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.