The Detroit Tigers head into Spring Training with a significantly improved roster as the team sets its sights on a return to the postseason.
Changes were coming for the Detroit Tigers after a hugely disappointing 2015 season that saw the team finish in the American League Central cellar with a 74-87 record. This was especially brutal after a run of four straight division titles.
While the Tigers received a protected, top-10 draft pick for their struggles, new additions were desperately needed. What’s more, the team needed to clean house with ineffective players.
In total, Detroit lost nine players who played a significant role last season. The team proceeded to add nine players who will play vital roles this coming season.
The bullpen was one of the main areas where change was needed, so naturally a reliever was one of the first incumbent players to go. Ian Krol and his 5.79 ERA was shipped to the Atlanta Braves in a deal for center fielder Cameron Maybin. Other bullpen pieces like Al Alburquerque (4.21 ERA), Tom Gorzelanny (5.95 ERA) and Neftali Feliz (7.62 ERA) were let go, as were starters Alfredo Simon (5.05 ERA) and Kyle Lobstein (5.94 ERA). Position players Alex Avila (.191 batting average and a .287 slugging percentage), Jefry Marte (.284 on-base percentage) and Rajai Davis (.258 batting average) departed via free agency and trade to complete the exodus.
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All told, those players posted a cumulative -3.0 WAR during the 2015 season. The number would have been much lower if it were not for Davis’ 1.6 WAR. He and Alburquerque were the only two of the nine to post a positive WAR.
Now to the additions.
Justin Wilson, Mark Lowe and Francisco Rodriguez arrived to bring credibility to a bullpen that was extremely lacking it, while Mike Aviles and Jarrod Saltalamacchia boosted the bench. Additionally, Maybin added speed and defense to the outfield outlook, while Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey shored up the rotation.
That group’s WAR was 13.7. Each of the nine new additions had a higher total WAR than the outgoing nine’s collective number. Upton’s 4.4 WAR alone was significantly better than the notable departures.
In total, the nine new additions were 16.7 wins better than the nine offseason losses as it were.
That should allow the Detroit Tigers to improve leaps and bounds. Bounce-back years from Victor Martinez and Anibal Sanchez will help as well, not to mention full, healthy seasons for Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Verlander. To top it all off, expect continued improvement from young players like James McCann, Nick Castellanos and Daniel Norris.
Possibly the most underrated aspect of the team’s offseason was the fact that no major prospects were dealt. Javier Betancourt, Luis Cessa and Chad Green were the most significant departures, however all three were blocked in terms of fellow prospects and big league talent.
The Detroit Tigers are much better, and have the potential to improve even more in the coming months. Watch out baseball, the Tigers are back.