Nothing like taking Jon Lester deep for your first career hit!
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) December 28, 2015
It’s safe to say that new Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has been busy since taking over for Dave Dombrowski. In Avila’s first offseason in charge, the new head man in the Tigers front office has made a slew of signings and trades that were both astute and cost efficient.
Detroit has already added the likes Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Pelfrey, Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, Justin Wilson, Cameron Maybin and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. These additions have satisfied the team’s needs in the starting rotation and the bullpen, as well as adding extra depth in areas such as centerfield and behind the plate.
What’s not included in that list is a legitimate left fielder. With a considerable amount of time left before spring training, should the Tigers add another left fielder? Here are some of the team’s options.
Stick With What You’ve Got
With the acquisition of Maybin, the team now employs three starting-caliber outfielders: Maybin, Anthony Gose and J.D. Martinez. However, Maybin and Gose are natural center fielders while Martinez is entrenched in right field.
There is some logic in playing both Maybin and Gose together. Both can eat up ground in the outfield, and paired with Martinez’ cannon of an arm in right would provide an intriguing defensive trio. There is also the fact that Maybin and Gose (46 combined stolen bases in 2015) provide Detroit and manager Brad Ausmus a fair amount of speed. Additionally, should either player struggle with the bat, their offensive shortcomings would be hidden by the production of Miguel Cabrera and Martinez among others.
However, the fact remains that neither player has much experience in left. Gose grades out well at the position in terms of defensive metrics, but he has only logged 41 games there. Maybin has even more inexperience. The outfielder has only played in 10 games in left field, all of which came in 2007 when he was a rookie with the Tigers.
Tyler Collins and Steven Moya also present internal options for Detroit.
The Big Names
Detroit has previously been linked (via CBS Sports’ John Heyman) to big name free agents like Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon. Both, especially Gordon, would be excellent fits with the Tigers. However, CBS Detroit reports that Avila said the Tigers were “at this point” out on both Cespedes and Gordon.
Based on that, it appears that Detroit won’t sign either, but the key wording is “at this point.” It’s certainly not inconceivable to see the team sign either at a somewhat later date should the two remain on the open market.
Carlos Gonzalez is another player that could help the Tigers. Gonzalez’ blend of defensive skill and the ability to hit for average and power is extremely appealing, however the team may be cautious with the player’s hefty salary.
The Platoon Types
While the free agent market offers only a few legitimate, difference-making corner outfielders, there are a plethora of outfielders who could excel in a platoon. David Murphy and Travis Snider are just a few options that could find a home in Detroit.
Names Out of Left Field
First of all, pun intended. Second of all, the Tigers have already made trades for players (Maybin and Miller) who didn’t dominate the trade rumors. In other words, the players didn’t seem likely to be dealt as say someone like Shelby Miller. Avila could conceivably make a trade for a left fielder that quite literally comes out of left field.
There are a number of former Detroit outfielders available. Whether the team pursues them or not remains to be seen, but in addition to Cespedes, Matt Joyce, Delmon Young, Rajai Davis, Ryan Raburn, and Austin Jackson are all currently free agents.
The Lottery Tickets
The Tigers’ decision makers were rewarded when they took a gamble on a talented young player, J.D. Martinez, whose previous employers had moved on. Could the team take a similar gamble this offseason?
Alex Grossman is a name on the market who is in a similar situation to Martinez.
Grossman, who like Martinez was cut by the Astros, is only 26-years-old and comes with over 600 at-bats spread across parts of three big-league seasons. The outfielder is more of an all-around player, with 11 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 63 RBI and a .240 batting average in 190 games. He was a top prospect as a minor-league player and still has the time to fulfill his potential.
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Per a Tweet form ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Detroit Tigers are interested in free agent pitcher Doug Fister.
