MLB Trade Rumors: Fixing the Angels

On paper the Angels look like they should make the playoffs if not win a good number of games. You know, at least be respectable.

Alas, last year’s Angels did not live up to their on-paper-expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, the Angels’ offense was good statistically. Only Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland, St. Louis, Detroit and Boston scored more runs. The rub here is the pitching prowess. Or lack thereof.

The Angels actually gave up four more runs (737) than they scored (733). Only cellar dwellers Houston, Minnesota, Colorado, Toronto, Seattle and Philadelphia gave up more runs.

It all begins with the starters, and the sad truth is that Anaheim’s starters weren’t that bad last year. Garret Richards and Jason Vargas both preformed moderately well. Jered Weaver didn’t win, or start as many games as he usually does, but he still had a good year. CJ Wilson posted a career high 17 wins. The quality is there. LA of Anaheim just needs… well, they could use a fifth starter for one. Jerome Williams was alright in his spot in the rotation, but if you want to contend for division and league titles you can’t have a starter who posts an ERA of 4.57 in your rotation. It simply doesn’t fly.

It’s not as if the Angels haven’t tried. Tommy Hanson hasn’t really stuck in the rotation. Joe Blanton was close to awful.

Accomplishing the goal of acquiring pitching may be easier said than done. The Angels have a ridiculous amount of money on the books (not necessarily Yankee money)in Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Jered Weaver and Erick Aybar’s respective contracts. This probably means the Halos will look for cheaper options. Cheaper, low-buy, not-a-lot-of-money-involved options generally tend to be hit-and-miss with an onus on the latter.

Which probably means that trading for someone is the likely route. No one wants Josh Hamilton and/or Albert Pujols’ respective contracts. If the Dodgers never traded for Adrian Gonzalez, then maybe you might be able to convince them to take Pujols away, but regardless, it’s not happening now. Aybar could appeal to teams as an option at shortstop, but his contract and the lack of middle infield depth likely rule that out. Both of the Angels’ catchers have been mentioned as targets of the Blue Jays, but I can’t see the Angels looking at any of Toronto’s starters as an upgrade. One of Toronto’s numerous quality relievers could be a fit, but Los Angeles might not want to trade from its only position of depth for a relief arm.

Mark Trumbo may be the only piece the Angels are willing to part with who could bring in an above-average-return.

They should not be doing this.

Sure, Trumbo is being shopped to find better pitching, but he shouldn’t be moved.

In his young career, Trumbo has shown that he can consistently hit for power and be a middle-of-the-order presence — Something that the Angels need because Pujols and Hamilton may be hard to rely on. Saying Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton weren’t reliable three years ago would have probably been as accurate as saying Thabo Sefalosha is/was a better basketball player than LeBron James. Nowadays, Sefalosha is still inferior compared to LeBron, but Pujols and Hamilton aren’t what they once were. It may have just been a year or two of down seasons for the two of them, but their collective three years in Anaheim have been below par considering their previous success.

Pujols hasn’t hit .300 or slug 40 homeruns in his tenure in Southern California, hallmarks of his years in St. Louis.Numbers-wise,  Hamilton fell off a cliff from his last year in Texas. The numbers-

Josh Hamilton 2012 (with Texas)- 148 games played, 160 hits, 103 runs scored, 31 doubles, 43 homeruns, 128 RBI, .930 OPS.

Josh Hamilton 2013 (with Anaheim)- 151 games played, 144 hits, 73 runs scored, 32 doubles, 21 homeruns, 79 RBI, .739 OPS.

Staggering.

A foot injury that caused Pujols to miss almost half of the season further augments the instability in the middle of the lineup.

The last 200-odd words are basically longhand for “the Angels need to keep Mark Trumbo.”

