Detroit Tigers: Reboot success may not be assured


Since the Detroit Tigers decided to “reboot” five weeks ago, after it was deemed infeasible that the team was a legitimate contender, it has been a highly accepted fact that the team would bounce back nicely next year, vaunt back into the American League’s elite teams, compete for a division title and try once again for that ever-elusive World Series championship.

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Is it as cut and dry as this? As if the Tigers can simply push a video game-like reset button and start fresh for the 2016 season.

Even after Dave Dombrowski was sent packing, the company line remained the same. The team’s mission has not changed, there will be no reduction in payroll and the world should know that the Detroit Tigers are in it to win it.

That’s music to the ears of fans. You want your ownership and team leaders to be working toward this goal. Too many teams go into seasons–and the off seasons before those seasons–with very little hope for success (see pre-2006 Detroit Tigers for further proof).

The assumption here is that the team would be a desired spot for free agents to land. It is truly a deep free agent class in 2016, and many of us have started our free agent shopping list as the Tigers have swooned over the past month.

Still, no one should count their chickens before they are hatched. Most fans acknowledge that David Price was not happy here, and is much more comfortable in Toronto for whatever reason. Most fans believed he was long gone even if he had stayed the entire 2015 season in Detroit. After all, if the Tigers couldn’t reel in Max Scherzer, who had spent five years here and became a superstar in Detroit, they certainly had less chance of signing Price who had made his name elsewhere.

So what does this say for signing other superstars? Would they be similarly unhappy here?

When Yoenis Cespedes was sent away on July 31, many thought it was just a matter of time before he’d be reunited with the Tigers. Then he said some not so positive things about being traded. Still you had to imagine those were the words of a competitor, who wanted to finish what he started. Now Cespedes is having a career-stretch and becoming BFFs with Jerry Seinfeld.

Chances to sign Yo? Very much diminished since we last checked in.

We don’t need to tell you that this 2015 Detroit Tigers, in its current incarnation, would not fare well in 2016. This team is so full of holes, partially because of the July 31 trades, partially because of a lack of depth and partially because they were not that good to begin with. What this means is that there is a lot of work to be done to get back to their winning ways.

Detroit needs a #1 starter like Price, Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto. They need a middle rotation guy like a Doug Fister (maybe not Fister himself because of his struggles this year, but a guy of his ilk), middle relief options, a setup man and closer.

Of course you can target these guys and make a pitch for them to come here, but it’s not like the Tigers will be the only ones vying for the services of these All-Stars. After a tough year that saw the team regress, a manager in turmoil, a general manager fired, a dugout fight between players, late season trades, and a possible last place finish, is this the desired landing spot it once was?

Also, a lot of logistics need to be worked out before a free agent wishlist is compiled.

The bullpen might be able to be crafted a bit around Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy, with Bruce Rondon as the wild-card (is he finally ready to be the closer). If Cespedes is indeed not coming back, how do you replace him? Do you plug in Steven Moya, the franchise’s #1 prospect, and hope he’s ready to take that next step after a tough year in AAA? Is Tyler Collins stick big enough to be a regular?

Even if the Tigers grab some of the best free agents on the market, Al Avila makes some shrew trades, and they grab a new manager that brings a renewed vigor and passion from the players, that hardly assures a 2016 playoff appearance.

In preseason prognostications, many expected the Tigers, Indians and White Sox to compete for the AL Central title. Some deemed the Royals as taking a step back and the Twins were never in the conversation. But look at the standings.

The three teams with the most expectations have been at the bottom of the division most of the year while the “also-rans” have excelled, and the Royals have pretty much had the division in hand since August 1.

These teams are not going anywhere. The days of the AL Central being a pushover for Detroit are over. The Royals are a power for at least the next five years, the Twins are rising, and the White Sox and Indians will eventually live up to expectations.

So while we predict and hope that the Detroit Tigers will be a force again in 2016 after their “reboot” is accomplished, it’s far from a safe bet.

I firmly expect the Tigers to be very active this off season in free agency and trades and they will get better in 2016. But a lot of things are out of their control, and in baseball, nothing is a certainty.

Next: The Castellanos turnaround