A Boring Offseason? Perhaps We Have Become Spoiled
By Sam Genson
If you pop into the rooms of the internet dedicated to Detroit Tigers discussion, you are are sure to see one word pop up with regularity right now – BORING. Fans lament this off-season as boring or dull. They see the activity of such teams as the Marlins and Angels and then look at the relatively lack of forward movement by their home club and just shrug. Complaints about the lack of activity are everywhere. The funny thing is, the lack of activity can actually be a GOOD thing…when it comes to the Tigers at least.
Now, think about the REST of the team in the AL Central, let alone MLB. It has actually been pretty quiet across most fronts with several playoff teams actually losing some of their better players.
Relatively few teams have made significant moves – especially those the Tigers are in direct competition with. In fact, Minnesota and Chicago could be worse this year than they were last year due to player departures through free agency (Minnesota) and a not exactly flaming fire-sale (Chicago). Kansas City made one trade – Melky Cabrera for Johnathan Sanchez. That could be an upgrade considering they have a stud prospect waiting to take over for Melky. The Indians re-sign Grady Sizemore who might actually play in half of his team’s games this year. The Tigers, the defending AL central Champions, upgraded their bullpen through a trade (Ryan Perry for Collin Balester) and a free agent acquisition (Octavio Dotel). In addition to that, they have been in talks about upgrading their rotation (Gio Gonzalez), improving the offense at third base (Chase Headley), and revamping the second base mess (Martin Prado). Let us not forget that the Tigers continue to be heavily rumored as a likely destination for Cuban sensation Yoennis Cespedes who could/would provide both the Tigers with a solid left-fielder for several years.
Perhaps fans have become spoiled by the recent off-season pace setting the Tigers front office has undertaken. Shortly after the 2006 season, the Tigers traded away prospects to acquire Gary Sheffield. In 2007, they blew up the Winter Meetings by trading for Miguel Cabrera. Essentially the day the off-season started in 2008 they traded for Edgar Renteria (lest we forget that gamble). In 2009 they once again made the biggest news of the Winter Meetings by dealing away one of the faces of their franchise in Curtis Granderson in return for 3 pitchers and a great defensive CF…then they went out and signed the best closer on the market in Jose Valverde. By the time the 2010 off-season rolled around everyone knew exactly what they were going to do…and they just went ahead and marked it off the list by quickly signing Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez. That is a pretty impressive streak of decisive action by the Dombrowksi & Co.
Unlike previous years, the big name Free Agents don’t match up with the Tigers’ needs. Since they have Cabrera and Martinez, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols were non-entities. They were not looking to pay free agent dollars to the top starting pitchers in a weak market. While Jose Reyes made sense on some level, the Tigers have an All-Star at SS already and Reyes has proven to be VERY fragile and will likely not age well. Their quote for weirdness in the 9th inning is more than maxed out by Jose Valverde (and his dance) so they did not need to invest in Jonathan Papelbon (and that stupid scowl/frown/sucking through an imaginary straw thing he does). Could Aramis Ramirez have been a fit – perhaps, but his defense is declining and the Tigers would like to make an effort to at least appear interested in fielding the ball. Going into Free Agency, you could clearly see the smart money was on the Tigers standing pat and not making the big splashes that we have grown accustomed to seeing.
However, we need to remember that they also have a history of waiting out the market and making late moves – Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, and Kyle Farnsworth (the first time) just to name a few. It is almost a certainly that at least one of the problems areas is addressed before Spring Training and at least one more is fulled by July 31st (injuries pending of course). While Tigers fan may complain about 3B or 2B, if one of those two positions is taken care of, along with the 5th Starter role, then we are really just being greedy.
With all of the Tigers rumors swirling around it is obvious that they are interested in making a move but the market just isn’t right for them at this time. So, while we might be wringing our hands right now about the need for another starting pitcher, or the various platoons that make up the infield, remember that this is STILL the team that won the AL Central going away AND they get a healthy Brennan Boesch back. Things actually look pretty good for the Detroit Tigers right now.