By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
A little over 2 days into the Winter Meetings, the Tigers have acquired 2 relief pitchers, now totaling 7 additions to the roster for 2016.
We will save our comments on the trade for lefty Justin Wilson for another day as our deadline for Thursday’s post had passed prior to the transaction.
It tells you a little something about how quickly things have come together as we fight to keep up with Al Avila’s breakneck pace.
These new additions are sure to make an impact, and the Tigers are certainly a better team than they were in October. So let’s line up the chess pieces and talk about how the team will benefit.
With the 6 (and now 7) new acquisitions, which Tigers stand to benefit most and which ones the least?
Holly – Given that 4 of the 6 newest Tigers are pitchers, almost all of those who will benefit the most are also pitchers. With the acquisition of an 8th inning guy and a closer, let’s include all the starting pitchers in this category who finally have something to be thankful for this holiday season.
Now that it appears the Tigers have two new starting pitchers, Daniel Norris is as close to 100% as you can get to now be added to that starting rotation.
Pelfrey, the new guy, will finally benefit by having both Iggy and Ian behind him to offer stellar defense. In his past years, the defense up the middle hasn’t been strong. This is especially significant given that he has morphed more into a ground ball pitcher.
And if the Tigers don’t trade for any more outfielders, Tyler Collins should find himself joining JD, Gose and Maybin. He’s got some power and also provides that scarce left-handed bat.
As for those players who may not be thrilled with the newest members of the team, Bryan Holaday is at the top of the list. Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter, experienced veteran and plays catcher, first base and DH. He offers more flexibility and is a perfect pairing and teacher for young McCann. Given the need for secondary catchers this off-season, expect Bryan to be traded especially as he is out of options and wouldn’t clear waivers.
Anthony Gose may find less playing time with the addition of Maybin. That is, if he’s not traded in order for the Tigers to acquire another outfielder.
Will Zimmermann be a #2 or #3 starter? That’s what Anibal is asking and he’ll feel the pressure this coming year. As will Kyle Lobstein who may find himself in the bullpen, instead of the starting rotation again this year given the acquisition of Pelfrey and the rise of Norris.
Those in the bullpen will also feel the heat given the brooming and remaking by Avila. Rondon quickly comes to mind as one who may either not make the Opening Day roster or find his role greatly diminished by the youngsters, KRod and Lowe.
Overall, it’s the outfielders (not named JD) and relievers who will be looking over their shoulders.
Kurt – Justin Verlander, once healthy, worked his way back towards the end of the 2015 campaign and began to resemble the ace we have grown to appreciate. But the man needed help. He needed someone to push him; to challenge his spot at the head of the table. And Jordan Zimmermann is just the kind of pitcher to do that.
JV will have to continue to show he’s back and it will do him good to have a pitcher the caliber of Zimmermann to push him. I think we will see these 2 engaging in quite a bit of conversation together in the dugout in 2016. They will be good for each other.
We knew the team needed pitching and they needed a lot of it, and so far, they have acquired quite a bit. But the much maligned bullpen is finally getting addressed and should be much improved based on the pieces we have added.
A strong bullpen takes the pressure off starters. Yes, the bullpen will have to prove it is indeed better, but it sure couldn’t get worse. The starters can feel much more confident leaving the mound knowing that an improved pen has a real shot to nail down victories now. The restocking of the bullpen has been a long time coming.
Al Avila made a pledge that he wanted to take the pressure off his young pitchers and make additions that would allow them to develop without having to rush them.
So if you think about it, even the guys that don’t have definitive roles yet can make a run at making this team without any real pressure. The team has added enough pieces that we can wait on them if they are not quite ready for the “tall buildings.”
So lots of players should benefit but who doesn’t? Well, who knows how the new bullpen additions will affect Bruce Rondon. He had a tough hill to climb as it was to regain favor with his teammates and his manager.
But the Tigers have been aggressive retooling the pen and with each addition, Rondon falls another rung down the ladder.