The Angels need to keep what they have (i.e. Trumbo) as well as make additions to the team. They aren’t going to contend by taking two steps backward and three steps forward, in terms of additions. Sadly, the Angels probably need to spend to get where they want to be in terms of contending. Also sadly, they don’t have a whole lot of money thanks to their lavish signings (see Hamilton, Josh and Pujols, Albert among others). The Halos need to get creative to win. Getting creative to win with minor-league signings, low-buy trades, etc. isn’t always the easiest route. It involves a little luck sometimes. The Angels need that luck; otherwise they’re staring at another middling season.

Silencing the Tigers’ Haters

Much has been made of the Tigers’ “inconsistent” play as of late, as well as the fact that they aren’t in first place in a “weak” division.

This is all irrelevant. Or, unwarranted rather.  The Tigers have, if not the best, then one of the best records in the league since the end of June.

The division is another thing entirely. Yes, the Tigers sit two games out of first place Chicago, but on the year, Detroit has a 7-5 record against the Sox. That’s tied for the most wins the Tigers have against any other club this year. The other two teams the Tigers have seven wins against are Minnesota and Kansas City, which Detroit is a combined 14-6 against. Which brings us to this point, of the 40 games left, twenty six of them are against those teams. Six more of those scheduled games are against the Angels, who Detroit has won three of the four meetings with this year.

So add it all up, and the Tigers, if all goes as it has been going, should end up with the division title. This would in turn remove them from the wildcard-playoff-shtick. Continue reading

The Tigers Starting Pitching Situation

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball.

After that you have some question marks. I don’t think the pitchers who follow Verlander two-through-five are bad, there are just some concerns.

The first concern is Doug Fister. Like I said, it’s not as big of a concern with him as it might be with some other pitchers. At the very worst Doug Fister is going to be a reliable number three option in the rotation. At the very best however, you’re looking at a shutdown number two option that can cause opposing fans to throw their TV remotes through windows in frustration. You know, due to the fact that Detroit would be up two games to nil in a playoff series, after Verlander and Fister each win.

Last year we saw total brilliance. In the second half of the 2011 season, the best pitcher in baseball, at the time, was a member of the Detroit Tigers. And it wasn’t Verlander. Down the stretch, Fister posted a stellar 8-1 mark with a desirable 1.79 earned run average. Combine that with the fact that through the little-over 70 innings that he threw, he struck out 57 batters to a modest four walks. Holy Smoltz. That, if you didn’t major in some form of math at an Ivy League school, equates to an 11.40 strikeout-to-walk ration. I’m going to say it again, holy Smoltz. I should mention the fact that he gave up the fewest home runs per 9 innings among all qualified pitchers with a 0.5 per game clip. Some of that is probably attributed to the fact that he pitched in two of the bigger parks in the league (Safeco Field and Comerica Park), but most of it is due to fact that he can pitch.

This year however, the numbers and results haven’t been as encouraging. Almost every statistical category’s numbers have ballooned. He gave up 11 homeruns all of last year, eight with the Mariners, in 216.1 innings pitched. This season he’s given up the same number he gave up in a Seattle uniform last year. However this year he’s thrown only 67.2 innings. The concern is there, but so is the potential.

Look at his earlier start against Seattle in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year. It was Fister’s first full start of the season after going down with a side injury in his opening week start against the Red Sox. He threw 7.0 innings of four-hit ball, sent three of his former teammates back to the dugouts on third strikes , but was the victim of a botched save attempt by the bullpen and saw his win and two run lead vanish in the ninth as the Mariners scored three runs. I was at that game, and it was a travesty to see him not factor in the decision positively.

But overall, Fister’s so-so numbers are a victim of a couple bad starts and bad run support.

After the Seattle disappointment he took the mound in Oakland and gave up one run and five hits over 6 innings while fanning 8… and was charged with the loss. After that he gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings against Minnesota, charged with the loss. He again put up a solid start in his next outing, but let the wheels fall off at the end as the Indians scored twice in his last inning to spoil the game. Overall, he gave up a mere six runs in his first 29.1 innings but was knocked around for that same number against a potent Boston offense during the next outing. The point here is that the ERA is where it’s at because of three bad starts against Texas, Boston and the Twins. A rough go around is explainable against the first two clubs, but not the third. Then again, everybody has a bad day right?

