All things considered, the Detroit Tigers had a successful season. Many sporting news outlets and magazines had predicted the Tigers to finish second or worse in the American League Central division prior to the 2011 MLB season.
The Tigers did a heck of a lot more than finishing second. They not only won the AL Central, but they went all the way to within two games of the World Series. I wouldn't consider being one of the final four remaining MLB teams a failure.
Knowing this, the Tigers' weaknesses were exploited during the American League Championship Series against Texas. A dismal bullpen, along with speed and defensive problems arose during their playoff run.
Many questions linger for the Tigers and general manager Dave Dombrowski this upcoming winter and off-season. Solid relief pitchers are needed. A stronger, more solidified starting rotation will help as well. Solid second and third basemen are also going to be a huge need for this organization if they want to take that leap further into the postseason next season.
Finally, the main problem that has really haunted the Tigers the past few years is speed. This team has had a lack of speed for some time now, which is essential to a long playoff run, as there is a widespread use of "small ball" baseball in the playoffs.
The following 10 players are players whom I believe that Dave Dombrowski should seriously consider, considering this city of Detroit is hungry for a World Series championship.
The Tigers are in desperate need of another left-handed starting pitcher to solidify an already decent starting rotation. Buehrle is not a flashy pitcher of the likes of Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander, but he's always been known to get the job done. He has "the art of pitching" down to a tee, and knows simply how to win.
It'd be nice to see a longtime Detroit rival become an ally, a powerful ally at that.
A solid relief man, Joel Peralta has had two stellar seasons in a row. As a setup man and late relief man for the Rays this past season, he's put up some quite impressive numbers.
He sported a .92 WHIP with 61 strikeouts and only 19 walks in 71 appearances. A 2.93 ERA also proved that Peralta can come in and get the job done in crunch time.
Peralta would be the perfect fit to come in in relief before current Tigers setup man Joaquin Benoit enters in the eighth inning.
A one-time starter and spot starter Sergio Mitre would be a nice long relief man for the Tigers. His contract with the Yankees is expiring, and he would be a knowledgeable addition for the Tigers' bullpen. His numbers aren't great, but they aren't horrible, either.
An injury-riddled 2011 campaign hindered Mitre from reaching his full potential, and should be at full strength come next spring. I mean hey, anything would be an upgrade over Daniel Schlereth, right?
Signing a player like Coco Crisp would definitely help the speed issue in Detroit. I know Oakland would love to have him back, but taking Crisp at a good price just might be worth it.
If Crisp is signed, though, he should not be a full-time starter. The center field job remains Austin Jackson's for the time being. Crisp could platoon at right field, pinch hit and pinch run when needed. If an injury is sustained in the outfield, Crisp would be the perfect and ideal replacement.
Crisp's 49 steals ranked second in the entire MLB and first in the American league. His .264 batting average was solid enough to be an effective player for a contending team
The Tigers need to sign a backup catcher. As popularly publicized by the media, Tigers starting catcher Alex Avila simply burned out during the postseason, having played so many games behind the plate throughout the season. The catching position is the most grueling in baseball, so a solid backup is needed for Avila to rest every five or so games.
The Tigers' current backup, Omir Santos, sad to say, is only a Double A-caliber catcher at this point. Another player the Tigers could get for a reasonable price is Gerald Laird of the World Series-bound St. Louis Cardinals. A former short-time Tiger, Laird is simply a stellar defensive catcher, which makes him a perfect candidate as a backup catcher.
Don't expect Laird to be an offensive threat at all, though. A career .241 hitter, Laird makes his money in the MLB playing defense. Although often ridiculed in Detroit for his poor offensive numbers, I think he'd be welcomed back for cheap as an indispensable defensive and backup catcher
If the Tigers have one main need during the off-season, it's signing a full-time third baseman. And, if they were to spend a considerate amount of money on a player, this position would be the one. One free agent that many teams will be pursuing will be Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
He will command a lot of money in the open market as well, seeing as he had a stellar year, batting .306, while hitting 26 home runs and driving in 93 runs. He would provide solid hitting at the plate, and would be a perfect candidate to hit third in Detroit's batting order in front of the formidable Miguel Cabrera.
Colorado Rockies second baseman Mark Ellis was on the Tigers' trade deadline watch back in July when he then played for the Oakland Athletics.
If the Tigers are unable to retain utility man Ramon Santiago, Ellis should be pursued. He is a career .266 hitter, who can be signed relatively cheap. He would be a solid player near the bottom half of the lineup. His bat has some pop in it, and he will be solid defensively.
Another second baseman possibility, Toronto Blue Jays Kelly Johnson seems like a hit or miss. Johnson has considerably more power than Mark Ellis, but is not as solid of a fielder as Ellis is.
Johnson can provide a lot of power near the bottom of the lineup as well, and would be a better candidate to bat in the runners on base. A negative point that does stick out in Johnson is his strikeout pace. In the previous two years, he's struck out a whopping 195 times.
I'd say if Ellis is no longer available come winter time, an offer to Johnson is not ludicrous.
If all else fails, go for it. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch has the money, and would definitely fork it over to Dave Dombrowski if he believes Reyes would come to Detroit.
If this does occur, though, do not expect the Tigers to do much else other than beefing up the bullpen. Reyes would suck out much of Detroit's funding, since he'll most likely command over $100 million in his contract.
Yet, if the Tigers obtained Reyes, it would be the best available upgrade out of any free agent possibility. Reyes can lead-off and get on base. His .337 batting average was good enough for the 2011 National League Batting Title. This would also take pressure off of Austin Jackson by not leading off and dropping him down the order. Reyes also has speed that is second to none and is a sure-fire fielder.
My chances of Reyes coming to Motown? 15 percent.
Now I know that this isn't a player position need, and this isn't something teams pursue in the off-season, but it's an imperative move for the Tigers.
As most say, like umpires and all sports referees, first and third base coaches should be invisible if doing their job well. Throughout the entire MLB season, Detroit fans and talks shows railed Lamont for his too-aggressive tactics and base running calls. He was under constant fire from the media for the countless times in which he'd send runners home when they'd clearly be out, and holding runners when they'd clearly have scored.
Had he merely done his job knowledgeably and effectively, Tigers fans wouldn't have to call for a third base coach's firing.
Move first-base coach Tom Brookens to third, and find somebody different. Lamont has to go, and someone must be hired to fill this hole.