It’s official. The Tigers have uttered the “r” word. Rebuild.
This means that the off-season will be more calm. The annual holiday presents in the form of splashy signings are no more. And trades will do an abrupt about-face with known players leaving and strangers replacing them.
As the team transitions from a high payroll to one much lower, as the veterans are replaced by the fresh-faced, as the manager once again transitions back to the traditional veteran, how do we follow along and translate the activities of the next 3 months?
If you’ve been reading my blogs for awhile, you know that they are often filled with questions, and not answers. Today is no different. As things start to heat up with the GMs Meeting this week, there are a number of issues I really want to understand to a greater extent. I’ve got 10 to start with…
1. Al Avila has said how difficult it has been to pare down the 40-man roster in order to protect some top prospects. Yet after 4 years of unimpressive results, several instances of fighting, repeated poor work ethic and bad relationships with his teammates, Bruce Rondon has survived 3 roster cuts so far. Is it only his velocity that keeps him hanging on?
2. Victor Martinez has yet to receive medical clearance to resume baseball preparation and activities. About to turn 39 and reported to have become increasingly problematic in the clubhouse, will the Tigers prioritize the money owed over replacing him with someone younger and with a future coupled with the ability to protect one more prospect on the roster?
3. Only today have the Tigers broached the subject of Miggy and his bad back after 7 weeks of post-season silence. Despite Avila’s reassurances that Miggy is back on track with a new workout program, Cabrera’s social media feeds do not document any of this as they have routinely and extensively in past years. In fact, recent pictures show Miggy looking noticeably heavier. Will the Tigers learn from past mistakes and responsibly monitor the health, weight and progress of their most expensive investment?
4. Speaking of Miggy, his closest friends – Anibal Sanchez and Omar Vizquel – are now gone. Other than Iggy, Machado, and VMart, there are no other established Latino players on the team. Conceivably, 2 of these 3 may be gone by Opening Day. How well will Cabrera adapt to this significant change along with the ever-dwindling number of veteran players?
5. No reason or qualifications were given re the hiring of Ramon Santiago, other than his playing connection to the Tigers. He has no coaching experience and as the first base coach, he will be in charge of baserunning despite not being known as fast or smart about the running game. Is he simply a similar version of Omar Vizquel who also lacked the credentials?
6. Theo Epstein has said it is imperative to get everyone within an organization on the same page re strategies – especially analytics. Those running, managing and coaching the Tigers are varied in terms of their beliefs in how this element improves the game. Who’s job will it be to make sure everyone gets on board?
7. The Cubs fired both their hitting and pitching coaches who had solid reputations of working extremely well with the young players. Why did the Tigers hire only Chris Bosio and not John Mallee, especially given McClendon’s less-than-impressive track record last year?
8. Al Avila has been trying to trade Ian Kinsler for over a year now and despite 2 teams claiming him off of waivers last year, pulled him back. Granted, Ian is coming off a weak year, but will Avila wait too long to pull the trigger and risk losing him to free agency and thus not obtaining any prospects at all in exchange?
9. With Justin Verlander gone, and Miggy’s personal life, combined with his worst season to date, once again taking a huge negative hit, the Tigers are in serious need of a fresh franchise face. Will Michael Fulmer be able to assume that role? If not, are there any other viable candidates?
10. Al Avila has said that the days of big payroll are over and that the Tigers will become “lean and mean” going forward. Just how lean does he mean?
Lots of questions. Let’s hope we see some encouraging answers by Opening Day.
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