Are the Detroit Tigers Content with Using a Rookie as a Fifth Starter?

Heading into the offseason, the Tigers had some needs.  It seems we’re getting an idea of how the Tigers are addressing each need, except that of the final rotation spot.

This offseason the bullpen was addressed with the outstanding addition of Octavio Dotel.  Backup catcher was addressed, in theory, with the re-signing of Gerald Laird.  I’m guessing, the left field spot will go to Delmon Young unless the Tigers can outbid a host of other suitors for Cuban export Yoennis Cespedes.  While third base and second base appeared to be major areas of need, it seems Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland aren’t nearly as concerned with those two positions.  Resigning Ramon Santiago all but ensures a second base platoon with Ryan Raburn.  At third base, the team may be counting on prospect Nick Castellanos sooner, rather than later, and instead will keep the spot open in the near future.  Baring a surprising move, they’ll  again rely on Brandon Inge and Don Kelly to hold down the position in 2012.

That leaves the final starter as the only question mark.  By getting in the mix of Mark Buerhle early, the Tigers appeared to be making a starter their biggest priority.  However, the team has cooled lately.  They bowed out of the Buerhle sweepstakes early, were never involved in the outrageous demands by CJ Wilson, haven’t pursued former Pirate Paul Maholm and rightfully balked as the asking price for former A’s starter Gio Gonzalez.  It would appear, that in a cost/benefit analysis of the situation, the Tigers believe they have better prospects internally or they’re still, quietly, pursuing other options.

So while the offseason is taking shape, no doubt unfavorably for many, it seems the Tigers like where they are right now.  They’re defending AL Central Champs, with a solid lineup, strong bullpen and excellent top of their rotation.  They could make a move for a verteran starter before Spring Training (like they did with Brad Penny last year) but they just as well could be content with handing over a rotation spot to top prospect Jacob Turner (although he’d make it an all righty rotation), the ascending Drew Smyly, erratic Andrew Oliver or even a return for Duane Below.  The next couple months will tell us if the Tigers believe any of those prospects are to being ready to contribute or if it’s time for another rent-a-starter.

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Tags: Andy Oliver Brandon Inge Dave Dombrowski Detriot Tigers Detroit Tigers Don Kelly Jacob Turner Jim Leyland Ramon Santiago Ryan Raburn

  • valordesign

    It would be very aggressive (not unusual for the Tigers) but I actually wouldn’t mind them bringing Smyly up, as he seems to have the least to iron out before heading up and is the sought after left-handed option for the rotation.

    However, with most all of the pitching prospects still seemingly a year away from making the jump I think the best solution is to sign a veteren to a one year contract. The veteran FA would have a good upside but you would get him cheaper because of having questionable health. I thought Erik Bedard would’ve been perfect before he signed with Pittsburg (yet another move I was left scratching my head at when the Tigers stood flat footed this offseason) but I still think the Tigers should be giving Oswalt a long and hard look. That way, you’re buying on the low, and if something happens you have a slew of prospects waiting to take their place.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @valordesignto me, its either Oswalt, trade or fill the spot from within.

      • valordesign

        @MCBjohnverburg Without seeing spring training performances, who would you put as the front runner for filling the fifth spot?

        Also, I have to get this question off my chest. Unrelated, but its been bouncing around in my head. Lets say the Tigers lose the Cespedes sweepstakes to the Marlins, which I view as slightly favored. Do you think that would make Bonificio expendable with a 4 outfielder situation, and if so, what would would it take from the Tigers end to land him. The Marlins are looking for starting pitching, but the Tigers would only be able to spare prospects. I’m sure he would be a tantalizing pick up for DD with his ability to play 2nd, 3rd and center, but biggest of all provide a more dependable lead off. It seems as if Bonificio could possibly be a better asset than Cespedes to the Tigers.

        • MCBjohnverburg

          @valordesignRight now to me, it’s Duane Below. He has shown he can get outs at the major league level even though he is pretty pedestrian. I would prefer a lefty, and to allow Turner a little more time. I don’t see Oliver taking hold, and same for Crosby. Could be a duel between Smyly and Below with no reason to rush Smyly. You could start him in AA and allow Below first shot, then you have a multitude of guys you can try.

        • MCBjohnverburg


          As for Bonifacio, I like him, but I would be cautious in giving up too much for him. I think a guy like Oliver would be a pretty fair trade, along with a lower level minor league arm or something. But wouldn’t go much more than that. If I remember from researching him, 3rd base and LF were his best spots, though I like the versatility.

        • woodnick

          @MCBjohnverburg@valordesign John, I agree with this 100%, but I’d like to add that I’d let Wilk compete with Below for that 5th spot out of ST while starting Turner in AA with Smyly to ease them into the promotions.

  • jgorosh

    Oswalt would be a nice fit. I think that everything is going to fall into place after the Cespedes situation is over.

  • ChrisHannum

    Adam Wilk!

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