Moving on after that long analysis.

At number three in the rotation is Max Scherzer. He really hasn’t pitched all that bad despite spotting a 4.84 ERA. A lot of that is probably attributed to the beating he took in the opening series against Boston. He was the victim of 7 earned runs in a mere 2.2 innings pitched. And, as stated, it seems his ERA is gradually, with the exception of one start, coming down from that.

Rick Porcello is another kettle of fish entirely. He’s probably the one pitcher that I’m more than a little worried about. Let me come off that ledge a bit. I’m not saying he needs to pack his bags for Toledo, he just needs to throw with some consistency. His only terrible-ish starts were against LA of Anaheim, Seattle and an ugly one inning affair against the Rangers where they crossed the plate 9 times (8 of those runs earned) in the one inning. Again, LA and Texas are explainable, but he had a bad game against the Mariners.

Which for some odd reason happens a lot — the Tigers struggle against Seattle. That’s awesome, because I live in the greater Seattle area, more or less.

Again, moving on.

We’ve seen Drew Smyly be outstanding holding down the fort as the fifth starter at times. We have also seen a slightly more sporadic Smyly throw the ball. We’ve seen good things from Casey Crosby as well as flashes of brilliance from Jacob Turner. We’ve also seen Adam Wilk and the occasional Duane Below. The underlying theme here is that we could probably use another starting pitcher.

Here’s a sample size of the market for starters as it is-

  • Cole Hamels, Phillies
  • Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, Brewers
  • Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Cubs
  • Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood, Mariners
  • Bartolo Colon, Athletics
  • Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

Take the list in, go ahead, I’ll wait. Are you done thinking of trade scenarios? Good. Ok, these guys obviously aren’t the only pitchers that will be available. Jeremy Guthrie and Francisco Liriano could be options as well, but these are the main guys, probably. That is unless some contender who wouldn’t normally be in it, but is thanks to this new wild card mumbo jumbo, goes 0-10 in the next two weeks and falls miserably out of it. Then they might sell.

Moving on, Guthrie and Liriano are probably too wild to warrant either serious interest or investment. The selling-the-farm tactic is probably a no-go for Dave Dombrowski and friends as they develop their system. So that’s two more “NOs” on missers Hamles and Greinke. Garza and Marcum would be worth a look, but might cost a top pitcher like a Smyly or Crosby. So again. No. Wandy Rodriguez is probably a little expensive for the Tigers’ taste, so for the umpteenth time… No.

That leaves Dempster, Vargas, Millwood and Colon.

I’d say no to Colon mainly because the A’s will need him if they’re still in it come whenever. If I were Dombrowski, I’d probably only invest a PTBNL or an A-ball pitcher two on Millwood, or frankly Colon for that matter. That whittles it down to Vargas and Dempster. You’ve seen the Seattle-to-Detroit pitcher pipeline work out brilliantly. See my above paragraphs on one Doug Fister, and horribly, see Jarrod Washburn.

I would think that each could be had for a price, and I would think that that price wouldn’t be too obnoxious. I’d say a B-level prospect or two would probably get it done either way. Let’s also not forget that if we get Dempster, he’s bringing a 33-scoreless-innings-pitched streak to Comerica. Can I get a “Winning”?

As I write this, Doug Fister now has won his third start in a row. So maybe they don’t need to give up the farm for a Cole Hamels-like pitcher. But regardless, pitching help is needed, and in that case Dempster’s the guy.

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.

The Problem With Adam Dunn

Adam Dunn is having a fine bounce-back year. The Chicago White Sox, however, aren’t. Yes, they are technically in second place in the division, but there isn’t a lot of staying power to be had on the South Side. Which brings us to our next point. Do they trade off some pieces to continue their “rebuilding”? (cough cute attempt at “reloading” cough)

Dunn already has 14 bombs after tallying a mere 11 last campaign. This all fine and dandy, but what real value does Dunn have?

He can hit, we know that. We also know he isn’t the best defender by any stretch. Which is why he’s listed as the starting DH for the Sox.

