That’s it folks. Coming in hot off the presses, by which I mean Twitter, the Tigers have locked in their Opening Day roster.
It’s no surprise that Danny Worth was the odd man out, because Santiago makes more money and doesn’t have options left, despite probably being the better player at this point in time. Worth will be back soon enough.
The bigger news today was that Bruce Rondon failed to make the team and will start the year in Toledo with the Tigers going to closer by committee for the foreseeable future. I don’t like how they handled Rondon, but I am a big fan of closer by committee, so I can’t hate this too much. If Leyland actually sticks to a committee, this is going to be awesome to watch.
Pena, Kelly, and Tuiasosopo round out the bench and Downs locked down the final bullpen spot for now.
The rest of the team was pretty well set from the start and everyone remains healthy for the time being. It’s hard not to like the team on paper, with countless projection systems and prognosticators picking them to be one of the best teams in the league and the surest bet to make the playoffs of any club.
This time Monday, we’ll be watching the first game of the season and dreaming on what this team could do.
Not long now, friends. Not long at all.
Jim Leyland said this week that 11 of the 13 spots on his roster for position players are all but locked up. Which, in turn, means that there are only two spots left for a number of candidates.
If we assume that the 11 spots belong to Avila, Pena, Martinez, Fielder, Infante, Peralta, Cabrera, Jackson, Hunter, Dirks, and Santiago then the remaining two spots will go to Brennan Boesch, Quintin Berry, Avi Garcia, Danny Worth, Don Kelly, or Jeff Kobernus. Of course someone else could have an insane spring and get into the conversation, but these six are the likely contenders.
So how should the Tigers allocate their remaining roster space?
I think it’s unlikely that Garcia makes the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder because the Tiger are committed to developing him and he’ll gain more from 600 minor league at bats than 250 big league ones.
From there, we should probably look to positional considerations. Worth and Kobernus can both play infield, but Worth is a better glove and based on his minor league numbers I don’t see Kobernus as offering anything extra at the plate. An important consideration, however, is that Kobernus can also play the outfield and was a rule five pick, which could push him into a Don Kelly 25th man type role from the right side of the plate. If the Tigers were going to do that, they might as well go with Kelly who is even more versatile.
The Boesch versus Berry decision depends on a number of factors. First, who is playing better? Both players have shown flashes of a skill set that can help in the majors and they both hit left handed, so whoever is swinging a hot bat will have a leg up. Boesch provides an element of power and Berry brings speed to the table but neither get on a base at a high rate and both are defensive liabilities.
If the Tigers are committed to keeping Garcia in the minors, then Boesch is the only one on this list who can bring any sort of power off the bench, but he’s also the least flexible player. He can only play corner outfield and doesn’t do it well. Berry can play center and Kobernus, Kelly, and Worth can all play three or more spots.
Given the strength of the Tigers starting group and relatively weak infield defense, I would argue on behalf of Danny Worth for spot number 12 on the roster. He plays good defense and runs well enough to pinch run late in games for Peralta, Avila, or Fielder if the time is right. He doesn’t have Berry’s game changing speed, but he runs the bases well and catches the baseball.
For spot 13, I would go with Boesch. His skill set is limited, but the Tigers won’t ask him to do more than start once a week or so. If he gets rolling, his offensive ceiling is the highest and he could provide some solid value. If he doesn’t do anything, then at least they tried and they can shift to Berry or Kelly or Kobernus who will give a move certain performance, but likely with a lower potential breakout.
I’m a big Kelly supporter because I like all of the things he can do and he’s one of the nicest people on Earth, but the Tigers need to see if they can get anything else out of Brennan Boesch before they decide to call it quits. If the Boesch experiment fails, Kelly can jump right in and play the role he’s had for the last couple seasons.
What we have to remember here is that neither of these last two players is going to see a lot of the field, so the impact of each choice is very small. Worth seems like a smart call for me because of his defensive skill and I’d go with Boesch because you might get a few weeks of greatness.