Free agent pitcher Doug Fister is drawing interest from the Detroit Tigers, among other teams.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 19, 2015
It would be a reunion for the two sides as Fister pitched for the Tigers for two and a half years from midway 2011 through 2013. During his time in Motown, the right-handed pitcher won 32 games while posting a sparkling 3.29 ERA. His FIP was an even-more impressive 3.20. While he isn’t a pitcher who will pile on the strikeouts, Fister works fast and keeps the ball in the yard. In 2011 he led the league with only 0.5 home runs allowed per nine innings. Fister spent the second half of that season in Detroit where he went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and a 57 strikeouts compared to only five walks.
Additionally, the former Mariner transformed into a standout playoff performer with the Tigers. Fister posted a 2.98 ERA in 48.1 postseason innings with Detroit. His team was 6-2 in those contests.
While he thrived on the field, most fans will remember how cheaply Fister was acquired.
Dave Dombrowski acquired the starter (along with David Pauley) for Francisco Martinez, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin and Casper Wells. Furbush is an effective reliever for the Mariners, but that’s about all Seattle received. Both Wells and Ruffin last appeared in the majors in 2013 while Martinez never reached the big leagues with Seattle. He was dealt back to Detroit in 2013.
Fister also left Detroit in a one-sided trade. Dombrowski dealt him to the Washington Nationals for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray. Only Krol remains with the Tigers, and he posted a 5.79 ERA and a 5.17 FIP last season.
Doug Fister is now a free agent after his contract with the Washington Nationals expired. The team didn’t extend a qualifying offer to the pitcher, making him free to sign without surrendering a draft pick.
In addition to not costing a draft pick, Fister will also be comparatively cheap. His value will have gone down after going 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA in 15 starts for the Nationals this season. Opponents hit .302 off him during those starts. He was relegated to the bullpen after that stretch.
(You May Also Like: Why the Tigers Should Sign Doug Fister in the Offseason)
While not as expensive as David Price or Zack Greinke, Doug Fister could provide the Tigers with the rotation upgrade the team has been seeking.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Ben is on Twitter. He promises that he doesn’t always refer to himself in the third person.
New Mariners’ general manager Jerry Dipoto was essentially tasked with making the Seattle Mariners relevant again. With a core consisting of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz already in place, Dipoto had a solid base to build upon. However, in the past few weeks, the GM has significantly improved the Mariners’ roster with a trio of moves.
Seattle made the first significant trade of the offseason by dealing Danny Farquhar, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Nate Karns, outfielder Book Powell and reliever C.J. Riefenhauser.
It may seem like a lopsided deal to move three players who were major contributors for one proven big-league player and two prospects, but the Mariners made out like bandits in this one.
The team essentially dealt from unneeded surplus to improve the roster.
In terms of Seattle relievers, Carson Smith was the only reliever left on the roster who posted a WAR above 1.4 last season. After him there was/is a good deal of uncertainty and sub-par pitching. Farquhar’s WAR was a career-low -0.7. His ERA (5.12) and FIP (4.60) weren’t much better. Tampa Bay has a history of rehabbing struggling relievers, so perhaps this will happen to the now-former Mariner, but he likely wasn’t assured a job next season thanks to his numbers in 2015.
Tampa Bay now has the same dilemma at shortstop that Seattle faced a few years ago, start Miller or Nick Franklin? Granted, the Rays also have former first-overall draft pick Tim Beckham in the mix, but still—same dilemma.
Miller was expendable thanks to the presence of Ketel Marte. Marte posted a .283 batting average, a 2.3 WAR, 17 extra-base hits and 17 RBI in 57 games. At only 22-years-old, the former top prospect seems to have a stranglehold on the shortstop position. Miller played a number of positions as a Mariner, but didn’t profile as a quality defender at any of them. In other words, he wasn’t going to cut it as a utility player. His .258 batting average and 101 strikeouts didn’t exactly help his cause either.
Lastly there’s Morrison. The first baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter managed only a .225 batting average and 54 RBI in 146 games. These numbers are significantly below LoMo’s career numbers. The stats not only made Morrison expandable, but also created a significant need at first base. Regardless of this deal, changes were bound to happen at first base. Including Morrison in this deal ensured that the team received value for him.
