Oct 17, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (1) reacts after hitting a single against the Boston Red Sox during the seventh inning in game five of the American League Championship Series baseball game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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While it can be somewhat of a bummer that the holiday season is winding down, here’s something to pick you up from your hangover this morning: the MLB off-season is now unofficially half over! Pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Lakeland before you know it.
And that is a beautiful thing.
Since it is now officially 2015, let’s start taking a look at how the 2015 edition of the Detroit Tigers is shaping up and what will be the five most important storylines for the rest of the off-season, into Spring Training, on to the regular season and beyond.
We will start at #5 and wind our way to #1 in the form of a slideshow.
#5: The health of Jose Iglesias
The Detroit Tigers world was shattered last March when one-by-one they lost players that were slated to be heavily relied upon in 2014. With apologies to Bruce Rondon and Andy Dirks, easily the biggest loss last spring was that of Jose Iglesias.
This is because Iglesias was one of the lynch pins to the mantra of enhanced speed and defense for the new-look Tigers. Without Iglesias holding down shortstop, the Tigers defense was only marginally better and their speed on the bases became a non-factor by mid-season.
The loss of Jose caused the Tigers to go into a mad scramble, trading for Alex Gonzalez and Andrew Romine. Gonzalez didn’t make it out of April before he was sent packing and Romine was a borderline major leaguer for much of the season.
The team initially received a spark at shortstop in June after bringing up Eugenio Suarez, who had been playing well at Erie and Toledo. Suarez swung a hot bat at first, hitting over .300 for his first dozen big league games, including three homers in the first eight games. He wouldn’t hit another one the rest of the season and his average toppled to .279 by season’s end.
Suarez’s glove didn’t endear manager Brad Ausmus to stick with him and it was Romine who received the bulk of the shortstop work the last third of the season. This does not mean, however, that Suarez couldn’t have improved–but all of that is moot now that Eugenio was included in the package of players that went to the Reds in exchange for Alfredo Simon.
What this means is that the Tigers have A LOT of faith that Iglesias is healthy and decided that Suarez was expendable. This is a big gamble because Iglesias has been injury-prone and also missed time after coming over from the Red Sox at the 2013 trading deadline.
If Iglesias isn’t healthy by Opening Day, or can’t stay healthy for the entire season, the Tigers might be in trouble.
Follow the jump for #4