detroit will also be fine if he keeps pitching at the rate he’s going.

We have to remember that the Tigers aren’t going to be without Doug Fister forever. The former Tacoma Rainier will be off the DL at some point, meaning that Duane Below will likely move back to the bullpen and restore depth to what’s turning into a deep group for the Tigers.

Verdict: Overall from a rotation standpoint I’d say the Tigers don’t need to go out and get anyone. Yet.

Infield Needs

The Tigers infield isn’t a huge concern. Nothing is going to happen to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Jhonny Peralta will be fine, don’t worry. The one concern though happens to be the position that neither of the three play: second base. The Tigers production has been paltry there to say the least this season. Ryan Raburn has struggled offensively while playing second and the corner outfield spots. Brandon Inge was cut as a result of the lack of production and Ramon Santiago is better utilized as a utility player. (Yes I just used utilized and utility in the same sentence.) All that being said, the Tigers could be in the market for a new addition at second base. Not necessarily a new starter, but help at the position.

Brian Roberts is a big name, if healthy, who would make sense in the Motor City. Though I’m not sure if the Orioles would give up their star-player.

Clint Barmes might make more sense, but again how much the Pirates would want in return, if they are willing to deal him, remains to be seen.

Chris Getz and Jamey Carroll could be more attainable targets seeing as the Royals would like to make room for guys like Johnny Giavotella in the future.  The Twins can also use as many prospects as they can get.

Verdict: If none of that comes to fruition, the Tigers could always put Don Kelly at second, or go after somebody else.

(Weird Side Note: Raburn is the only player in Safeco Field to ever hit a ball off the roof. I was there.)

THE OUTFIELD (Loud, coming-from-the-heavens like voice)

Delmon Young’s absence from the lineup has given the Tigers a look at the production that Andy Dirks might put up at on a consistent basis. It has also opened the door for more playing time for Don Kelly and more outfield starts for Raburn.

If Young can’t come back and establish himself as the Tigers protection for Cabrera and Fielder, then the Tigers might look to find a replacement.

Detroit doesn’t have any pressing prospects at the AAA level so it isn’t as if a new acquisition would block them. A deal similar to the one which brought Young to the Tigers could come about with Detroit picking up a bat to basically do what Young is doing. Jeff Francoeur would be a fit for the Tigers, and one who wouldn’t cost too much.

Verdict: The Tigers don’t necessarily need help if Delmon Young comes back the same. If not, then Detroit could look elsewhere.

The ‘Pen

Detroit’s bullpen wasn’t going to be as good as last year’s. Not many bullpens are, or were as good as last year’s group. That being said, the current bullpen is a good one, and as previously stated, has a lot of depth. Yes, surprising as that may sound, the Tigers bullpen has depth. Dotel-Benoit-Papa Grande might just be one of, if not the most, efficient/dominant 7-8-9 inning triumvirate in the league. Outside of that the Tigers boast ace reliever Phil Coke as well as the more versatile Collin Balester and the currently-injured “King of Alliterations” (sorry had to do it.) Al Alburquerque. I haven’t gotten to names like Daniel Schlereth who was very effective out of the ‘pen last year. As well as Duane Below and Adam Wilk, who could both provide even more depth in the relief corps.

The Verdict: Detroit should be fine here unless injury strikes.

DH

One of last season’s sure things has turned into one of this season’s bigger question marks. With V-Mart out for most of the season (thinking best case scenario) the Tigers will use it as a revolving door to give guys breaks in the field. Brad Eldred will also get a good deal of ABs there as well.

The Verdict: The DH conundrum will likely work itself out when Young returns. That’ll make DH a platoon of sorts with Eldred and Dirks. The recently stated DH grouping isn’t bad, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers went out and added a bench bat/platoon partner to add to the mix.

Overall Verdict: Going into the season, if the Tigers second base situation didn’t play out well then the Tigers probably were, and are going to need help there. Getz or Roberts makes sense. The rotation isn’t as big of a concern as it could be. When Max Scherzer turns it around then all the rotation questions will go poof. Same with the outfield situation. If Delmon Young comes back as his old self then the Tigers will roll on. If not they might go shopping for a new outfielder. Other than that the bullpen is solid. You’ll notice that I didn’t list catcher because Alex Avila is a rock and isn’t going to get injured. In the off chance that he does, Gerald Laird can play stop gap for a week.