Who Should be the New Tigers’ Manager?

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 Four: 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.

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.

Mapping the Tigers’ Off-Season Part Two 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.

Mapping the Tigers’ Off-Season Part 1: Finding the Right Manager

Mapping the Tigers’ Offseason

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’s the first item-

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.

Check back for part two soon.

Kingdome Crossover- Chronicle of Couch Volume Two: One Couch, One Game

This isn’t going to be as plentiful as the last time I did this. Before that it was a Tigers-Rays regular season game in Tampa, a Euro 2012 semi-final where my Italians knocked off the mighty Germans 2-1 thanks to a brace from Mario Balotelli and that year’s NBA draft. This time I’m taking it a little easier. Seahawks/Titans is the only order of business.

1:05

Titans receiving the kickoff to start the game. Here comes Ryan Fitzpatrick. If these teams played last year in Seattle, it would have been interesting seeing as former UW Prodigy Jake Locker and old friend Matt Hasselbeck were the Titans options under center. Now Hasselbeck is making fun of Andrew Luck’s cellphone in Indianapolis and Jake Locker is out injured. Ergo Ryan Fitzpatrick.

1:12

Russell Wilson starts the game off with a completion to Luke Willson after Tennessee punts away. Max Unger is back in the fold, Michael Bowie starting at right tackle.

1:13

For Tennessee to have any success, the general consensus is to put pressure on Russell Wilson. Good luck in the loud noise. Honestly, good luck. It’s so loud in there you can’t think about what you want for lunch, let alone play an NFL game.

1:17

High snaps continue for the Titans as they have second and 14 inside the 10. Chris Johnson is lined up on the “H” in Seahawks in the endzone pre-snap.

1:23

Titans score first on a field goal after showing a somewhat dejected-looking Jake Locker on the sidelines. Here’s hoping they don’t continually show the Ferndale native on the sidelines unable to play in his home state. A sad drinking game for any who partake in it.

1:28

Seahawks utilizing the read-option more and more as Russell Wilson gets a first down on a run. Also concerning that the Titans moved the ball somewhat easily on their first drive. They took it from inside the 10 to a short field-goal. All this is concerning considering that the Seahawks have generally shut down Chris Johnson. It’s been all Ryan Fitzpatrick. Seahawks have to improve; teams of their quality and ambitions can’t let Ryan Fitzpatrick carve them up at home. It’s a recipe for disaster.

1:33

The Titans have nearly double the yards the Seahawks do so far, not good. As I say this, Earl Thomas picks off Fitzpatrick on a high throw. Looks like he thought 6’1 Nate Washington was as tall as Kareem Abdul-Jabar.

1:35

Supposedly the Titans repeatedly watched tape of Marshawn Lynch’s Beast Quake against the Saints. That’s positive thinking. Also, it never gets old watching it. Go ahead, indulge yourself.

1:41

CBS graphic shows Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the fourth most giveaways by a quarterback since 2011 with an astounding 50. Fifty. Titans backed into a corner with turnover-happy Fitzpatrick in Seattle against a team that forces a lot of turnovers. Going to be a long day if the Titans’ QB can’t buck his recent trend of turnovers.

1:42

Another semi-dejected Locker sideline shot. That’s two.

1:44

Fitzpatrick throws another high pass on a completed slant rout on third down. You have to wonder if the noise is a factor with all the high snaps and throws. Meanwhile Chris Johnson runs into another wall running the ball.

1:46

Titans left tackle Michael Roos went to college at Eastern Washington. So that’s fun.

1:49

Golden Tate gets hit in the head on his way out of bounds during a tackle. Multiple penalties not called by the refs.

1:50

“We’re in Seattle. It’s not raining.” This the latest from the commentators.IT DOESN’T RAIN EVERY DAY!

1:52

Seahawks going to run into money problems at some point in time. They will have to give Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, etc. The Seahawks should have money to spend long term with Sidney Rice and Zach Miller’s respective contracts coming off the books. ‘Hawks have long-term replacements lined up with Anthony McCoy, Luke Willson, Jermaine Kerse and Doug Baldwin respectively.

1:57

Beast Mode slams it into the endzone for his fourth rushing score of the year. Incidentally, also on fourth and one on the goal line.

2:08

Steven Hauschka being tested for concussion-like symptoms on the sidelines. Or at least that’s what it looks like. Not a good thing to see, let alone from your kicker, important position that. Also carries more importance considering how superb Hauschka has been this year on kicks.

2:10

Jon Ryan warming as if to kick a late field goal. Have to wonder who emergency holder is. Was previously Ryan’s gig.

2:12

Ryan lines up for the late field goal, bad hold, botched play results in a turnover. Tennessee returns it for touchdown. The importance of special teams, and even holding, becomes clearer than ever.

Halftime

Potential 10-3 lead turns into 10-7 deficit. Sighs heavily. Also Houston lost again. They could have at least been helpful and beat St. Louis for us.

2:40

So far no semi-dejected Jake Locker sightings in the second half. On a non-related note, Seahawks have to get into a more consistent flow on offense. Too much stop and go. Tennessee is much better than advertised.

2:43

Everything goes wrong for Seattle. Sidney Rice sticks the ball forward for no apparent reason after a catch for a first down. Titans knock the unprotected ball out and recover the fumble. In the ensuing pile-up to get the ball, ‘Hawks called for a flag. Extra 15 yards added on after Tennessee recovers the fumble. Fun times indeed.

2:46

Seahawks lose the challenge on the play. Why on earth did Sidney Rice reach the ball out? I just can’t wrap my head around it.

2:47

Fitzpatrick continues to make throws that look antsy. Lots of high snaps and throws.

2:51

Derek Coleman fumbles on a catch out of the backfield, ball gets knocked strait out of bounds. Seahawks catch somewhat of a break. Second down.

