Detroit Tigers: 8 Free Agents You Could See Land in Detroit

Christopher Czar@@detsportsczarContributor INovember 30, 2011

Detroit Tigers: 8 Free Agents You Could See Land in Detroit

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    The 2011 Detroit Tigers were two games from completely shocking their fanbase.  As it was, they ended up exceeding expectations and finished the season better than even the biggest supporter of the Old English D would have claimed.

    Ninety-five wins, The AL Central Crown, knocking off the Yankees in the ALDS, a competitive showing in the ALCS not to mention having the AL Cy Young and AL MVP winner is an impressive resume for any team.

    Not bad for a team expected to flirt with .500 and finish a distant third to the Twins and White Sox.

    Even more encouraging, it appears the Tigers will once again be one of the teams to beat in the AL Central.

    While the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals both seem to be making improvements, there's little doubt that the Minnesota Twins are gearing up for a rebuild and the Chicago White Sox might struggle to compete after likely losing longtime stalwart Mark Buehrle.

    With the collection of inexperienced and mediocre teams in the AL Central, most prognosticators will be picking the Tigers to repeat in the AL Central in 2012.

    The Tigers can really improve their chances with a strong offseason.  There's not a ton to do, but a few areas need to be addressed.

    A fifth starter, bullpen help, a second or third baseman—if not both—and a left fielder are all areas the team could address.

    Any of these eight guys could be wearing script Detroit jerseys next spring.

Aramis Ramirez

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    The former Cubs third basemen is expected to be the biggest name the Tigers will pursue.  Aramis Ramirez had a strong 2011 at the plate (.306/26 HR/93 RBI) but his defense has been mediocre at best throughout his career.

    Ramirez has had over 20 HRs and 80 RBI in nine of the last 10 seasons and is sure to be the top player in a weak third base free-agent class.

    WHY HE FITS:

    Ramirez fits the mold of the hit first, field second sluggers that the Tigers have been coveting.  He could be plugged in to hit No. 3 and should enjoy another strong offensive season with Miguel Cabrera protecting him.

    He's not quite a top tier free agent and would probably demand somewhere between $12 and $15 million a year, easily affordable with Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen coming off the books this offseason.

Paul Maholm

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    Once regarded as the ace of the Pirates' pitching staff, Paul Maholm is coming off a 2011 which ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury.

    Maholm was always a highly-regarded starter who only started rounding into form last season when he posted a respectable 3.66 ERA and 1.29 WHIP before his injury.  However, like Doug Fister in Seattle, he was hurt by run support and only had a 6-14 record to show for it.

    WHY HE MAKES SENSE:

    Maholm makes perfect sense in Detroit. 

    Most importantly he's a left-handed starter, which the Tigers desperately need.  Phil Coke bombed out as a starter, Andrew Oliver showed little in his opportunities the last two seasons and Duane Below seemed to fit perfectly into the Tigers' bullpen during the second half of 2011.

    Maholm's coming off a shoulder injury so he won't be commanding Mark Buerhle or CJ Wilson type money, and might be willing to sign a one-year deal in hopes of reclaiming himself for a huge 2013 payday.  This would give the Tigers an extra year to evaluate Jacob Turner, Oliver, etc..

Michael Wuertz

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    Michael Wuertz's final numbers for last season: 0-0 with a 6.68 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP.  Ouch.

    Take those with a grain of salt, however.  Wuertz had a 2.67 ERA at the All-Star break before running into hamstring and thumb issues which led to a terrible second half.  Wuertz has been a solid contributor for the A's and averages better than a strikeout an inning for his career.

    WHY HE MAKES SENSE:

    Al Alburquerque was fantastic in the first half of 2011, but arm injuries and a freak batting practice accident seemed to affect him and he never returned to his first-half glory.

    Without Alburquerque, the Tigers lacked a power righty out of the bullpen that could extend the game to set-up man Joaquin Benoit.

    Wuertz is a veteran who fits the bill and will likely come very cheap, seeing as the A's already declined his modest $3.25 million option for 2012.  He could fill in if Alburquerque isn't right, or at the very least give the Tigers a mid-innings option when a strikeout is needed.

Juan Pierre

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    No introduction needed for Juan Pierre, as Tigers fans have become familiar with him the last couple of years with the Chicago White Sox.

    Well liked in the locker room, Pierre was heavily criticized in the media for his lackluster start to 2011.  However, Pierre quietly rebounded to have a decent season, hitting .279 and leading the majors in sacrifices.  He's not a gold-glover in the left field, but at least he's fast which is far more than can be said for Delmon Young's defense.

