Because I don’t have much faith in the Detroit Tigers’ ability to compete this year, I thought I would take a look at their projected roster for 2012. I went to Cot’s to get the contract status of all players on the current roster as well as who would be free agents next year.
Players under contract for 2012 are Miguel Cabrera ($21M), Justin Verlander ($20M), Victor Martinez ($13M), Joaquin Benoit ($5.5M), Brandon Inge ($5.5M), Jhonny Peralta ($5.5M), and Ryan Raburn ($2.1M). Jacob Turner will likely fill a spot in the rotation, and his 2012 salary will be somewhere between $.8-2.1M depending on when he breaks in.
Rick Porcello has a $1.344M club option that, unless his arm actually explodes at some point this year, I think is a no brainer to exercise. There is also a $9M club option for Jose Valverde which I think is a lot more performance based.
The Tigers will have four players eligible for arbitration after this year: Phil Coke, Ryan Perry, Max Scherzer and Brad Thomas. Don Kelly, Ryan Perry and Clete Thomas could become arbitration eligible depending on how much time they spend in the majors this year.
That means, before any arbitration hearings or contract extensions (and assuming the team exercises their options or spends $9M on a closer) the Tigers have committed roughly $80M to 10 players.
Notable free agents after the 2011 season include Carlos Guillen ($13M), Magglio Ordonez ($10M), Brad Penny ($3M), Joel Zumaya ($1.4M), and Ramon Santiago ($1.25M).
Everyone else is pre-arbitration, and will remain in the organization.
That leaves 4 roster spots available for 2012. I’m operating under the assumption that the Tigers will keep Valverde or will spend for a top level closer. That might be a flawed thought, but I don’t think that decision is particularly critical to the rest of the decisions I am examining.
I’m also assuming anybody who won a roster spot will stay with the team. I know that isn’t a true statement, but it’s a necessary assumption in order to make any argument.
Starting positions that appear filled going into 2012 include 3B (Brandon Inge), SS (Jhonny Peralta), 1B (Miguel Cabrera), CF (Austin Jackson), CL (Jose Valverde), DH (Victor Martinez), C (Alex Avila), LF (combination of Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch).
The team seems determined not to sign someone to play 2B, so that role will likely be filled by either Scott Sizemore or Will Rhymes.
The starting rotation (as long as Phil Coke pans out as a starter) should include: Coke, Justin Verlander, Jacob Turner, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. Benoit, Villarreal, Schlereth, Valverde and Perry seem like solid candidates to pitch in relief next year.
I think the Tigers have to invest in a solid defensive second baseman who can hit next off season. This should be the number one priority. The list of free agent second basemen includes: Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Luis Castillo, Kelly Johnson and Freddy Sanchez. Shortstops who will be free agents this winter are: Jack Wilson, Santiago, Jose Reyes, Augie Ojeda, John McDonald, J.J. Hardy, and Rafael Furcal. Second basemen who have a club option for 2012 include Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill, and Brandon Phillips. Marco Scutaro and Yunieski Betancourt also have club options for 2012.
Obviously if any of the teams decline the options on Hill, Phillips or Cano that guy should be the number one priority (as long as he’s not missing a leg).
Otherwise, I think the Tigers should target Reyes, moving Peralta (if you must play him) to 2B. Reyes is making $11M this year, and I would expect him to command a number close to $12M or $13M, perhaps up to $15M per year if he stays healthy. He has not been a gold-glover in the field, but would be a great guy to have at the top of the order. When he is focused on defense, this article by Andy McCullough explores says he is pretty good out there.
There are a number of outfielders available in free agency next winter including David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, and Michael Cuddyer. I think all of them would be slightly less expensive than Magglio Ordonez and play better defense.
I would love the Tigers to go out and get a legitimate ace to help augment their rotation, but there really doesn’t appear to be one available and if there were, the team probably doesn’t have the money to go after him.
That being said, I think a veteran starter with some upside like Joel Pineiro or Brian Tallet would make a good addition to the team.
If you’re looking for an upgrade over Alex Avilla, there’s not much on the free agent market. Jason Kendall is probably the best option, but at 37, can he be an everyday catcher?
The Tigers don’t have much flexibility for the 2012 season, especially not at the most frustrating positions of 3B, SS or C. However, there will be places to improve the team. Dave Dombrowski’s contract expires after this season, and unless he or the team does something dramatic I would have a tough time endorsing either him or Jim Leyland moving forward.
I also used Yahoo! Sports and Baseball-Reference for stats and information.