Because of the defensive, ah… inconsistency, Dunn is going to scare off some NL teams looking for a first baseman. So for all intents and purposes let’s cross off all NL teams from Dunn’s “Trade Possibility List”.

The number of teams shrink again when you look at the AL. In the East, Toronto doesn’t need him, though they might take a flier if Adam Lind struggles. Tampa probably doesn’t want to shell out the cash to get him (Dunn). New York and Boston are set. Baltimore though is the one possibility in the division, and maybe the league. The Orioles are currently employing Wilson Betemit and Nick Johnson at DH. Not exactly a World Series winner’s platoon there, but funnier things have happened. The point is that the Orioles make sense for Dunn when not many teams do.

Other teams that don’t make a lick of sense (not necessarily in this order, well maybe… You know what, forget I even said the order thing…)

Detroit:  Though if Delmon Young continues to struggle… Nah.

Kansas City:  No room whatsoever. Unless it’s a straight-up swap for Billy Butler.

Minnesota:  Sellers-R-US.

Texas:  Wouldn’t put it past them to get another bat. But probably not.

Oakland:  Billy Beane isn’t moving his prospects for Dunn. No way.

Los Angeles Angels of Wherever:  Nope.

And last, but probably least, of teams that make no sense, Seattle:  Least only because I don’t think Dunn wants to join the ranks of Richie Sexson, Milton Bradley and Brad Wilkerson. (Which, if you haven’t guessed, is the line of tombstones for their careers. Safeco Field is death row for hitters.)

Cleveland makes some sense on the list of potential suitors, but there isn’t a chance in a blue moon that Kenny Williams moves him in division. Unless the Indians are boneheads again and give up almost every good prospect they have to get a decent player. (cough Ubaldo Jimenez cough)

Sorry about my constant cough throughout this piece. It seems to come up when talking about mediocre teams (cough Cleveland cough White Sox cough)

Wrap-up point here, Dunn’s bounce-back season is nice, but Chicago can’t really capitalize on it and move him due to the lack of buyers.

Going About Replacing Lance Berkman

So Albert Pujols is gone. Just thought I’d point that out, and truthfully, the Cardinals seem like they are better off without him. That’s partly because they pinch themselves every day for not spending north of 200 million on him. But also because they have a solid, if not very good, 3-6 spots in the batting order. Those spots are filled by Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Postseason Hero David Freese and the last one used to be Lance Berkman’s.

Now, Berkman might have torn his ACL. He might not have. He’s getting another opinion. The point here is that he’s probably going to be out for a very long time.

So who do the Cardinals turn to until the Big Puma comes back?

Kevin Youkilis seems like a really good fit. He can start at first while Berkman is out and also occasionally shift to third to give Freese the day off. He also gives St. Louis another high quality bat to pair with the other three hitters previously mentioned. Plus, given Boston’s apparent desire to move him, it would make sense.

Justin Morneau is another guy who I think could, and should, be moved. Minnesota needs all the pieces it can get to solve their puzzle. Which I might add is still sealed in the box. They need pieces, and Morneau is one of the few guys on the roster who can get those kinds of pieces.

Bryan LaHair is a huge long shot. The Cubs aren’t going to deal him in division. Though I do think the Cubs should sell high on him at some point to make room for Anthony Rizzo.

Mark Trumbo or Kendrys Morales are dark horse candidates should the Angels choose to move forward without one of the two.

Recently demoted Gaby Sanchez is a low buy option if he struggles whenever Miami calls him up. Hence he’d be out of their long term plans, yadda yadda yadda.

The point is there are options for the Cardinals. I haven’t even mentioned the in-house guys, but they are there. Look for this thing to be resolved in one way or another.

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.

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.

Can’t Live Without ‘Em: American League

(Disclaimer: You can live without these players, it certainly doable.)

Injuries happen. Trades happen. Prolonged, bench-worthy stints occur. Players might not be there.

