It's officially the MLB offseason, so that means it's time to dissect what the Tigers need to compete again in 2009. Let's take a look, position by position.
In late July last season, the Tigers dealt Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth, both of whom are now free agents. There is no sign of Detroit going after Pudge, even though they lack a true starting catcher. Rumors have swirled around Jason Varitek and Henry Blanco coming to town, but I don’t see Tek going anywhere else but back to Boston.
Also, I think that the Tigers would rather stay with what they have, rather than go after Blanco. As of now, the starter is Dusty Ryan who came on late last year to show off a strong arm and a bit of pop from the bat. Brandon Inge caught a bit last year, but Detroit’s coaches have already announced that he will be the third baseman next season.
2009 Projected Starter: Dusty Ryan
Along with centerfield, this may be the most untouchable position on the field. Miguel Cabrera moved from third base to first early last season after being acquired by Detroit last offseason. The lack of mobility disabled Cabrera from playing third, but the move couldn’t have been better.
Miggy improved everyday in his footwork, basic fundamentals and scooping a ball in the dirt. His backups will consist of Jeff Larish, a young player looking for a roster spot, and Carlos Guillen, who is past his prime.
2009 Projected Starter: Miguel Cabrera
Placido Polanco, Detroit’s best fielder, roams here. The definition of a solid all-around player, he has a great glove, bat control, and even a little power. He has the second spot in the lineup wrapped up since he moves leadoff hitter Granderson around the bases better than anybody else.
As I don’t see Polly lasting more then two more seasons in Detroit, enter Will Rhymes. Rhymes played great in the Tiger’s minor league system last season and may have a shot at Detroit’s roster this season.
Another young player who could get some time for the injury-plagued Tigers is Cale Iorg. Don’t forget Ramon Santiago, he played great defensively last season and had some clutch hits, including a game with two home runs.
2009 Projected Starter: Placido Polanco
A committee of players inhabited this position last season including Inge, Hessman, Cabrera, Guillen, Larish, and Santiago. The coaches have already said that Brandon Inge would be the starter next season, even though he will most likely hit .215 max, but his fantastic glove makes up for the low average. I wouldn’t bet against the idea of Inge winning a Gold Glove next season.
2009 Projected Starter: Brandon Inge
Ahh, what to do? What to do? I don’t know. Dave Dombrowski doesn't know, heck...nobody knows. Last season, Edgar Renteria was Detroit’s starter, but they declined his option this season, so they are without a starting shortstop.
Rafael Furcal is pretty much a no-go for the Tigers this season, but they may go after Orlando Cabrera or even Julio Lugo (NOOOOO!!!!!). If they don’t go after any of them they might stay with Ramon Santiago this season and go after a shortstop after next year.
Carlos Guillen can play shortstop, but it is highly unlikely that he will see time there next season. Christian Guzman is on the market and I’d love to see him in Detroit, but I just don’t see Dombrowski going after him.
2009 Projected Starter: Orlando Cabrera
Center field is the locked-up position with Curtis Granderson. Any center fielder in the Tigers organization is badly screwed. Grandy will be around for a long, long time and his 150 percent attitude will keep him a starter.
In left field, the answer might be Carlos Guillen, but not for long. His injuries will keep him out of the infield and playing left might keep him away from more injuries. Other options in left consist of Matt Joyce, who excelled as a rookie last season, and Marcus Thames, who is arguably on of the strongest players in the majors.
In right field, Magglio Ordonez has the position for now, but rumors have it that Detroit is shopping him around for another outfielder or a reliever. Some prospects that might get a shot next season are Brent Clevlen, Clete Thomas, Wilkin Ramirez and Ryan Raburn.
2009 Projected Starters: Carlos Guillen, Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez
A lot of questions lay here. Do they go after a top notch starter? No. Will they trade Dontrelle Willis? I Don’t think so. What will Detroit do with Nate Robertson and Zach Miner? We’ll see. A Rick Porcello sighting? Likely. These are just a few questions and answers that surround this position. Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Armando Galarraga all have definite spots in rotation, but the other two are up for grabs.
A mix of Willis, Robertson, Miner, Porcello, Chris Lambert, Eddie Bonine and many, many more will try for those spots. Kenny Rogers filed for free agency and his career in Detroit is definitely over. There is a good chance that they might go after Derek Lowe to add depth to the rotation, but that would be four right handers, so we’ll have to see how it pans out.
2009 Projected Rotation: Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Derek Lowe, Armando Galarraga, Dontrelle Willis.
A ton more questions need to be answered in the bullpen.
It looks that Detroit will roll with two left-handed pitchers next season after they re-signed Macay McBride early on in free agency and still have Bobby Seay on the roster. Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya have secured spots in the 'pen as set-up men or middle relief, since closing didn’t pan out last season.
Todd “Heart Attack” Jones retired, then filed for free agency, so he is out of the picture. I definitely see Detroit trying to sign a top-of-the-line reliever this offseason.
Whether it be Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes or Kerry Wood, anything would be an upgrade. Although they might go after two or more of the following players; Damaso Marte, Jason Isringhausen, Brandon Lyon, Guillermo Mota, Hideki Okajima, Trevor Hoffman or Eric Gagne.
2009 Projected Bullpen: Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, Bobby Seay, Macay McBride, Freddy Dolsi, Francisco Rodriguez, Zach Miner.
- Granderson CF
- Polanco 2B
- Ordonez RF
- M. Cabrera 1B
- Guillen LF
- Sheffield DH
- O. Cabrera SS
- Ryan C
- Inge 3B