The Detroit Tigers have already made a big splash this off-season by signing outfielder Torii Hunter to a two-year $26 million contract. However, it's been speculated the Tigers are probably not done tweaking the roster that made it into the World Series.
The following seven moves are meant mostly for discussion. I'm placing them in the order of likeliness. As an owner, Mike Ilitch has been willing to spend to bring talent to Detroit and general manager Dave Dombrowski has never been afraid to make bold and unexpected trades.
The first possibility is the Tigers signing relief pitcher Ryan Madson to a one year $6 million contract with an option for a second year at $10 million with a $1 million dollar buy out.
The Tigers and manager Jim Leyland prefer to have experience at the back of their bullpen. Madson is a risk coming off injury, but if he is not fully healthy and ready to pitch at the beginning of the season, veterans Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit or Phil Coke could step into the role until Madson is healthy.
During the press conference to announce the signing of Torii Hunter, Dombrowskisaid young flame thrower Bruce Rondon is going to get an opportunity to compete for the closing job in Detroit. Signing Madson wouldn't inhibit Rondon from being the closer. I would expect Rondon to be a part of the Tigers' bullpen next year. Madson and Rondon would have an open competition for the closer's role with the loser acting as the set up man and Benoit and Dotel handling the 7th or 8th innings (when necessary).
The Mariners need offensive in a bad way and Ryan brings very little. According to FanGraphs UZR/150 Ryan is the fifth-best defender regardless of position and the best infield defender.
This shouldn't be an expensive trade for the Tigers. They may have to part with Brennan Boesch, a player who still has upside, but really struggled with Detroit last season, and possibly Jhonny Peralta. The Mariners have a shortstop in the system who may be ready for prime time next season in Nick Franklin.
Peralta would give them a stop gap player as he is only under contract for one year at a relatively cheap six million. Boesch could provide some thump and a possible platoon in right field with former Tiger Casper Wells.
It is also possible the Tigers could send Peralta and Ramon Santiago, while picking up a portion of Peralta's contract. The Mariners could use Santiago much the way the Tigers have, as an infield sub, and Peralta as a stop gap at short.
Ryan would provide the Tigers a plus glove on the left side of the infield and would lessen the impact of Cabrera's limited range there. Another benefit of adding Ryan is the increase in speed (11 steals) he would bring. The Tigers should have enough offensive to be able to handle the minimal impact of Ryan's bat, and Ryan shouldn't hit into as many double plays as Peralta (granted, he has to actually hit the ball...).
Third: the Tigers sign Ichiro Suzuki to a one year contract for $10 million.
I do not think the Tigers are completely sold on Andy Dirks being an everyday left fielder. In fact, they may want to look at using a platoon with him regardless. Signing Ichiro brings some risk, but also has a big upside.
Ichiro is still a very good defender (ninth-best according to fangraphs), and has better speed (29 steals) than most of the Tigers players. The Tigers would then use Dirks and Quintin Berry as extra outfielders and speed off the bench.
Ichiro looked revived playing for a contending team in New York last year. It's conceivable he would agree to play on a Detroit team clearly set up to make a run at the World Series. It's very possible he could resign with the Yankees, but if the suddenly budget-conscious Yankees decide to pass, the Tigers should swoop in and sign Ichiro.
The Marlins are in full "rebuild" mode. Stanton has been outspoken (based on his Twitter comments) with his displeasure towards the trades the Marlins have made. It will not be surprising if the Marlins shop Stanton.
What the Marlins would want in return is hard to say. It would probably require one of their top position players and a pitcher. I would suggest the Tigers try a package of Nick Castellanos, Andy Oliver, Daniel Fields and Andy Dirks.
In Dirks, they'd get a serviceable and cheap player who would be able to play any outfield spot. Castellanos can play third or outfield and is considered a blue chip player. Oliver has struggled with command since his call up to the Tigers back in 2010. He is still considered Detroit's fifth best prospect, and a change of scenery might do him some good. Fields has adjusted to center, but his bat has not progressed like the Tigers thought it would.
This deal favors Detroit, and its probably a long shot. The Tigers will not trade Bruce Rondon, and I don't think they'll include both Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos. They may have to go a different route with the pitchers, possibly giving up Casey Crosby and or Adam Wilk (who has put up good numbers at AAA).