The gem of the trade for Seattle is Karns. The 27-year-old starting pitcher turned in a solid season in Tampa last year, posting a 7-5 record, a 3.67 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 147 innings. He also chipped in with a 2.2 WAR.
Karns has already proven his worth as a dependable starter. The fact that the M’s acquired him looks even better when you consider that the former Washington Nationals’ farmhand isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018. The earliest he can become a free agent is 2021.
In addition to the years of controllability, Karns provides the Mariners with a potential replacement for Hisashi Iwakuma. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports that Tigers’ general manger disclosed that Iwakuma is a player Detroit has interest in. In addition to Detroit, a number of teams figure to be interested in ‘Kuma’ thanks to his track record. Karns provide an excellent replacement should Iwakuma leave town in the offseason.
If Iwakuma joins Karns in the rotation, it allows the Mariners to deal a rotation arm like James Paxton for a proven upgrade elsewhere on the roster. While moving Paxton seems unlikely given his age, controllability and upside, he was rumored to be discussed with the New York Yankees. That same report from The New York Post said the M’s have interest in Brett Gardner.
Can be Iwakuma insurance in case Iwakuma leaves. Also allows the team to shop someone like James Paxton or another pitcher if they feel so inclined (for upgrades elsewhere on the roster). Add link to Paxton/Brett Gardner link.
Powell and Riefenhauser are both inexperienced, but both come with upside. Powell was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics, before being dealt along with Daniel Robertson and former Mariner John Jaso for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar last offseason. The 22-year-old hit .295 with 28 extra-base hits (including nine triples), 40 RBI, 18 steals and 61 walks in 117 games between Double-A and Triple-A. His slugging numbers won’t earn him any accolades, but he did post a .385 OBP last season.
Riefenhauser does have a career 6.30 ERA and a 5.68 FIP in only 24 appearances in the majors. However, his minor-league stats reveal more promise. In six seasons in the Rays’ farm system, the pitcher owns a 2.77 ERA and 442 strikeouts over 480.1 innings pitched. Riefenhauser is also extremely versatile having started 42 games and finishing 56 contests in his career. In 2015, his ERA in 34.2 innings at the Triple-A level was 2.86.
With so many question marks in the bullpen, Dipoto made another trade. The new GM dealt for established reliever Joaquin Benoit.
Benoit has been excellent since 2010. Equally adept as a setup man or a closer, Benoit owns a 2.35 ERA and 422 strikeouts in 370 innings dating back to the 2010 season. His FIP also comes out at a favorable 3.15.
The Mariners surrendered two prospects, Enyel De Los Santos and Nelson Ward, to the San Diego Padres in the trade. De Los Santos is the only one of the two to make it onto MLB.com’s list of the top 30 Padres prospects.
Neither prospect has passed the Single-A level in the minors, and given Benoit’s track record, this trade could pay massive dividends for the Mariners.
Did I mention Joaquin Benoit has a 16.7 WAR since 2010?
With the Benoit, Smith and Charlie Furbush on the roster, Tom Wilhelmsen was likely out of a gig as a setup reliever. Dipoto capitalized on this brief surplus by flipping Wilhelmsen and centerfielder James Jones to the Texas Rangers for reliever Anthony Bass and centerfielder Leonys Martin. It may seem redundant to trade an outfielder and a reliever for an outfielder and a reliever, but what Dipoto has essentially done is turn the two prospects he sent to San Diego into upgrades in the bullpen and in center field.
Seattle comes away from the deal with a significant upgrade in the outfield. Like Jones, Martin brings a similar speed element to the game. However, unlike Jones, he’s shown the ability to be an above-average contributor at the dish.
In 2013 and 2014, Martin hit .268 while averaging eight home runs, six triples, 17 doubles, 34 stolen bases and 44 RBI. Over those two seasons, his WAR was a combined 8.1. Jones’ career WAR is -1.1.
The Wilhelmsen/Bass exchange may seem more titled in Texas’ favor, but when you consider the M’s already added Benoit, it makes the deal much easier to accept.
