Oct 12, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcherAl Alburquerque
(62) pitches during the seventh inning in game one of the American League Championship Series baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The injuries of the Detroit Tigers are well known. Andy Dirks is out until around the end of June after his back surgery. Jose Iglesias will most likely miss the entire season with stress fractures in both of his shins. Bruce Rondon is having Tommy John surgery and will miss the season on the same elbow that gave him troubles last year.
So how will the Tigers replace all of these players so they can win the division and make a postseason run? I would be surprised if the Tigers went out and made a big splash like Stephen Drew to fill these roles; the moves will have to be minor moves (like acquiring Andrew Romine from the Los Angeles Angels for Jose Alvarez), a surprising trade or an in house replacement.
The Tigers planned on platooning Dirks with Rajai Davis in left field. Davis will now get a lot of the playing time, unless the Tigers want to go with a straight righty-lefty split platoon. Kelly should remain the 5th outfielder. Carrera was one of the 8 cuts the Tigers made on Sunday, so he won’t be on the roster. I thought he was the leader in the clubhouse, but now that seems to be Tyler Collins if someone is going to make the team in house.
If the Tigers were going to go out of the organization for a left fielder, the free agent options include Juan Pierre, Vernon Wells, Lance Nix, and Andres Torres. If the Tigers signed any of these players and planned on starting them, the fan base may just implode. The main trade option is Nate Schierholtz from the Chicago Cubs, and I honestly don’t know what the Tigers would have to give up to get him.
The guy who could be a wild card is Grady Sizemore. Sizemore has had a solid Spring Training with the Boston Red Sox, but he may still end up getting cut. If Sizemore gets cut, I would go and get him in a heartbeat, because he is a better option than any of the free agent options, Nate Schierholtz, or the in house options. On the bright side, if you are worried about injuries with Sizemore, Dirks would probably get back about the same time Sizemore would get hurt again.
The Tigers already filled this role with the trade of Jose Alvarez for Andrew Romine. Romine is a shortstop who has a career .250/.393/.270 split in 74 games with the Angels of 4 years. Last season in 47 games, he had a .259/.308/.287 split. Defensively, Romine is an average player who can catch the ball. Romine is a switch hitter, but last year he temporarily gave up hitting from the right side and only hit as a left handed batter. This year, he should be back to hitting from both sides of the plate. Other than that, no one really knows all that much.
Romine will split time with Eugenio Suarez, Hernan Perez, or Danny Worth. Worth probably won’t make the team, and the biggest camp competition is between Perez and Suarez to see who will win the infield spot and see who will split time with Romine during the season, and Suarez was just cut from the team on Sunday which means Perez is the leader in the clubhouse. The Tigers don’t want to spend the money on Stephen Drew, and Drew wants a multi-year deal which the Tigers are unlikely to give him because Jose Iglesias is the shortstop of the future for the Tigers. Rumors have surfaced that Drew will take a 1-year $14 million deal. I still would not make the deal, because $14 million is too much money and Drew is not worth the draft pick to me.
The Tigers traded Steve Lombardozzi to the Orioles for shortstop for Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez will now split time with Romine at short. Gonzalez has a career .246/.290/.396 batter. He is looked at as a solid glove in the field, but as his splits show, he isn’t much to write home about at the plate. His lefty to righty splits are close to each other, but I would guess that Gonzalez will play more against LHP and Romine will play against RHP.
The Bruce Rondon injury is crippling to the bullpen. Joe Nathan was acquired to be the closer in the offseason, but if the bullpen can’t get games to the 9th, Nathan won’t be able to pitch. Rondon was set to be the 8th inning man and Tigers fans had high hopes for him this season.
Replacements in the bullpen most likely will come from in house. Ian Krol’s role now increases to the Drew Smyly role of last year even more so. Joba Chamberlain will now have his role increase from a 7th inning righty to set-up man on some nights. Evan Reed and Luke Putkonen will probably both make the team now without Rondon. Al Albuquerque will also be given a chance at significant late inning chances.
If the Tigers were to go to the free agent market to get relief help, there are still a few options available. Frank Francisco, Rafael Betancourt, Kevin Gregg, Ryan Madson, and Joel Hanrahan (who I have wanted since November). Personally, I feel that Madson and Hanrahan are the two best options, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Tigers make a move.
Summary: I like Davis and Kelly/Carrera for the Tigers in left, but if Sizemore gets cut in Boston, I’d jump on him in a heartbeat. At short, I think it is going to be Romine and Perez. In the bullpen, Chamberlain and Albuquerque are going to get increased roles, and I’d like for the Tigers to sign Madson or Hanrahan to a cheap deal.