On the heels of an unbelievable play-in game to determine who got to chase the World Series title, the Detroit Tigers are left wondering what they have to do next to make it back to the postseason.
The Tigers were considered a vaunted team going into 2008, and we all know what happened. 2009 saw a greater emphasis on pitching and defense, and they improved as a result. Obviously, it wasn’t good enough. What are their three biggest weaknesses heading into the offseason? What do they have to address to get into the October dance?
ACQUIRE A HITTER
Easier said than done. Detroit finished 2009 with a .747 OPS, ranking 16th in the majors (10th in the AL, which is awful). Their 738 runs scored also ranked 16th. They’ve got to boost this number up without compromising their increased emphasis on defense. Where could they improve? Some names they could replace: Placido Polanco (picture, left), Adam Everett, Gerald Laird, Brandon Inge, Carlos Guillen (picture, right), Aubrey Huff.
FIND A NEW CLOSER
Fernando Rodney had by all accounts a solid season. The problem is, he was the closer. The number one guy in the bullpen. And this number one guy finished with a 4.40 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and 4.14 FIP. You can’t have these numbers and expect to go deep into the postseason.
Fortunately, the Tigers have about $43 million coming off the books this offseason (pre-arbitration). If you factor in Hardy and Giambi, they’ll have around $36 million to spend. They’ve got to put a chunk of that towards a closer and slot Rodney into the eighth inning. Trust me on this, Mr. Dombrowski. Set the money aside.
SUGGESTION: Sign Mike Gonzalez. Despite being two years older than Jose Valverde, I think Gonzalez is the better buy here. He’s left-handed, throws gas like Valverde and will come at a cheaper price for what may amount to the same production.
CONTINUE THEIR AGGRESSIVE DRAFTING
A big reason Detroit got as far as they did is because of 20-year old Rick Porcello, who posted a 4.04 ERA in 30 starts. At. 20. Years. Old. This guy will be a monster, and he was drafted with the 27th pick in 2007. He dropped so low because of his signing demands. A four-year, $7.825 pact later, and he’s looking mighty fine. Would the other 26 clubs care for a do-over?
Detroit kept this trend up by selecting Jacob Turner with the ninth pick in 2009, signing for four-years and $5.5 million. Again, Turner fell due to signability concerns. Turner has tremendous upside and will help the Tigers sooner rather than later. If Detroit keeps snapping up highly-talented players who expect to be paid like one, their minor league pipeline will never dry up.