MLB Trade Rumors: The Detroit Tigers' 5 Biggest Needs at the Break
We're over halfway through the 2011 MLB season and the Detroit Tigers are firmly in the middle of a pennant race. Granted it's the AL Central and the 2003 Tigers would still be considered in the hunt, but they're still alive nonetheless.
Despite their desirable standing in the division, there is very much a feeling of uneasiness about the Tigers right now—like expecting Transformers 3 to be good.
You want to believe it, but history tells you it's going to end up different.
If Jim Leyland is going to avoid his yearly second half collapse, he's going to need some help and with his and GM Dave Dombrowski's expiring contracts there's little doubt they're willing to pay the price.
Here's the Tigers' five biggest needs heading into the All-Star break.
An Infielder...any Infielder
I know Detroit loves Brandon Inge.
He's been a Tiger his whole career, made Detroit his home and been a model citizen for the team. He's a likable personality that's been loyal to the city and the Detroit Tigers. The only problem, one hit a week isn't going to hack it.
Inge is hitting an astoundingly bad 4-for-40 since his return from the DL for mono. I've had mono. It sucks. Unfortunately, it appears Inge has had some mutant strain of mono that has lasted two years—since he's been terrible since his Home Run Derby disaster during the 2009 All-Star break.
When you add Inge's horrendous season to second baseman Ryan Raburn's nearly as inept effort, the Tigers have two regular players who don't hit their weight.
Leyland can't continue to hide these two in the lineup.
Despite his awful average, Raburn has shown a little production so he might have a slightly longer leash than Inge. It's hard to imagine Leyland not replacing Inge before too long.
A Need for Speed
The Tigers lack of speed was never more apparent than in the past series against the LA Angels.
While the Angels would get a runner on first, then steal or sacrifice the runner over to manufacture a run—the Tigers seemed to consistently ground into double plays in the same situation to take themselves out of scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately, the majority of the best players in the lineup probably run a 6.0 40-yard dash so there's not much they can do with that.
However, they need to locate some more speed in the lineup. Austin Jackson is the only threat in the everyday lineup. Brennan Boesch is the only other regular who isn't a liability on the bases.
Assuming they replace either or both Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn, it would behove them to select a replacement with decent speed.
A Starter to Step Up
Either by acquiring a starter or improvement from a current pitcher in the rotation, the Tigers need someone else to consistently step up.
Justin Verlander is obviously carrying this rotation. Anytime he pitches you expect to win.
On the backend of the rotation, Brad Penny has been surprisingly consistent as a fifth starter. He's not going to throw a shutout, but he doesn't get bombed for eight over three like the others have.
If he was signed to be their number two starter, they'd be in trouble—but he wasn't an he's playing his role well.
Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello seem to rotate between awful and dominating. Rookie Charlie Furbush showed some signs in his first start in LA, but he's too much of an unknown at this point.
One of the other three spots need to pitch well consistently or the Tigers need to acquire a starter who can.
A Manager of the Year Caliber Second Half from Jim Leyland
Jim Leyland really seems to polarize Tigers fans.
It seems half the fans want him to disappear to a Florida golf course, while the other half want him signed to a lifetime contract.
Just like the Tigers, Leyland has had an up and down year.
He's handled the bullpen as well as could be expected. Other than a little bit too much faith in Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth, he's put the right guy at the right time—even though it hasn't always worked out.
He's handled the lineup awful by failing to find any consistency out of the number two spot.
For the Tigers to have any chance, they need Leyland to step up his game.
No Panic from the Front Office
In addition to Jim Leyland, Dave Dombrowski is the person under the most pressure.
He's criticized heavily in the local media, but just like the team and Leyland he's really been up and down.
He had awful signings in Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordonez, but excellent pickups in Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez and Al Albuquerque. The jury is still out on Joaquin Benoit, who's shown some life lately after a horrendous start.
What the organization really needs is for the front office to not panic. The division is winnable, but needs some tweaks and good leadership...not a major overhaul at the expense of the farm system.
With the firing of Rick Knapp, it looks like they may already be slipping into panic mode. If they end up dealing top prospects like Jacob Turner and Nick Castellanos, we'll know for sure.