By: Kurt Snyder and Holly Horning
Thursday means we have one topic to tackle, and even though we don’t share, I can’t imagine, in light of the Wednesday news, that Joe Nathan won’t be a common thread in our discussion. But we will see.
Today we take on a topic about changes, because it appears 1 or 2 may be coming.
Who will be the next player added to the roster?
Well, with Joe Nathan on the virtual ropes with his comeback, the Tigers really need to concentrate on their bullpen. Imagine that. Yep, kids, the Tigers have a closer and not much else; well certainly not much determined, not much solidified, no real rotation or roles, except for Soria.
Joba Chamberlain was brought back, in my mind, for depth. He was a known commodity who, to me, would be more valuable in a limited role.
But the state of the bullpen is lending itself to a larger role again for Chamberlain. And I believe that would be a mistake. We need only remember his performance in the second half of 2014 and of course, the playoffs, if that’s what you want to call those 3 games we played.
So, what do we do? Well, it’s much too soon to think trades at this point in the season. Unfortunately, it’s time, instead, to start the merry-go-round again. Yep, warm up the bus from Toledo, because somehow we have to figure out a formula. Because, the guys on the big club that have appeared prior to the ninth inning, haven’t been real pretty.
Everything else on this team looks dynamite. We have discussed all their strengths. But the weakness, again, is the bullpen, and it will be the area receiving a new addition and soon, at least from Toledo. The Nathan news kind of forces the issue even more.
We are loaded with lefties, but I think one of our best is still in Toledo. It’s time for Kyle Ryan to hop on that bus and see if he can make an impact in an area that once again is very unsettled.
Just as I started writing this, I discovered Joe Nathan left his rehab game in pain which will change my answer somewhat. After initially leaning towards a new starting pitcher, I will now simply say “pitcher” – either starter or reliever.
My rationale starts with JV, who was technically supposed to come off the DL on April 12th. Combined with the cancelled last two throwing sessions and the Tigers attempt to hide recent medical news, it doesn’t look promising that we’ll see him until late May at the very earliest. He hasn’t pitched since March 29th and the Tigers have stated they are going to bring him back very slowly. As confirmation, it was casually announced that Lobstein will be pitching again on Sunday without any mention of JV.
Lobstein, meanwhile, is a good young pitcher, but not fully hatched yet and certainly not ready to take over the duties of a rotation pitcher for a full year. He’s a short-term solution. The Tigers need someone else – someone with experience.
Obviously, trades early in the season are challenging. Teams have yet to know if they will be in contention and thus tend to hang onto players until July. There are a few rumors of pitchers being available, including the Nats who are seen to have a surplus. Ironically, one of the best solutions, and more readily available, will be a pitcher bordering on “rental” – someone who will reach free agency at the end of the year.
To make this trade happen, Dixon Machado just may be the bait. He only plays shortshop and given Iggy’s talent, he is expendable. Iglesias will remain the shortshop until 2019 when his agent, Scott Boras, will snatch him away. Both Romine and Perez play multiple positions so expect them to stay, even with their weak bats. Dixon would bring a high price as good shortshops are in very short supply – something we know all too well.
It is conceivable that the Tigers will promote another reliever until it is known if and when Nathan returns this year. But trading for a starter will allow them to put Lobstein in the bullpen, where he is better suited – and needed.