Last off-season, David Dombrowski made his decisions quickly, re-signing both Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge to two year extensions, and going out in aggressively signing free agents Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit to substantial contracts. He also re-signed Magglio Ordonez, and while his extensions and the re-signing of Ordonez were a mixed bag of success, nobody can dispute the effect Benoit and Martinez had on the 2011 squad.
It begs the question…..
How is David Dombrowski going to improve the team for 2012?
In an article I posted just a few days ago, I touched on a few of the areas in which the Tigers could be looking to improve. I don’t want to get into specific names in this article, but rather the method in which the Tigers are going to be able to acquire players to help them get a step further to the World Series next season. Last year, David Dombrowski successfully used free agency to his advantage. Two years ago, the Tigers dealt both Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson to obtain four players; Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson, Phil Coke, and Daniel Schlereth.
The cop out answer of course to the above question is to say that the Tigers are going to use a combination of both free agency and trading, and that is probably true to some extent. However, the 2011-12 free agency pool is disturbingly weak. On the pitching side, C.J. Wilson of the Rangers, and ex- Tiger Edwin Jackson are two of the bigger names out there. Position wise, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, and Jimmy Rollins head the list of players, and the Tigers aren’t going to be in the market for Fielder, and likely not Reyes or Rollins either.
But do the Tigers even need to make the kind of splash that Reyes would provide?
Probably not. This is a team that made the playoffs this past season after all. I don’t believe that standing pat is the answer, but despite the multiple areas on the team that could use improvement (2nd and 3rd base the most desperate), the Tigers do play in the A.L. Central and should be able to compete as is. Nobody in the Central appears to be an imminent threat to the Tigers next season, though with some health the Twins could potentially bounce back. This means the Tigers could just make a couple of modest moves and go at it again in 2012, and they could probably do that in free agency.
Given that David Dombrowski has never been a huge dabbler in the free agent market, and while the Tigers have some money coming off the books, I still get the feeling there is going to be some players on the move in the trade market. Why? Dombrowski is good at it, and he knows that staying stagnant is rarely the best solution in the world of baseball. I don’t think he wants to idly stand by and watch other teams in the division make attempts to get better. Also, he created some flexibility on his roster by making the Doug Fister deal at the trade deadline this season.
The old baseball axiom you can never have enough pitching is generally true, but with the free agent market looking thin, dealing from a relative strength because of a little depth is one way the Tigers could find a long term 2nd baseman. There is no one in the minor league pipeline at 2nd base that looks ready to take over at least for 3 years, and maybe not at all. Moving one of our starters could net the Tigers a young, cheap, 2nd base option, that could hopefully hit at the top of the order.
I’m not saying that Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer is definitely on the move, I am just saying be prepared for that possibility Tigers fans. Or, maybe the Tigers continue to deal from a relatively thin minor league system?
Another factor in the direction the Tigers could go this off-season is aging owner Mike Ilitch. Ilitch has already mentioned that he expects the Tigers to be in play for a big bat, as he is urgently searching for a World Series title. Given that an owner’s wishes could trump the direction that Dave Dombrowski wants to go, it might tie his hands a little in the trade market.
This undoubtedly is going to be an interesting off-season. The Tigers are a good team, but could stand to add a little more talent to this roster. That may be true of every team, but with the Tigers being so close, it will be interesting to see how Dombrowski and company go about doing it.