While Wilhelmsen’s track record is much better and more consistent than Bass’, the now-former Texas reliever isn’t just a throw in. Bass posted a respectable 3.73 FIP in Texas’ launch-pad-masquerading-as-a ballpark.
Put it this way, would you rather have Benoit, Martin and Bass or Wilhelmsen, Jones and two prospects? Easy choice right?
Since taking over, Jerry Dipoto is doing an excellent job at reshaping the Seattle Mariners. He’s already turned excess depth into upgrades. Should he continue to make more shrewd moves, he’ll be the architect of a potential playoff team.
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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Somewhat recently, Know Hitter looked at the pitchers that are locks, uncertainties, or likely departures ahead of next season.
Now it’s time to look at the hitters, where there are much fewer uncertainties. This doesn’t mean changes won’t come about for Detroit, but most of the offense is expected to stay put.
McCann was extremely impressive as a rookie. The young backstop hit .264, while also committing zero errors in 114 games. He looks like he’ll be in the Motor City for the next decade. He may not have the offensive acumen of Ivan Rodriguez or Alex Avila (before injuries took their toll), but if he can continue to gradually improve upon his .264 batting average, he has a chance to be special. McCann also hit five triples, a pretty spectacular number for a catcher.
Come on, too easy.
The former Texas Ranger has quickly become one of Detroit’s most indispensable players. He’s provided elite defense (2.9 and 2.5 dWAR in his two seasons in Motown) while at times carrying the team offensively. Kinsler managed to drive in 73 runs despite an early power outage that saw him hit only three home runs through June. You can make the case that with the exception of J.D. Martinez, Kinsler was the Tigers’ MVP last season.
If a guy can do all this (see video below) and hit .296, you’ve got a keeper for the next decade.
At only 23-years-old, Castellanos has already driven in 139 runs in the big leagues. Some prospects don’t even reach the Majors at that age. While a .255 batting average is nothing to write home about, Castellanos showed flashes of brilliance and greatly improved defensively. He also managed to increase his total number of hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and walks. Kid’s got a bright future.
Maybe we’ll call the Tigers’ MVP award race a tie and hand it to both Kinsler and Martinez. For his part, Martinez proved that 2014 was no fluke. The former Houston Astro snagged a spot on the All-Star team in addition to a .282 batting average, 38 home runs and 102 RBI. Like McCann, Iglesias and Castellanos, you can plug him into the Detroit lineup for the better part of the next decade.
Gose only hit .254 for the Tigers, but provided solid defense while stealing 23 bases. He platooned with Rajai Davis in center field last year, expect a similar platoon predicament for Gose next season. The speedy outfielder will likely serve as the team’s primary source of speed.
V-Mart struggled last year, hitting .245 in 120 games. The designated hitter’s power numbers were down as well with only 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 64 RBI in those contests. With his massive contract, Martinez isn’t going anywhere. Despite the struggles, look for the Tigers’ DH to bounce back next season.
Romine seems a solid bet to make the roster thanks to his ability to play around the infield. He also adds a bit of speed (10 stolen bases) off the bench.
Even if it’s as a bench bat, Collins has proved he belongs on the team next season. The outfielder hit .266 with a .732 OPS in 60 games. As it stands, he may be the best bench bat the Tigers employ.
Even if Romine makes the team, fellow infielder Machado stands a good chance of making it as well. The middle infielder’s defense has been big-league ready for years, and he showed promise in limited cup of coffee.
Davis would certainly make sense as a bench bat/pinch runner, but another team offering more cash and playing time may come calling. Additionally, the Tigers may opt for a different alternative to Gose in center. The fact remains that Davis is still a fit for the club if the stars align. It would shock no one if Davis is once again wearing an Old English “D” in 2016.
Moya has all kinds of potential thanks to his famous power. He needs to work on his plate discipline however, and may be better suited at Triple-A Toledo for a season before joining the Tigers for good in 2017. If he shows well in the minors, a mid-season call up certainly isn’t out of the question.
