Posted January 31, 2014

Winter Report Card: Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers, Winter report cards
Prince Fielder

The Tigers could benefit both next year and beyond from not having Prince Fielder back. (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

With only a few weeks remaining until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, we’re checking in on how each team has fared in conducting its offseason business while acknowledging that there’s still time for its prognosis to change. Teams will be presented in reverse order of finish from 2013. To see the report cards already published, click here.

Detroit Tigers

2013 results: 93-69 (.574), 1st place in AL Central, lost in ALCS (Hot Stove Preview)
Key departures: 1B Prince Fielder, RHP Doug Fister, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Omar Infante, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Jose Veras, Mgr. Jim Leyland
Key arrivals: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Joe Nathan, OF Rajai Davis, LHP Ian Krol, Util. Steve Lombardozzi, RHP Joba Chamberlain, Mgr. Brad Ausmus

That the Tigers would go through a transitional offseason became apparent a few days after their ALCS elimination when Jim Leyland retired after eight seasons as the club’s manager. A few weeks later, general manager David Dombrowski traded Prince Fielder, his $214-million first baseman, after only two of the nine seasons on his contract.

In their place are Brad Ausmus, entering his first year as a manager at any level, and Ian Kinsler, the three-time All-Star second baseman. The ripple effects of the latter’s arrival are that two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera can move back across the diamond from third base to first (which will help Detroit’s defense) and that prospect Nick Castellanos will likely be installed as the starting third baseman.

While those moves and a full season from midseason acquisition Jose Iglesias at shortstop significantly should help the infield defense, the loss of Peralta and the offensive downgrade from Fielder to Kinsler are no small matters, even for an offense that ranked second in the AL last year with 796 runs scored. Castellanos is Detroit’s lone top-100 prospect and he has received mixed reviews from Baseball Prospectus, which says he may be more of a solid or average hitter than an impact one.

The rotation remains very strong, with arguably the game’s best 1-2-3 punch of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, though the unit’s depth took a hit with the trade of Doug Fister to Washington for less than his apparent worth. The sinker-balling Rick Porcello should fare better with the improved infield defense, and Drew Smyly, who was outstanding in relief in 2013, is expected to move into the rotation. The bullpen, however, could still use some work (see below) even after adding All-Star closer Joe Nathan.

Unfinished business: Another bullpen arm, re-allocate Fielder’s contract

Nathan is an upgrade over Joaquin Benoit, Ian Krol could replace Smyly as an effective lefthanded option and Joba Chamberlain will try to slot in for Jose Veras, but the Tigers could stand to add another dynamic arm for a bullpen that ranked 24th in ERA last season (4.01).

Also, the monetary savings from moving Fielder’s contract would best be used to fortify the current roster. The most obvious plan would be to extend Scherzer, the free-agent-to-be Cy Young winner, but could also be put toward the Cabrera extension fund.

Preliminary Grade: C+

Detroit is poised to win its fourth straight division crown, especially since neither the Indians nor Royals will take a big step forward. Dombrowski deserves a good deal of benefit of the doubt given the success of his moves the last few years, especially in the trade market, though this outwardly was a puzzling offseason. The chance to get out from under Fielder’s contract was no doubt appealing, but the Tigers don’t appear to have done enough to improve upon their recent near-misses — three straight runs to at least the ALCS — and will fall shy again of winning their first championship since 1984.

5 comments
JohnCloutier
JohnCloutier

It's all about finding the magic as Boston did last year. The Tigers have plenty of talent, but seem to be missing the pixie dust. Maybe this new group will be a better "team" than the old group and get it done.

ineedataxi
ineedataxi

The best move was getting that crusty old cob Leyland outta the dugout

DD is finally assembling a team befitting Comerica National Park

Team speed & defense will be much improved

Richard40
Richard40

Just my opinion, but I think the Tigers will be better defensively, which will obviously also help the pitching.


However, what is not being said is the effect all this will have on the lineup.   Miggy has had two Triple Crown-caliber seasons with Prince hitting behind him.   V Mart ain't Prince, and Kinsler has been in some decline as well the last couple of years.  Add in the loss of Peralta, who will be replaced by the light-hitting Iglesias, and Detroit will likely score significantly fewer runs.


Also, like most, I think the Tigers could have gotten more for Fister.  Krol and Ray may be super, but Fister has been very solid the last few years.   Now, Detroit really has little SP depth.


I think Detroit will win the AL Central, but is not as good as it was last year.

JosephBagadoughnutz
JosephBagadoughnutz

there is something about that fister trade that we wont know for 5-10 years