Whether that player is your everyday superstar or fourth outfielder, the loss means something. But in the case of the superstar, it can sometimes mean a lot.

Teams and the Players They Can’t Live Without:

(Starting in the AL West and moving east through the AL, I’ll have another one coming soon on the NL.)

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: None. Not kidding in the slightest. Even if their big, new-fangled signing Albert Pujols breaks down at some point, either Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo will be there to step in. Rotation-wise, I might say Jered Weaver simply because his replacement won’t likely come close to his production.

Texas Rangers- Joe Nathan. Again, not what you’d think. If the Rangers lose any one of their infielders Michael Young will step in more than adequately. The outfield is a little more in question, but Craig Gentry usually gets the job done. I say Nathan because, while Texas has depth in the bullpen, it isn’t necessarily closer depth. Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando only have 18 saves combined in their careers, and 13 of them are Uehara’s. (Just a quick aside, Mike Adams is an almost-less-than pedestrian 4-20 in save opportunities in his career. If you’re doing the math at home, yes Ogando only has one career save.) All that is basically blogspeak for: The Rangers might go into a colossal bullpen-tailspin if Nathan can’t hold it down.

Oakland A’s- Yoenis Cespedes or Jemile Weeks. It’s not as if the Athletics can’t live without them, or play for that matter. It’s that they probably wouldn’t like to stunt the players growth/developments (whatever term lights your fire).

Seattle Mariners- Chone Figgins. I’d say Jesus Montero for reasons listed above, but the M’s need the Figgy Pudding to maintain his trade value by playing well.

 

Detroit Tigers- Justin Verlander. The Tigers, like the Angels, have good depth. Also like the Angels, the potential loss of the reigning MVP would only hurt Detroit from the standpoint that the replacement couldn’t put up Verlander’s numbers unless his name is Felix Hernandez.

Kansas City Royals- Either of the Corner Infielders. Just as with Oakland, KC needs their young players to get time under their respective belts. The loss of a potential trade candidate like a Mitch Maier or Jeff Francoeur could also endanger those players’ trade values.

Chicago White Sox- Adam Dunn. The Sox need Dunn to stay healthy so he can prove that his signing wasn’t a complete-and-utter waste. The potential loss of Paul Konerko could send this team into the cellar after the way they played last year. Dayan Viciedo could benefit from getting a good deal of playing time as well.

Cleveland Indians- Asdrubal Cabrera and Ubaldo Jimenez. Cabrera is at the center of everything the team does on both sides of the box score. Jimenez, meanwhile, needs to prove that the Rockies didn’t straight-up rob the Indians’ entire store of prospects.

(Weird side note, have you noticed that a lot of the Indians players previously played in Seattle? Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Casey Kotchman, Derek Lowe, Jack Hannahan and Jose Lopez all donned Mariners uniforms. Weird.)

Minnesota Twins- Whoever is Producing Well at the Time. The Twins have been ransacked by injuries in recent years. They have gone from division champ and perennial sacrifice to the Yankees in the ALDS to basement dweller. To give you more of an idea of how far the Twins have fallen, when you type in “Minnesota” and then a “t” to start the word “twins” you get “Minnesota Timberwolves” as your top suggestion. That’s right, the Twins have fallen past the T-Wolves.

 

New York Yankees- CC Sabathia. The Yankees acquired pitching in the offseason. I’ll give them that, but the loss of their ace could be detrimental. As it is the Yankees seem like they will be a playoff team, whether that is as a wild card or a division winner remains to be seen. Here’s a quick rundown of the AL East as it is for me. Tampa and these Yankees are head and shoulders above the rest of the division. Boston and a not-so-far-behind Toronto are in the next tier that seems to be fighting for a wild card berth. Obviously that leaves Baltimore at the bottom, but we’re moving on. The potential loss of Sabathia drops New York more towards the Sox and Blue Jays than Tampa.

Tampa Bay Rays- Carl Crawford Matt Garza Jason Bartlett. The Rays have shown in the past that when an injury hits, or they lose a player to free agency or trade, they recover. Honestly, Evan Longoria would probably sting the most to lose, but the Rays will probably find a way to replace him. Cause that’s how they roll (as the kids say).

