The off-season started with a bang. The Tigers went out and got their man in Torii Hunter to improve the outfield defense and offense. Personally, I was pretty happy with that. But while the Tigers probably don’t have to do much this off-season to win the Central in 2013, what they have been doing since the Torii Hunter signing seems a bit odd. There has been a string of minor moves that seem to have no point or direction.
Let’s start with the Tigers foray into the Rule 5 draft.
September 30, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels right fielder Torii Hunter (48) singles in a run against the Texas Rangers in the first inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
Before the Rule 5 draft occurred at the end of the winter meetings, David Dombrowski did indicate there was some interest in a couple of players in that draft. Apparently, those players were Jeff Kobernus and Kyle Lobstein. The Tigers made trades to acquire both. While I don’t have anything against the Tigers picking up a guy in the Rule 5, two seems a bit much, especially for a team that has designs on winning a World Series. The Tigers, especially with Jim Leyland, like to use their whole roster, and I’m not sure they can afford to have two players that are completely green to the big leagues on their roster. Yeah, it just cost the Tigers money and Justin Henry, but ultimately, what is the point?
The Lobstein pick up is especially curious at this point. The Tigers are going to have a competition for a second lefty in the pen, and Lobstein will likely get a chance to compete for that. According to reports today, the Tigers have been talking to the Seattle Mariners about Brennan Boesch for a left-handed reliever. If the Tigers are still looking to acquire a left-handed reliever to go with Phil Coke, it seems that makes the Lobstein move even more pointless. I would imagine that Duane Below and Darin Downs have the advantage in that contest right now.
The left-handed bullpen question leads into another curious move by the Tigers this off-season. The trade of Andrew Oliver for Ramon Cabrera. The Tigers obviously like Cabrera’s potential to hit, however, as long as Alex Avila is a Tiger, he is going to be relegated to a backup spot. Defense isn’t his strong suit, though he should be average there with the exception of throwing. Acquiring Cabrera for a hard throwing lefty reliever becomes even more curious when you consider the recent drafting of James McCann, Bryan Holaday, and Curt Casali. All guys have potential as backups, and all are rather strong defensively, with Holaday probably being as ready as he will ever be to assume that role.
Speaking of catching, that moves me onto the next curious move here. The very recent signing of Brayan Pena. Pena isn’t a terrible backup by any means, but he is essentially a replacement level player, and nothing the Tigers probably couldn’t have had in house with Holaday. He is probably a better hitter, but again, as a backup, the main concern is being a defender first. That happens to be the weaker part of Pena’s game. As part of the move to add Pena to the roster, the Tigers designated Matt Hoffman for assignment. Hoffman of course is a lefty reliever, who actually has better stuff than Lobstein. As a starter, Lobstein is a better option than Hoffman, but he doesn’t quite have the stuff Hoffman does in a bullpen role.
Since the Torii Hunter signing though, the Tigers moves seem to lack design, and don’t really seem to help the club in any sort of fashion.
There is obviously still a long way to go in the off-season. The Tigers are likely still in play on Anibal Sanchez, and we could potentially see a couple of more minor trades from them yet. Mike Ilitch always seems to have something up his sleeve, and the Tigers are in general really quiet about their inquiries. I mean, we have recently found out that the Tigers were in on James Shields before the Royals.
It will be fun to see who else the Tigers could be in on.