By: Kurt Snyder & Holly Horning
What’s an off-season without predictions? Everybody has them and so do we. But it’s early guys. The World Series has just begun and it’s a long way off until pitchers and catchers report in February.
So we have 3 predictions each to share, but don’t hold us to just 3, because there may be more at some point. These are just 3 to wet your whistle, from each of our writers.
Let’s see what predictions the kids at Totally Tigers have in store…
1. That infield seems set doesn’t it? Well, no it isn’t. Someone is going to go.
The Tigers must resist even considering using any of their rookie pitchers they traded for as pieces for more deals this off-season.
Having said that, they must look to their current lineup for pieces. There are 3 guys in the infield who would make good trade bait, but only one that I would be willing to deal in the off-season.
Nick Castellanos could bring the Tigers pitching or he could bring the Tigers outfield help. Look for the Tigers to turn some heads by shipping out their 3rd baseman. Don’t worry, Ben Zobrist will do just fine at third, or short, or second, or left field or …
2. Having Yoenis Cespedes in left field was pure joy this season. Don’t expect him back but expect an acquisition of good talent for left field.
Standing pat in left field is not an option. Improving the talent in the outfield is imperative. Offensive punch and maybe a little speed are still sorely needed.
We got spoiled with Cespedes, but his career year has priced us out of the market. Most of that Tiger money has to go towards that starting rotation and bullpen.
But there are players on the market who can be that ‘below the radar’ improvement and Gerardo Parra is a nice fit as a more productive leadoff hitter.
3. Al Avila promised to address the bullpen, and he had better. But don’t expect all new faces; one may be an old one.
Don’t worry, I won’t lobby to bring back Joba Chamberlain. In fact I won’t lobby to bring back anyone. But what I predict is something else altogether.
The Tigers need a lot of help in the pen and they need depth at the back-end especially.
As bad as it was, there were signs of hope from the pen last season and Drew Verhagen and Alex Wilson will be candidates for late inning duty in 2016.
But the Tigers need more and expect them to reach out to Joakim Soria to make a return to the Tiger pen where he was so effective; not necessarily as a closer, but certainly part of a bridge to the 9th.
1. There will be no flashy, expensive contracts with marquee players signed.
Forget David Price and Yoenis Cespedes. The Tigers won’t spend that much, won’t go over the luxury tax and won’t put 3/4th of their total payroll into only 6 players. After the Dodgers, the Tigers have the biggest payroll obligations in MLB through 2024 – even ahead of the Yankees – and that’s a huge concern.
Expect them to try to sign more of the early-career Max Scherzers and Doug Fisters. Maybe even a solid starter, a little older, who is expecting a shorter contract, until the newest pitchers obtained in July develop. I expect Al will be leaning heavily on the analytics department to find some under-the-radar guys.
2. Someone currently on the 25 man roster will get traded.
With the top priority need of starting pitching, how will the Tigers come up with that chunk of change to get at least one of them? An increase in payroll, if done, will be limited and the farm system is tapped. So what other currency is there? Current players.
Over the past 3 years, approximately half the roster has turned over and this year should be no different. The most likely candidates to leave, other than relievers, are infielders. The buildup of SSs who only play that position and others who play 2B and SS and now trying out third base may indicate that either Castellanos or Iggy may be used as trade bait.
3. Al Avila will change the strategy used to build the bullpen.
Gone will be the ageing, reclamation projects with membership in the Tommy John Club. Dave’s formula has never worked so expect Al will change the age, the experience and the salaries of those who sit in the bullpen.
The top relievers in the game are young and making minimum salary. Al most likely will bring back some of the guys like Wilson, promote others from the farm and trade some, like Al Al, to get the missing pieces. But he’s not going to go out and get an expensive proven closer – unless he nails down a solid starting rotation first.