Paul Sancya/Associated Press
Signing Joe Nathan (pictured), the best closer on the free-agent market, after consecutive late-season bullpen implosions was a necessary move for a team that expects to be in the postseason again in 2014. And at two years and $20 million, the price for the 39-year-old was a reasonable one.
Trading Prince Fielder and $138 million of the remaining $168 million left on his contract to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler, who replaces free agent Omar Infante as the starting second baseman, appears to be a smart move for the future. It could also pay immediate dividends if Kinsler can return to the form that made him a 30-30 player (30 homers, 30 stolen bases) in 2009 and 2011 and not the one who had 13 homers and 15 stolen bases in 2013.
It also would've helped if the Tigers had bothered to fill the gaping hole that Fielder's departure left in the middle of the lineup. They'll hope that one of Nick Castellanos, Torii Hunter, Alex Avila—or one of the other lineup regulars—will step up, but they could regret not acquiring a big bat to hit behind Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila.
The rotation has also undergone a major change, with Doug Fister being traded to the Washington Nationals to open up a spot for Drew Smyly. The return, at least on paper, is underwhelming. Utility man Stephen Lombardozzi will have a decreased role in the American League, while lefty reliever Ian Krol, despite a solid 32-game rookie stint, is untested. Pitching prospect Robbie Ray could be the key piece in the deal, but he could be a few years away from making an impact, if he makes one at all.
While Nathan should solidify the back of the bullpen, the signing of Joba Chamberlain to be one of his primary setup men isn't a safe move by any means. The 28-year-old still has some upside, but he hasn't been healthy and productive in years.