Detroit Tigers 2012: Tigers Should Have an Easy Road to AL Central Title

Chris MaddenAnalyst IIDecember 8, 2011

Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is in the midst of his annual scavenger hunt to find and assemble talent for next year.  It is World Series or bust for the 2012 Tigers. The core of this team is solid, so don't expect any shocking or high priced signings.

Jose Reyes is off the table, and don't even think about Albert Pujols. Dombrowski seems content with the Gerald Laird resigning.  What, was Brad Ausmus busy?

Actually, Dombrowski has been busy, he is just tight lipped. As he should be.  It is a fact that he has flown to the Dominican Republic to scout Cuban prospect Yoenis Cespedes.

According to an article on by John Lowe, the Tigers are considering whether Cespedes could lead off and take over center field from Austin Jackson. 

Either that or he could be a huge disappointment who never lives up to expectations. Just like the player one baseball executive compared him to—Cameron Maybin. Lets hope that Dombrowski doesn't have the blinders on for Cespedes like he did for Maybin.

Regardless of Cespedes, Martin Prado, Coco Crisp, or any of the free agents that the Tigers are rumored to be considering, 2012 could see the Tigers cruise to the AL Central title.

I know, I am getting ahead of myself.  Since when do perennial Tiger killers like the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox roll over and play dead?

Never, but lets look at how the division is shaping up.

Chicago White Sox

Ozzie Guillen is gone.  He jumped ship and found a shiny new, and stacked, team in Florida.  Former White Sox third baseman, and Nolan Ryan punching bag, Robin Ventura is the new skipper.  He has zero experience managing a team.

General manager Kenny Williams recently told reporters, "It is the start of a rebuilding, and you guys know I have not used that word in 12 years. But it is the start of a rebuilding." 

Well, there it is.

Honestly, I can't recall ever hearing a baseball executive acknowledge that before.  Is this a trick? Is Williams playing possum? Are the White Sox going to lull teams to sleep with the "r" word, then ambush them in the regular season?

I doubt it. In the last week the White Sox traded away their closer Sergio Santos for a minor league prospect. Teams that are hoping to contend for the division don't usually do that.

They also let one of their franchise's most beloved players, Mark Buehrle, sign elsewhere.  Will they be relying on Jake Peavy as their ace? Yikes!

Their lineup might be intact for now, but does it scare anyone?  Someone needed to put out an APB on Adam Dunn last year.  Is there such thing as a year-long slump? Chances are his best days are way behind him. The same can be said for Carlos Quintin.  Gordon Beckham will likely be given yet another chance to demonstrate that he is an average MLB third baseman.

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adam Dunn #32 of the Chicago White Sox tosses his bat after striking out during the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals at U. S. Cellular Field on September 24, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.   (Photo by Brian Kersey/Gett
Brian Kersey/Getty Images

I think it is safe to trust Kenny Williams when he says they are rebuilding.  The evidence is all there.


Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians

How many times have the Twins snuck up and ruined seasons for promising Tiger teams? Too many to count. 

Yet, they are coming off arguably their worst season in franchise history. Indications are that it is going to take more than one offseason to correct their issues. It is also going to take more than signing Jamey Carroll.

Across the board the Twins have gaping holes.  Yes, they are still pursuing free agent signings.  But the Twins will not likely go after the difference makers.  They will settle for the role players and hope for the best.

I will never totally rule them out, I've been burned too many times. However, at this point it is hard to imagine them bouncing back quickly and competing for the division in 2012.

On the other hand, those pesky Indians were a surprise last year and challenged the Tigers before fading late in the season.

In fact the Tigers victory at Progressive Field on September 7 probably sealed their fate. 

Looking ahead to 2012, the Indians could challenge the Tigers again.  Ubaldo Jiminez will definitely help them.

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 16:  Travis Hafner #48 of the Cleveland Indians reacts after striking out against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Jacobs Field on October 16, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Pitching might be better, but the Indians appear to be set with their lineup.  Which means that for the 30th year in a row they will be expecting Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner to carry this team. 

I'm sure the Tigers support that philosophy.


Kansas City Royals

This could be the Royals' year to finally get out of the division cellar.  George Brett has this franchise going in the right direction, and they have a good nucleus of young talent.

They are not ready to challenge for the division though.  Maybe in another year or two.

I think it is clear.  The AL Central will be the weakest its been in years and the Tigers are positioned well. While it might feel odd to say in December, the Tigers should have an easy road to the division title.