While the Dodgers and Padres have basically traded 60-70% of major league baseball players during the last week it appears as if the Tigers are starting to wind down their winter activities. After their Cespedes-Porcello-Simon hoopla, it doesn’t look like there is room for many other significant changes.
At this point, we can expect Avila, Cabrera, Kinsler, Iglesias, Castellanos, Cespedes, Martinezes (JD/V), Gose, and Davis to hold down 10 of the 13 position player slots without question. There will be a backup catcher, probably McCann, but maybe Holaday. That leaves a backup infielder (probably Romine, but maybe Machado) and a 5th OF, probably Collins but maybe Moya.
Unless the Tigers plan to dramatically shakeup the organization, the only changes they could make on this side of things would be to go with veteran depth instead of youth in some of those backup roles. But otherwise, barring a significant injury, the offensive side of the ledger is done.
The rotation is probably done as well. We know Price, Verlander, and Sanchez will be around and newcomers Greene and Simon have rotation slots until we hear otherwise. The team could go out and a get a better #5 man, but given the price they paid for Simon it seems like they like the idea of him every fifth day. Certainly the team isn’t afraid of big trades, so you can never be certain, but unless the Tigers are going to find a way to pay Scherzer, it seems like this is the starting five.
Which just leaves the bullpen and it’s sitting pretty steady. Nathan and Soria will be there. Alburqurque will almost definitely be there. A health Rondon makes it. Blaine Hardy would have a job at the moment. That’s four righties and a lefty. You probably split it 1/1, but could go with two more lefties.
Hanrahan probably gets a chance to prove himself. Alex Wilson is new. Kyle Lobstein has certainly made an impression. Josh Zeid, Ian Krol, Luke Putkonen, etc could be around. It seems preposterous to think the Tigers won’t add an arm in the pen after last year’s debacle and the absence of Joba Chamberlain. They’re probably overly fond of their group, but it seems like one outside hire makes sense and then a brawl for spot number 7.
You might remember I advocated for signing 5 relievers: Gregerson, Duke, Neshek, Cotts, and Frasor….but well….the Tigers didn’t play on those guys despite reasonable price tags. Cotts hasn’t signed but you could have the other four for $17M or so per season and three for about $12M.
What’s left for them to grab?
Neal Cotts has had two good seasons in a row after his reinvention and will be 35 in 2015. There’s no sex appeal, but he’s a solid lefty who won’t be too expensive. There are a lot of projects otherwise and no one you feel great about acquiring. Talent? Sure. High odds? Not really.
There were 5-7 very interesting relievers on the market this offseason and they let them all sign relatively reasonable contracts without a fight.
The could trade for Benoit, but the Padres are loading up and not unloading anymore. Papelbon is always available, but the Phillies want actual players back instead of just salary relief. Tyler Clippard would be an excellent find, but trading with Mike Rizzo is apparently very hard to do well.
The market is thin so hopes aren’t high. The club is still light in the bullpen and isn’t as strong everywhere else as they used to be, meaning it will be harder to hide the flaws. They are currently looking at a $170M or so Opening Day payroll and I would say they’re probably an 88 win team with the roster they currently have and no significant long-term injuries. If Cabrera isn’t healthy, which seems very possible, that might be more like 86.
That’s not a great place to be without anywhere to go for upgrades. Certainly enough to be in the game but not enough to feel comfortable. This is the kind of thing that might lead to another run at Scherzer if he’s still there in three weeks.