The Tigers will try and pull a 2013 Boston Red Sox next year and make their way back to the playoffs after a disappointing 2014. They certainly have a chance to improve at the very least. It won’t be easy as the Indians only seem to be getting better, and of course the Royals are defending World Champions.  The Royals could lose all of Alex Gordon, Ben Zobrist, and Johnny Cueto though, and Greg Holland is out for 2016.  The Royals also outperformed all of their projected win totals that Baseball Prospectus uses, the three formulas look at things such as adjusted equivalent runs, equivalent runs, and an adjusted Pythagorean record. Basically lots of gory math is saying if the Royals don’t improve this offseason, they could head in the wrong direction. The Tigers need to have a good offseason this year to be able to go out and improve and compete for a playoff spot next season.

The Tigers announced that they were bringing back Brad Ausmus for a third season, despite having a disappointing 2015. Ausmus is still not the most experienced manager, so hopefully the third time is the charm and he’s learned a lot from his first two years at the helm as manager. Now, let’s look at what Ausmus has to work with right now, or the guys who will almost for sure be with the Tigers.

Line-Up:
CF Anthony Gose
2B Ian Kinsler
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF J.D. Martinez
DH Victor Martinez
3B Nick Castellanos
LF Tyler Collins
C James McCann
SS Jose Iglesias

Bench:
UT Andrew Romine
C Bryan Holaday

Starting Rotation
Justin Verlander
Anibal Sanchez
Daniel Norris

Bullpen:
Al Alburquerque
Alex Wilson
Blaine Hardy

There’s a couple more players that could fit in there, and some players on this list that I’d want to upgrade. This leaves a left fielder, backup catcher, bench player, two starters and half a bullpen on the Tigers wish list. There’s numerous ways that the Tigers can take care of these needs.

The Tigers free agents are Alfredo Simon, Alex Avila, Randy Wolf, Rajai Davis, Joe Nathan, and Tom Gorzelanny. Only Davis is really on the radar to be brought back, but personally, I think bringing back Avila would make more sense. Neftali Feliz is also likely to be non-tendered as a Tiger in 2015.

The first need is a backup catcher. That’s the easiest void to fill using free agency. James McCann is still young and needs a platoon partner for righties. Alex Avila is the best option on the market for that. Bringing back Avila would be nice because he can hit righties better, has power, and of course has done a great job behind the plate for the Tigers and knows the pitching staff very well. With Al Avila in his first year as GM, it’s unlikely that he will bring him back though. He might just stick with Bryan Holaday, but I’m not too confident in Holaday. I think even bringing A.J. Pierzynski on board would make sense, as he can hit righties and he’s a good veteran presence too.  Brayan Pena is another good option if the Tigers go out of house.
What I’d do: Sign C Alex Avila 1 year/3 million
My best guess to reality: Tigers give Bryan Holaday the job

The next need is a left fielder. I trust Tyler Collins off the bench, as he has a powerful bat, and I think he earned a spot on the 2016 Tigers’ roster in the second half last year, but I’d still like an upgrade out there. The hitter doesn’t have to be great either, just a seven hitter, because I think Nick Castellanos’s breakout in the second half was real. Castellanos hit .400 against lefties last year, and he uses the whole field well according to Brooks Baseball, mostly because of his really beautiful inside out swing. Castellanos kills fastballs and curves. He just needs to improve some against righties and off-speed stuff, which at 24, I think he will do in 2016, and be the Tigers’ most improved hitter. So the Tigers could go big with Alex Gordon or Ben Zobrist here, but even a guy like Colby Rasmus could be a big help.  I really do think the Tigers will reunite with Yoenis Cespedes.  Even though Cespedes probably won’t repeat his 6.7 fWAR, he showed he was a great fit in Detroit and I think Al Avila will go big in his first offseason, especially with owner Mike Ilitch’s willingness to spend for this team, and I can’t say I disagree with him. If the Tigers miss out on Cespedes, Justin Upton has always been a popular name in their front office, and he’s been consistently a good slugger.
What I’d do: Re-Sign Yoenis Cespedes
My best guess to reality: The Tigers re-sign Cespedes, 5 years/110 million

The bench bat is probably going to be filled by someone already in the organization, unless Rajai Davis is re-signed. I think that Dixon Machado, Steven Moya, Jefry Marte, and Wynton Bernard will fight for that spot.  The Tigers could always pick up a bench bat if they make a trade for a reliever or starter and get a throw in. Some free agents they could target are Austin Jackson, Chris Young, Franklin Gutierrez, Will Venable, and Steve Pearce. All the Tigers organizational players have talent of some sort.  Machado has a glove and a developing bat, Bernard has speed and a good hitting and fielding ability, Marte has amazing pop, and Moya is super raw but with power potential, he still probably needs time in AAA. The free agent bats have upsides but flaws too, Jackson would be the best free agent choice.

