In two weeks, three days, 6 hours and 11 minutes (not that I’m counting), pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Lakeland. Those of us at Totally Tigers are so excited about a new year of baseball that we are going to jump right in with our individual predictions for the 2015 year despite a roster still in flux.
At the end of the season, which hopefully will be very late in October, Kurt and I will revisit our predictions. Along with bragging rights, a prize of either Crown Royal or Manolo Blahnik shoes will be awarded to the winner. I’ll leave you to guess which one Kurt has requested.
So without further ado…..
1. Alex Avila – Avila is in the last year of his contract and it is unlikely the Tigers will make him a qualifying offer anywhere north (TBD) of $16 million. If an offer is not made, then Avila will become a free agent without the Tigers receiving a compensatory draft pick. Expect him to be traded in late summer but only if James McCann lives up to his potential.
2. Alan Trammell – Unlike special assistants before him, Tram is younger and has experience coaching and managing three teams. On the record as being adverse to wearing suits and ties, Tram will not take the Front Office route but he could have a variety of new options not previously mentioned, depending upon how the team performs. He offers recognition, stability, experience and insight – helpful skills to both the GM and fledgling manager. An extra set of eyes and ears for Dombrowski perhaps. He brings another perspective combined with experience to assist his friend Ausmus – and maybe a safety net in case things turn dire and require coaching or management changes. At the very least, expect him to become the new bench coach in one year when Gene Lamont’s contract expires.
3. Brad Ausmus – Now that Ausmus has one year of managing under his belt, he’ll be expected to show real growth and make better decisions about the bullpen and overall strategy – as well as minimize the wild win-loss rollercoaster streaks of last year. Additional pressure will come in the form of an ageing owner and stars, an increased urgency to make the playoffs and World Series, and the expected loss of several key players after the season. Unlike last year, hovering in the background and ready to take over are Rick Renteria and Jim Leyland’s best friend, Ron Gardenhire – and possible long-shots, Alan Trammell and Don Mattingly. It’s all going to depend upon how badly Mr. I wants a ring this year and how much Brad grows into the job.
4. Alfredo Simon – Simon could fill a number of roles depending upon how he performs as a starter, how the bullpen behaves and how the up-and-coming young arms perform. Definitely a starter through the All-Star break, he could either move to the BP for the second half and/or for the playoffs. But key to his role will be how well Lobstein, Farmer et al perform. This is their audition year so expect some rookie starts.
5. David Price – Price will not re-sign with the Tigers for a number of reasons: the incompatibility between age and long-term contracts, the huge investment it will take to keep him and a rapidly-ageing starting rotation that could potentially consume one-third of the total team payroll. As with Simon, the Tigers are hoping their young arms will help fill his void and bolster the starting rotation next year. Expect the Tigers to also participate in next winter’s bonanza of young, starting pitchers who will hit the free agent market.
OK, Kurt, you’re up next!