Detroit Tigers’ Big Cats Start To Gather


Like most successful teams in professional sports, the Detroit Tigers have a coterie of highly paid athletes.

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But if the team is to make a serious run at the American League Central Division crown this summer, that group will have to come together quickly. With the fourth highest payroll in baseball at $174.8 million, the team has six players making at least $16 million a year. Let’s take a look at that highly compensated sextet and what they’re contributing to the cause, with their 2015 salary in parentheses.

Justin Verlander ($28 million)

Near the end of a ho-hum spring training Verlander was diagnosed with a right triceps strain. Though not initially regarded as serious, it has dragged on for two months. Lately  there’s finally been some good news for the former Cy Young/MVP award winner, as he’s been throwing simulated games and is scheduled to pitch a rehab game for AAA Toledo on Sunday.

A key question heading into spring training was whether Verlander could reclaim a measure of his former dominance.

Upon his return, any move in that direction would help the team incalculably.

Miguel Cabrera ($22 million)

What can you say about the big man that hasn’t already been said?

Very little.

He continues to rake to the tune of a .333/.436/.591 slash line, with 11 home runs and 32 RBI’s.

May the magic show continue.

David Price ($19.75 million)

The free agent-to-be has started ten games this year, carving out a 4-1 record. He’s also carrying a 2.97 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, which are generally in line with his career numbers.

Aside from porous outings against the Yankees and Royals, Price continues to excel as the mantle of staff ace fits comfortably upon his shoulders.

Anibal Sanchez ($16.8 million)

Herein lies a problem.

It’s been evident since the off-season that Sanchez would have to stay healthy and pitch near his 2013-14 form for the team to partly compensate for the loss of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

The good news is Sanchez hasn’t missed a start.

Unfortunately that’s also the bad news, as half of his ten starts can only be described as ugly.

So far his current performance (3-5, 6.12 ERA) on the bump has been abysmal. But nobody’s panicking–nor should they–as Sanchez is a pro’s pro and his arm appears healthy, which should allow him to get it back on the rails.

If for some reason that doesn’t happen, a lot of other things will have to go right for the Tigers to win the division.

Ian Kinsler ($16 million)

The workmanlike second baseman is a vital cog in the Tiger machine. He plays Gold Glove-level defense, sets up the middle of the line-up from the two-hole, and runs the bases with aplomb.

Remember how Kinsler terrorized the Tigers in the postseason when he was with Texas?

The best way to describe him as a player is he’s a guy you can win with.

Worried about that drop-off in power? Fuhgeddabouddit!

His OBP is a healthy .352 compared to last year’s .307, and that bulldog named Cabrera who follows him in the batting order must be fed.

Victor Martinez ($16 million)

There’s been no greater disappointment on the Tigers this year than designated hitter Victor Martinez. Coming off a career season (.335/.409/.565) the 36 year-old suffered a leg injury late in the offseason and got off to a slow start. His April struggles leaked well into May, especially from the left side, until he was finally placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 19th.

Hitting clean-up, Martinez was supposed to preside over a lethal middle of the order. To date his injury has prevented that from happening.

The extent and timing of his recovery will go a long way towards determining the team’s 2015 destiny.

The Bottom Line

Resourceful teams can sometimes play over the unavailability of one or maybe even two of their mega-stars.

But the Detroit Tigers have been going to war on a daily basis with three of their six top guns either injured (Verlander, Martinez) or not performing (Sanchez).

That is not a recipe for success.

Despite this, to their credit the Tigers have held their own throughout the first third of the schedule.

But the lion’s share of the season is in front of them and if the team is going to prevail in the AL Central, they’ll need all Big Cats on deck.

Or better yet, in the batter’s box and on the mound.

Next: 5 trade prospects, 6 odd moves since '06, slugfest for the ages