Whether Holaday makes the team or not is probably entirely dependent on whether new general manager Al Avila signs another catcher to backup McCann. If no other backstops are brought in, expect Holaday to serve as McCann’s deputy in 2016.
Another young player who showed flashes of potential, Marte may find himself in Triple-A. His power would certainly help the Detroit bench, but with Romine able to handle both of the positions that Marte plays, the former Oakland Athletics farm hand could be with Toledo. Still, if Marte tears it up in Spring Training, the Tigers will have a tough decision on their hands.
Likely Departures/ Departures
Avila’s father/Tigers GM Al Avila has already stated that he doesn’t see resigning Alex “as a priority.” In other words, it appears that the younger Avila has played his final game with Detroit. He’ll likely sign elsewhere in search of more playing time.
Wilson was outrighted by the Tigers and elected free agency as opposed to staying in the organization. The infielder hit /316 in a 21 game cameo for the Tigers, driving in five runs in the process.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
The Seattle Mariners wrapped up a disappointing season on a positive note, claiming a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. The attention now shifts to the offseason, where new general manager Jerry Dipoto will be tasked with turning the team around.
Dipoto has already made it clear that he’s keeping hold of, and building around, “core” players Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez.
Thankfully, none of those four players will be leaving the Emerald City any time soon. If the M’s finished 76-86 with that quartet, who knows how they’d fair without the foursome? Odds are it wouldn’t be pretty.
Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but if he can creatively fill some of the team’s needs without losing much either in a trade or in salary, the M’s have a chance to contend next season.
Among the most prominent needs is at catcher. Per Baseball Reference, Seattle catchers collectively finished last season with the worst wins above average by any backstop grouping in the league. Mike Zunino and company were worth -3.9 wins below average. No other catching group was worse than -2.6.
The problem with the situation is that Zunino is only 24-years-old. The Mariners aren’t going to bail on the former third-overall pick that quickly, but he has to start improving offensively. Zunino has a career .193 batting average in 1055 plate appearances. This simply isn’t going to cut it. Adding another catcher to the roster in the same vein as the Wellington Castillo transaction.
In addition to a catcher, Seattle needs a leadoff hitter. Ketel Marte performed atop the order, hitting .283 and stealing eight bases in 57 games. However, the team may find easier to find an outfielder who hits atop the order. Mariners’ center and left fielders both were below league-average in terms of wins above average. Seattle left fielders were worth -0.2 wins below average while centerfielders were worth -1.3 wins below average. Only four teams had worse production from their centerfield groupings, so perhaps someone like Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, or even Rajai Davis, could make sense.
(RELATED: Analyzing Jerry Dipoto’s Top 14 Career Trades).
The M’s could use stand to score more runs. Only six teams scored fewer runs in the league. Another bat would certainly make sense. Mark Trumbo showed flashes of the talent he showed in Anaheim, but only managed to hit .248 against right-handed pitching. Logan Morrison was supposed to fill that role, but he hasn’t hit much either (.241 against righties, .190 against lefties). Justin Morneau could hit free agency and would be a fit. The former Minnesota Twin hit .316 with an .850 OPS in 184 games for the Rockies over the past two years. He’d be a great fit alongside Trumbo, especially considering he’s a career .297 hitter in over 4,000 (4,169) plate appearances against right handed pitching.
Last but not least, Dipoto must fix the bullpen. Generally a strength for Seattle, this year’s bullpen was often an eye soar.
Going back to the “Wins Above Average by Position” leaderboards, the M’s relievers finished fourth-worst in the league. The relievers were worth -3.4 wins below average. The group may get better simply by subtraction. Fernando Rodney has already departed while a number of ineffective relievers could, and should, be jettisoned.
A number of quality relievers (Tyler Clippard, Joakim Soria and Darren O’Day, just to name a few) could hit the free agent market, so Seattle will have its pick should the team chose to spend. Additionally, effective relief pitchers are found on the waiver wire every month, so there’s plenty of options for Dipoto to fix the bullpen.