One of the big questions the Tigers would have to answer is whether Stanton can play left field, or if Hunter would be willing to move to left. Stanton has big time power and is showing an improving batting average. He is probably closer to a .275 hitter then the .290 he hit this year, but he has legitimate 30+ home run power.
I would not be surprised to see the Marlins move Stanton—it's just a matter of who they will ask for in return. The Tigers have a history of dealing with the Marlins, so anything is possible.
Ahmed is a shortstop billed by MLB.com as an "athletic middle infielder." Ahmed is a defense-first shortstop who is not quite ready for the majors. However, acquiring him now should not be horribly expensive, and it would give the Tigers some options in their farm for shortstop.
I think the Tigers could offer a package of Matt Hoffman and Daniel Fields. A change of scenery could help Fields, still a young player (21 years old) for whom the bat is showing some signs of slowly coming around. Hoffman pitched pretty well out of the bullpen for AAA Toledo last year posting a 1-2 record with a 3.69 ERA in 43 games.
The deal makes sense for both parties. Detroit gets some depth and a potential starter at a position of need. Ahmed is blocked by Andrelton Simmons. Atlanta gets a reliever who is almost ready for the majors and an outfielder with a fair amount of upside.
Ahmed is at least one—probably two—years away from being a starter. However, it's all a matter of how his bat plays out. He has good speed, but has not hit for a high average and has little power.
Sixth: the Tigers trade for Arizona outfielder Justin Upton.
This is a deal which has been making the rounds on the major sports websites. In particular ESPN's Jim Bowden included the Tigers in his article about five possible trades for Upton.
This seems like a real long shot for the Tigers, as I don't think they want to give up both Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos. That being said, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has never shied away from trading prospects for established players.
Which of the suggested free agents do you think the Tigers should pursue?
I would guess the deal would center on Nick Castellanos and another top prospect, probably Casey Crosby or Andy Oliver and a younger prospect or two (think Daniel Fields or Alex Burgos). The Tigers will also throw in at least one, probably two major league player(s). Jhonny Peralta and either Andy Dirks, Quinton Berry or Brennan Boesch are the most likely big league players going to Arizona.
According to several reports I've read from the Detroit News, Arizona was interested in acquiring a third baseman last year. One of the outfielders makes sense giving the Diamondbacks an extra player to use off the bench or spin off for another asset. Each of the outfielders brings something a little different to the table.
Andy Dirks is the player the Tigers probably want to keep out of the three. Dirks can play pretty good defense at all three outfield positions, hits to contact and has some speed. Quinton Berry's number one asset is his speed. With pinch runners being far more common in the NL, Berry's speed could be best utilized there. Finally, Brennan Boesch brings the element of untapped potential. The Tigers still see potential in Boesch, but he and the Tigers have to figure out what plagued his bat in 2012.
My guess is the deal would look something like this. Detroit sends shortstop Jhonny Peralta, outfielder Quinton Berry, outfield/third base Nick Castellanos, pitcher Casey Crosby, pitcher Alex Burgos, and outfielder Daniel Fields in exchange for outfielder Justin Upton and pitcher Chase Anderson.
Of the Trades suggested here, which is the most likely to occur?
Is this deal a long shot? Yes. Is it impossible? No.
Seventh the Tigers trade for Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus.
The Rangers have super prospect Jurickson Profar all but ready to play at the major league level, but his prime position is blocked by Andrus.
I really don't think the Tigers have what it takes to get this done.
The Tigers' offer would center on prospects Nick Castellanos, Casey Crosby, Andy Oliver, Danry Vasquez, Daniel Fields, Kenny Faulk and Curt Casali. They would also include Jhonny Peralta (who would act as a super sub) and outfielder Brennan Boesch.
This trade would be a complete attempt to win now for the Tigers. The Tigers would be in a great position to win next year, but would be giving up nearly all of their top talent. I find it highly unlikely the Tigers and Rangers would be able to come to an agreement sending Andrus to the Tigers.
Personally I really like the Idea of the Tigers chasing Stanton and Brendan Ryan/Nick Ahmed. The tigers could use Ryan and Worth at short and have Ahmed on the fast track to start in 2014. Stanton would give a loaded lineup even more thump.
I expect the Tigers to make at least one more move before the spring training begins. Right now it's anyone's guess what that move will be.