There is still plenty of camp left for this to sort itself out, but for now, I’d tell Jim Leyland to put Worth and Boesch on his list to head north and see how it goes.
The Tigers made news today by announcing Jim Leyland and his coaching staff will return in 2013. Additionally, Dave Dombrowski met the press to talk about the 2013 roster.
Let’s start with Leyland. Some Tigers’ fans have been calling for Leyland’s job this season in frustration with his lineup choices among other things. I, however, maintain that this was a good choice for the 2013 Tigers.
Managers have control over certain aspects of a team, so let’s evaluate Leyland point by point. First, managers set the lineup and make on field personnel choices. Fans take exception with Leyland in this department, but I’ll defend him on two points. One, lineup order matters very little. If you put the right 9 guys on the field, over the course of a season, it doesn’t matter than much where they hit. Two, no one, not even fans use ideal lineups. The game is too set in its ways for that. Want to see the Tigers ideal lineup based on their production (based on who got the most ABs this year)?
Fielder, Dirks, Peralta, Cabrera, Jackson, Infante, Young, Boesch, Avila
Fielder, Dirks, Avila, Cabrera, Jackson, Young, Peralta, Infante, Berry
Not what you expected, right? Basically the commentary here is that no one would do it much better, so who cares. As for who he puts on the field, he can only work with what he’s given. Dombrowski makes the roster, Leyland just puts them on paper.
How about his management of the pitching staff? As far as the starters go, Leyland’s pretty good. He doesn’t usually leave guys in too long, but also doesn’t have too quick a hook. His bullpen management is problematic at times, but most managers struggle there. He insists on using his closer only in save situations too often and only for one inning at a time (more on bullpen usage later this winter).
His in-game strategy bothers me at times. He brings the infield in too often (you should only do it in the 9th inning and never if there’s a runner on second unless the game ending run is on third) and bunts far too often. But even these mistakes are pretty common and it’s not really holding the club back.
On the field, he’s not a tremendous skipper, but he’s not really costing them a lot of games. However, in the clubhouse, he’s widely respected. The players love him and there has almost never been a clubhouse spat during his tenure. All told, I think the quality environment he brings to the organization outweighs the potential negatives of his on field strategy because the Tigers are not a club that would push the boundaries with a new school manager who would actually correct the problems I’ve laid out.
As for the Dombrowski presser, we learned a few things we expected. Valverde and Young will not be back. Peralta and Dotel had their options exercised. The Tigers intend to pursue Anibal Sanchez in free agency and will make the 5th spot Smyly’s to lose if they fail.
They’ll go with an in house candidate to replace Valverde and will not spend heavily in the bullpen, but will add pieces if they can. Corner outfield will be a target to hold down the fort until Castellanos and Garcia are ready for the show. Dirks will be a fourth outfielder or better and Berry will get a shot to compete for a job.
Infante and Martinez should be ready for Opening Day.
So the roster will look like this:
C – Avila
1B – Fielder
2B – Infante
SS – Peralta
3B – Cabrera
LF – Dirks
CF – Jackson
RF – (TBA)
DH – Martinez
Bench – Santiago, backup catcher, TBA, TBA
Starting Rotation – Verlander, Fister, Scherzer, Porcello, Sanchez/Smyly/other
Bullpen – Benoit, Dotel, Coke, Alburquerque, Villarreal, TBA, TBA.
The obvious places for offseason activity are corner outfield, bullpen help, some bench help, and maybe the #5 starter. They’ll pay some of their arbitration eligible players more money and will talk extension with some. All in all, the core is in place.
It will be a mostly quiet offseason in Detroit, but we said that last year. Stay tuned for full coverage, but my key offseason target this winter for the Tigers is Torii Hunter. He’ll play a quality RF, hit well, and can mentor Jackson.
The Tigers head into the offseason looking to win it all in 2013 after a runner up performance in 2012.
SABR Toothed Tigers will have full coverage every time news breaks and will provide plenty of analysis for all of the Hot Stove dealings this winter. 153 days til Opening Day.