New M’s general manager Jerry Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but he’s shown he can make shrewd trades. Seattle has a number of issues, but if Dipoto can fix them, the team has a chance.
Unlike his predecessor, new Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has previous experience as a top decision-maker (for lack of a better term) in a major league front office.
Dipoto presided over the Arizona Diamondbacks for a short spell as the Snakes went through a transition period. The GM shipped off a number of key players.
Following his stint in the desert, Dipoto took over as the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
However, before we get to the spending and all-in moves made by Dipoto in Anaheim, his tenure in Arizona must be properly gone over with a fine-tooth comb—at least in terms of his trades.
Dipoto made a few major trades in Arizona. The most prominent of which occurred on July 25th, 2010 when he dealt Dan Haren to the Angels for Tyler Skaggs, Rafael Rodriguez, Joe Saunders and Patrick Corbin.
Haren was generally pretty outstanding in a Diamondbacks’ jersey. He earned All-Star nods in 2008 and 2009 while finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting in ’09. Over the two seasons he went 30-18 with a sparkling 3.23 ERA and 429 strikeouts in 445.1 innings pitched. His FIP was an even more outstanding 3.12. Haren led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio in both 2008 and 2009.
The 2010 season was different for Haren. He went 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA in 21 starts. His FIP was a still-respectable 3.88, but it was clear his numbers were nowhere near his usual best. So with the Diamondbacks struggling, Dipoto sent Haren packing to his future employers in Anaheim.
The Haren trade was actually sneaky-good, in retrospect, for the Diamondbacks. Despite the ace posting an impressive 13.2 WAR in two-and-a-half seasons in the desert, he was traded. Haren was essentially dealt for three starting pitcher (Rodriguez threw 2.2 innings for the D-Backs and hasn’t seen the Majors since).
The first pitcher, Skaggs, posted a 5.43 ERA in 13 career starts for the Diamondbacks. The young pitcher was never quite able to put it together in Arizona. Dipoto later acquired Skaggs during his tenure in Anaheim. Skaggs and Adam Eaton to the Angels and White Sox respectively for Mark Trumbo (who strangely enough, was just dealt to Seattle a few months ago).
Saunders was extremely dependable as a member of Arizona’s rotation. He posted a 3.96 ERA in 424.2 innings for the D-Backs, serving as an innings eater. He only won 21 games in three seasons with Arizona, but was worth a 2.1 WAR.
Last-but-not-least, Patrick Corbin is the centerpiece of the deal. The starting pitcher has won 26 games in his three seasons with Arizona. He made the All Star team in 2013 and posted a 14-8 record with a 3.41 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 208.1 innings pitched. He missed 2014, but came back to post a 3.60 ERA in 16 starts this season. The 26-year-old is clearly one to build around for the D-Backs.
Haren never posted the brilliant stats he did in Arizona after leaving the desert. The fact that Dipoto received three major league starters for Haren, including an All Star and frontline starter in Corbin, makes the trade a win for him. Dealing an ace is never easy, but when you acquire three big-league starters, it’s looked at as a win—especially when one of the three has the potential to be a front-line starter for the foreseeable future.
Trade Grade: A
Five days after that Dipoto sent Edwin Jackson to the Chicago White Sox for David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson. Continue reading
With news coming out of Detroit that Brad Ausmus will continue to manage the team next season, and thus keep his job, it’s now a time of evaluation for the Tigers as the team decides which non-core players to keep around next season.
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 26, 2015
With a number of starting players set in stone (Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Justin Verlander, James McCann, etc.) the likely focus of the evaluation process will be positions where there is uncertainty. Naturally, the most uncertain area of the Tigers’ roster will be under close examination. That uncertain area? The bullpen. More specifically, the back end of the bullpen.