Boston Red Sox- Adrian Gonzalez. Yes, Boston would still have Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, but the rest of the offense simply isn’t there. Carl Crawford is on the shelf due to injury, leading to outfield woes that also prompted the acquisition of Marlon Byrd. Losing a player like this in the past wouldn’t have been as serious, seeing as Boston’s outfield and rotation were both much stronger than they are now. But because of those weaker factions of the team, the Red Sox might not get by if A-Gon is gone. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Toronto Blue Jays- Jose Bautista. The Jays are going to need their MVP candidate if they want to even have the smallest of smallest shots at contending. Other candidates include Adam Lind and Ricky Romero.

Baltimore Orioles- Anyone who has trade value. The Birds need some pieces, and lots of them. The rotation is a very young group, but the players in the field could use a youth infusion. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are nice pieces, but something has to give. The O’s need to make some changes to even try to win in God knows when.

Who is the Best First Baseman in the American League?

Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Possibly the NL’s finest pair of first basemen last season now find themselves in the AL, who were already rich with first basemen.

The Candidates-

  • Albert  Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Maybe the best of his generation, the all-around threat has switched leagues and will look to unleash his at and stellar glove work on the already down Mariners and A’s among others.
  • Prince  Fielder, Detroit Tigers. What some call the biggest free agent signing of      the offseason, he teams with Miguel Cabrera to form one of the best 3-4      combos since Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Yes, I just went there.
  • Paul  Konerko, Chicago White Sox. The near player-manager is the symbol of      consistency on a White Sox team that is shaky, and that’s putting it      nicely.
  • Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers first      baseman might arguably be the best defensive in the game. Hitting for 30      homers and 100 runs batted in a year doesn’t hurt either.
  • Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox. It’s hard to call him the third best hitter in      the AL since he’s Adrian Gonzalez for pity’s sake, but sadly it’s true. In      terms of the whole package at the plate, A-Gon is third behind Pujols and      Cabrera.

(It should be noted that Cabrera should be here, but he is currently at third base because of Fielder.)

The Displaced Options-

  • Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A very good first baseman, after his recovery from injury, he is at DH while the team welcomes Albert      Pujols into the fold for the next decade.
  • Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If Trumbo is here, Cabrera probably should be as well, but given the Angels ability to move one of Trumbo or Morales and put the other at DH, it seems he could be back at first base      soon.
  • Matt Laporta, Cleveland Indians. The centerpiece to the CC Sabathia trade is      currently raking at AAA and could be back in Cleveland or in somewhere else if the Tribe feels Casey Kotchman satisfactory.

Former Super Stars Who Have Had Injury Issues-

  • Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins. The formerly stated superstar has had his fair share of issues with the injury bug. A return to prominence would benefit      him greatly.
  • Morales.

Young, Former Top Prospects Yet to Carve out a Niche-

  • Justin Smoak, Seattle Mariners. The other big mover in one of the many Cliff Lee trades, Smoak is currently starting at first for the Mariners, but could lose the occasional start to Jesus Montero.
  • LaPorta.

Out of Position Players Moved to First Due to Injury or Other Reasons-

  • Jesus Montero, Seattle Mariners. The trade equivlent of Michael Pineda, or at      least from the M’s and Yankees point of view, could move around the middle      of the lineup at either first, DH or behind the dish.
  • Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. Mauer is one of the better 20 players in the league when healthy. I’ll emphasize healthy because he hasn’t been that as of late. Moving to first takes away some of the wear and tear behind the plate.

The Dark Horses-

  • Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays. Pena is back in Tampa and if he can hit for average, he could be a bigger force than he already is.
  • Casey Kotchman, Cleveland Indians. Kotchman is a wiz defensively. He proved he can hit for average. If the power comes, watch out.

Do you go with the all-around package in Pujols? The Power of Fielder? Who knows? All I know is we are going to have one hell of a vote for the All Star Game.