With the excitement of the off-season just beginning to heat up, fans of the Detroit Tigers get to start thinking about the team getting back to the playoffs. It appears that general manager Al Avila is ready to make his mark and the fans are ready to see what he plans to do. Even though he has yet to make a trade or hire a free agent, there are several things that should happen between now and March.
The veterans need to get healthy.
For the Tigers, 2015 could be called the “Season of Injuries.” Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez were all down for the count for some of the season. These four men are vital to the team’s success and having any combination out at any given time hurts the team on the field and at the plate. Hopefully, they are all on the mend and working out appropriate to stay in fighting shape once spring training rolls around.
Jul 3, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (19) walks off the field after the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Work on the weaknesses. There are handful of young players who have obvious weaknesses that they need to develop. For example, James McCann needs to work on hitting right-handed pitchers and Anthony Gose needs to work on hitting left-handed pitchers. Both young players need to develop more plate control. If Bryan Holaday is going to backup McCann at catcher, he needs to work on his accuracy on the throws to second. Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias both need to work on making the basic plays at third and short.
Figure out the team’s identity. In the past few seasons, the team has been built on the powerful bat of Miguel Cabrera. The team has not been known for speed or small ball. With the young players and the speed of players like Ian Kinsler, Anthony Gose, and Jose Iglesias, it might be time to redefine the priority of the team. Will they be a team that is aggressive at the plate and try to get on base no matter what? Or, will they swing for the fences? Maybe, they will be the team that keeps us surprised?
Get a pair of starting pitchers.
As fans, we know it will happen. We just don’t know who the pair will be. Most doubt that Ilitch will fork over the $100+ million that David Price or Zack Greinke will command. Maybe Samardzija, Zimmerman, or Kazmir will be selected.
Mar 27, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) throws in the first inning during a spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Stock the bullpen. The ability to throw a ball really fast in a tight space seemed to be a challenge for many of the men who filled the bullpen in Detroit. Along with the goal of filling to starting pitching spots, Al Avila needs to find men who can consistently get strikes and finish a game without falling apart. Those men could be Joakim Soria, Darren O’Day, or Tony Sipp…or someone completely off of the radar.
Get to know the newest additions. These include the new pitching coach, Rich Dubee and the front office analysts. Rich Dubee brings 38 years of experience, many of them with the Philadelphia Phillies. He enjoys coaching pitchers to hit the inside of the plate with aggression. The Tigers have also decided to beef up their analytics department, hiring a number of “numbers guys” to fill the front office. The newest hire is from Apple Computers.
Build the young guys. When David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and Joakim Soria left at the trade deadline and Jose Iglesias was injured at the end of the season, the Tigers were able to showcase some of their minor league stars. In most cases they performed as expected and with room for improvement. Steven Moya, Tyler Collins, and Dixon Machado should spend the offseason tightening up their defense and building their discipline at the plate. While they are busy building the young guys, the Detroit Tigers also need to fill several position in the minor league system including a new pitching coach and manager in Toledo.