Alex Wilson has performed admirably for Detroit, pitching wherever he’s needed. The former Red Sox pitcher owns a 2.19 ERA in 70 innings and is one of the few relievers with job security heading into next season. However, Wilson’s ERA is nearly a run higher in save situations then it is in non-save situations. He’ll pitch effectively wherever the Tigers pitch him, but ideally the team would probably have Wilson throwing in the seventh or eighth inning in front of a lockdown closer.
Where that closer emerges from (free agency, trade, the minor league system, etc.) remains to be seen, but the Tigers have one building block in Wilson.
With so little certainty in the bullpen heading into next year, especially with Bruce Rondon being sent home early, now is the time for relievers not named Wilson to make their respective marks.
One reliever who could benefit greatly from Rondon’s absence is Neftali Feliz.
The former Texas Ranger still owns an unsightly 7.33 ERA for the Tigers, but a closer look at his numbers reveals a much better product. Feliz’ FIP, or of fielding independent pitching, is 3.78. Additionally, over his last 12 appearances (12.2 innings), the ex-Ranger has a 2.13 ERA and is holding batters to a .178 batting average. Over those innings, Feliz has struck out 11 batters while only walking one. Opposing hitters have managed a .457 OPS against the reliever.
Looking at those stats, Feliz clearly has the talent to be a significant contributor to the Detroit bullpen. He may even end up as closer. As of now, he has three saves in a Tigers’ uniform, two of which have come in the last two wins for the team. With Rondon no longer with the team for the duration of this season, Neftali Feliz has a chance to cement himself as a late-inning option for the Ausmus heading into next season.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
The Detroit Tigers season is in shambles. Stop me if you’ve hear that before. Due to injuries and inconsistency, the team has struggled. There’s truth to the statement that the Tigers never really got a chance to see what a fully healthy version of their roster could do.
After a myriad of player absences and bad breaks, the Tigers begin the week at 69-79. Only the Athletics own a worst record in the American League, while Detroit sits above six different National League teams in terms of owning the worst record in baseball.
The season isn’t what anyone (pundit, player, fan or coach) would have expected, but here we sit.
Despite the struggles, there are a few positives to be had. The Tigers now have the opportunity to let players like Steven Moya, Dixon Machado, Jefry Marte, Matt Boyd, Drew VerHagen and Bruce Rondon get their respective feet wet in the Majors, so all of them are more prepared for 2016 when Detroit will once again push for a World Series title.
What is likely more valuable is the Tigers ability to secure protected, first-round draft pick. This would allow Detroit shop freely in the free agent market without the fear of losing the team’s highest draft pick.
Al Avila’s squad needs to improve as quickly as possible, and the quickest way to do that is through free agency. A number of big-name, potential free agents could be fits in Detroit, like Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Jordan Zimmerman or Alex Gordon. Any would greatly improve the Tigers and better position them to chase a title in 2016.
While the Tigers need to win now, they also need to build for the future at the same time so another season like this one doesn’t happen. It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s completely doable—just look at the Cardinals.
Outside of Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, there isn’t much in terms of potentially elite starting pitching—something the Tigers are, quite frankly, used to. Boyd and Luis Cessa show promise as back-end of the rotation starters, but neither are closed being finished products. Joe Jimenez has the look of a potentially elite reliever, but he may be a few years away. Outside of those players, there isn’t too much at this point. Buck Farmer ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but he’s yet to post a Major League win and owns an 8.49 ERA and a 6.79 FIP in 46.2 innings pitched.
Position player-wise, Moya is the crème of the crop. He may turn into the next Adam Dunn (albeit a somewhat faster one), or he could turn into the next Mark Reynolds, but in the outfield. Fellow outfielders Christian Stewart and Derek Hill show promise, but are both years away. JaCoby Jones is a high-risk, high-reward prospect, but even if he does live up to his excellent potential, he is a season (at best) from reaching the big leagues. The point here is that there isn’t a whole lot of certainty in the terms of what young talent Tigers have coming over the next few years.
By securing a protected first round pick (that comes in the top ten), Detroit can not only spend in free agency, but also secure a future star/impact player to carry the team into the future. Simply put, it’s a win-win.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.