    WHY HE MAKE SENSE:

    Speed.  Plain and simple. 

    Austin Jackson likely has a bright future in Detroit, but his ability to hit leadoff has been questioned heavily.  He's fast, but not blazing.  There's no questioning Pierre as a leadoff hitter.

    Pierre would slot right in at leadoff and allow Jackson to get more experience batting lower in the order.  He never homers and doesn't walk, but he also doesn't strike out.  Detroit's spacious stadium might fit Pierre well.

    Of course, if the Tigers signed Pierre it would mean that they're moving on from Delmon Young.  They're completely opposite players, each having their strengths and weaknesses, however Pierre's speed would give the Tigers a dynamic they've been missing forever.

Jon Rauch

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    After an excellent 2010 with Minnesota filling in for Joe Nathan, Rauch struggled as the closer in Toronto, eventually losing his job and running into injuries.

    However, like Wuertz, Rauch is a proven major league reliever and his adequate career 3.82 ERA would back that up.  He's proven he's nothing more than an emergency closer or mediocre set-up man, but as a seventh inning righty he could thrive.

    WHY HE MAKES SENSE:

    Adding another arm to the bullpen will be a priority for the Tigers.  They're set at closer and set-up man, so a middle tier free agent like Rauch would be a logical choice to supplant the always injured Joel Zumaya and "inching closer to a bust every year" Ryan Perry.

    He'd come fairly cheap and wouldn't be expecting a closer role which would add much needed depth to the bullpen.

    Rauch is 6'10" 290 lbs, heavily tattooed and scary looking as hell.  Fans in Detroit would love him.

Octavio Dotel

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    Octavio Dotel has already been rumored as a Tiger target this offseason after shining with the Cardinals during their playoff run to a World Series.

    The well-traveled Dotel has played for a staggering 11 teams in his career.  He's a hired gun that can come in and help bolster struggling bullpens.

    A strikeout machine, he averages nearly 11 K's per nine innings, Dotel has a 3.74 career ERA and his individual seasons seldom sway away from that.  He's as steady as they come.

    WHY HE MAKES SENSE:

    He's played pretty much everywhere else, why not Detroit?

    Seriously though, Dotel would be an older, more expensive version of Rauch or Wuertz.  Despite his age (38), his consistency will drive up his price.

    He won't demand as much as Joaquin Benoit did last year, but he won't be a ton cheaper.  If the Tigers make a strong run at Dotel, you know they're serious about fixing their bullpen and Ryan Perry's days are numbered.

Josh Willingham

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    At 32 and coming off a 29 HR, 98 RBI season, Josh Willingham is probably hoping for a Jason Werth-type payday this offseason.

    Assuming he doesn't get a massive deal from a desperate organization, he might turn to a couple-year deal with a contender like the Tigers.

    A prototypical slugger, Willingham doesn't hit for a high average, but walks a bit and drives in runs.  He's been caught in baseball purgatory during his career (Florida, Washington and Oakland) and playing for a contender like Detroit might be appealing to Willingham.

    WHY HE MAKES SENSE:

    Willingham would basically take the place of Delmon Young.  Even though he's a below-average defender, he would still be a slight upgrade over Young in left field.

    He hits monster home runs and he'll draw comparisons to an older, more polished Casper Wells—with worse defense.  He even looks like Wells.

    Finally, Willingham was drafted by the Marlins in 2000, so you know Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is very familiar with him.

Jack Wilson

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    While rumors persist regarding trades for Maicer Izturis or Martin Prado, Jack Wilson is a guy that the Tigers might look to to fill the pending void left by Ramon Santiago—who is drawing free-agent attention as a starter.

    Renowned for his defense, Wilson would be very dependable at second or filling in for Peralta as shortstop.

    WHY HE MAKES SENSE:

    The Tigers probably don't want Wilson to be their everyday second baseman, but he would definitely be useful in a utility role or platoon situation.  Just don't expect the pop that Santiago brought to that role—Wilson hasn't hit a home run since 2009.

    With Santiago's departure seemingly inevitable, they need someone versatile like Wilson who could spell Peralta when needed.

    Plus, Wilson has been attached to the Tigers for about half a decade.  While he's sitting out there, it's hard to imagine that Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland won't at least kick the tires.

    UPDATE: Surprisingly the Tigers have re-upped Ramon Santiago for 2 years.  If they are still looking for a full-time second baseman like Prado or Izturis, then obviously Wilson wouldn't be a fit.

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