2:56

Who would have thought that Russell Wilson and Ryan Fitzpatrick would be out-rushing Marshawn Lynch and Chris Johnson? Strange times.

3:06

Titans have the ball after a Hauschka field goal. Great to see the kicker back out on the field. And another Locker sighting. That’s three if you’re playing along at home. Chris Johnson continually getting stopped on nearly every run. Only 33 yards so far. At least it’s a step up from last week’s 17 yards.

3:09

Seahawks got somewhat lucky with their scheduling this year. They got the AFC South in terms of another division they had to play outside of their own. It would have been easier if Seattle got Indy and Houston, the division’s best teams at home and had to travel to the two lesser teams on the road. However, it’s better for the team going forward to face the adversity on the road. The Seahawks are always going to be favored at home. Might as well face adversity, and gain from it, on the road than win some cupcake games. This will likely help the team in the playoffs and moving forward. Also the telecast just showed a seagull flying across the field. Strange.

3:10

Chris Johnson looks shaken up after a long screen play. Titans look short after Darius Reynaud tried to slam it in there for a first down on third and short. Titans going for it.

3:15

Tight end Luke Willson makes a nice block on a long run from Robert Turbin. The rookie has shown well in the running and passing game so far. Boy can Pete Carroll and friends draft ‘em.

3:20

Hauschka kicks a field goal to put the team up 13-10. 11:23 left in the game. Seahawks will get a test here in terms of closing out a close game.

3:23

RICHARD SHERMAN YOU ARE RIDICULOUS. The league’s best cornerback gets another pick. No dejected Locker shots following the pick. Seahawks back to work on offense.

3:25

The Seahawks outgaining the Titans 188 to 33 in terms of total yards. A huge turnaround from first half when they only outgained the Titans 153 to 121. Another example of Pete Carroll’s ability to make adjustments at half time. Not a terrible thing to have in your back pocket.

3:30

Sidney Rice makes a ridiculous catch on the sidelines, keeping both feet in bounds while falling out of bounds. That and a Beast Mode touchdown the next play equals a 20-10 lead for Seattle.

3:35

After signing Sidney Rice and trading for Percy Harvin, the team has now taken the Vikings top two offensive weapons, at the time, not named Adrian Peterson. Watch out Minnesota, we’re coming for Cordarelle Paterson in 2015.

3:41

Earl Thomas absolutely losing it after applying a big hit on Damian Williams. Sprints 30 yards and then knocks over Kam Chancellor. Did I mention all this was on an incompletion?

3:44

Another dejected Locker shot. That’s four.

3:45

Five on the dejected Locker shots.

3:46

A field goal pulls Tennessee within a score. Tennessee now has a dilemma whether to kick off and play the timeout game or to onside it. They kick it long and Jermaine Kearse rips off a big return.

3:53

Seahawks have to keep getting first downs and run down the clock. As I say this, Lynch rips off a big game. Six is the count on the Locker shots.

3:55

Seattle lines up in victory formation, runs the clock out. Game over. Seahawks move to 5-1. Next up for Seattle is Thursday in Arizona. Yikes. Crowd chanting “hey, hey, hey goodbye.” Got to love it.

You can see the piece in it’s entirety at Kingdome here.

The Three-Team Jake Peavy Trade Revisited

Maybe you thought the Matt Garza trade was the biggest of the season. Maybe you thought it was one of the numerous big-name relievers changing teams that took the prize. Nope. This crown, for now, belongs to the Jose Iglesias/Avisail Garcia/Peavy trade that found the Tigers dealing with the Sox drawer.

The gist of it is this: the Tigers got a shortstop to fill in for Jhonny Peralta in the short term, as well as potentially the long term, Iglesias. The Red Sox found an upgrade to their rotation that they feel comfortable throwing out (pun intended) every fifth day. The White Sox also got a lot of prospects, something struggling teams need because, if you haven’t noticed, Chicago has tanked. They are by far the worst team in the division going forward. Put it this way, they’ve watched usual stinkers Cleveland and Kansas City leapfrog them while they have slowly sunk into the pit that is the basement.

This isn’t a Chicago bashing piece though. If it was, I’d just say look at the depth chart and ta-da, behold the issues. Outside of Chris Sale and some unproven youngsters, the future is bleak-ish. No, this is about the aforementioned trade involving both shades of Sox and the Tigers.

Initially it looked like a stop-gap trade. As mentioned above, Boston got a starter, the Tigers got a shortstop and the White Sox got prospects. All needs. All filled. Now it seems more than that. Peavy’s years in a White Sox uniform were marred by seasons of .500 records and an ERA in the mid fours. Now in Boston, he has settled in at the back of a talented BoSox rotation. He picked up four wins in an efficient 64.2 innings and was superb in his division series start against Tampa.

Iglesias has come back to earth. No longer is he ripping the cover off the ball with a .400 batting average like he was previously in the season. He’s hit .259 in his time in the Motor City so far, a number that isn’t horrible considering how much he contributes on defense and the fact that shortstop is generally an offense derived position.

When I said, “considering how much he contributes on defense,” I meant plays like this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui8yhI6eYX8

Ridiculous.

It’s a nice change of pace to have a star defensive player on a team comprised of offensive stars.

This trade has propelled both the Tigers and Red Sox to where they are now, in the ALCS. Maybe not directly, but they helped. Who knows where the Tigers would be if a suitable replacement for Jhonny Peralta wasn’t found? Where would Boston be if they had to stick with internal options? Or even worse, acquire a pitcher who flopped in the role and was in the bullpen by mid-August?

These questions will never be answered, but one question that will be answered in the coming weeks is who will the American League Champion be? The Red Sox or the Tigers?

Who do you think the champ will be? Tell me in the comments below.