What I’d do: Let Moya, Marte, Bernard, and Machado battle it out
My best guess to reality: Moya, Marte, Bernard, and Machado battle for a roster spot

The Tigers need at least one starter, probably two. I think both Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris are ready to go in the show.  Maybe the Tigers can bring up Fulmer mid-year, so he gets a little seasoning in Toledo and to use him for half of next year and gain another year of team control. That’s what will most likely happen, so the Tigers are going to have to go get two free agents or a guy via trade. I fully expect the Tigers to target a higher end starter in free agency. I think a reunion with Price is unlikely though, and would strap them down financially. Johnny Cueto’s price tag fell after a disappointing second half, but he’s a bit of a risk because his second half his ERA finally was over his FIP, as he usually outperforms his FIP.  If he loses any velocity the next few years, his numbers could rise and he will be overpaid. I think he’d be a huge risk for the Tigers. I think the Tigers could sneak into the Greinke sweepstakes and will target Jordan Zimmermann very heavily, and if they get one of those two they’ll be in luck. Jeff Samardzija is another target, and coming off a down season, could be one of the best high end signings this offseason. Mike Leake and Scott Kazmir are great second tier options that fit well. Wei-Yin Chen and Yovani Gallardo are names to watch too, but if they are the Tigers biggest offseason get at starting pitcher, the rotation more than likely will still be underwhelming. I also think the Padres could be a trade match with Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner. There’s a lot to like about Ross, and he seems to just keep getting better, as he had a sub 3 FIP and reached the 200 strikeout plateau this year. Andrew Cashner had a down season, but he has talent and wouldn’t cost as much, as he will be a free agent after this season.

What I’d do: Trade OF Derek Hill, OF Steven Moya, SP Austin Kubitza and SS Dixon Machado to the Padres for SP Tyson Ross and sign Jordan Zimmermann to 6-years/$130 million
My best guess to reality: The Tigers sign SPs Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir

Finally we have the bullpen. This is probably the part of the team that Al Avila will work hardest to improve this offseason, because it’s been subpar for so long. Something big happening isn’t unlikely. I think the Tigers could reallocate some of their talented arms to the bullpen to help fix the issue. I’m looking at Matt Boyd, Buck Farmer, and Shane Greene going to the bullpen for this upcoming year. It’d help Boyd get some experience before moving into the rotation and let Greene and Farmer use their pretty good stuff in a shorter time period, which would most likely equate to more success. Remember that a lot of great relievers are failed starters. I could see the Tigers going hard and heavy for Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman, and that’s not really a bad move, but they’ll need more than one superstar reliever to fix the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit is another great trade target, and going after Joakim Soria and Darren O’Day in free agency would be smart. Guys like Shawn Kelley, Tony Sipp, Antonio Bastardo, Ryan Madson, and Oliver Perez are good targets too. I say the Tigers sign at least two arms and probably trade for one.

What I’d do: Convert Greene, Boyd, and Farmer and sign O’Day and Madson, target low risk options
My best guess to reality: Tigers acquire Kimbrel, and sign Soria and Antonio Bastardo and a couple low risk arms

So my 2016 Tigers on Opening Day would look like this:
2B Ian Kinsler
LF Yoenis Cespedes
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF JD Martinez
DH Victor Martinez
3B Nick Castellanos
C James McCann
CF Anthony Gose
SS Jose Iglesias

C Alex Avila
IF Andrew Romine
OF Tyler Collins
OF Wynton Bernard

SP Justin Verlander
SP Jordan Zimmermann
SP Tyson Ross
SP Daniel Norris
SP Anibal Sanchez

CL Darren O’Day
SU Alex Wilson
RP Matt Boyd
RP Ryan Madson
RP Buck Farmer
RP Shane Greene
RP Blaine Hardy
Other options: Al Alburquerque, Drew VerHagen, Neftali Feliz

My best guess to what they’ll actually look like:
CF Anthony Gose
2B Ian Kinsler
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF JD Martinez
DH Victor Martinez
LF Yoenis Cespedes
3B Nick Castellanos
C James McCann
SS Jose Iglesias

C Bryan Holaday
OF Tyler Collins
IF Andrew Romine
OF Wynton Bernard

SP Justin Verlander
SP Jeff Samardzija
SP Scott Kazmir
SP Anibal Sanchez
SP Daniel Norris

CL Craig Kimbrel
SU Alex Wilson
RP Joakim Soria
RP Antonio Bastardo
RP Al Alburquerque
RP Drew VerHagen
RP Blaine Hardy
(You could substitute a low risk sign for VerHagen)

A few thoughts to leave you with…
Wish List:
-Good hitting Outfielder
-Backup Catcher
-A bench player
-2 really good to above average starters
-Any bullpen arm that could be of use

And my Free Agent Wish List for the Tigers

  1. SP Zack Greinke
  2. OF Yoenis Cespedes
  3. SP Jordan Zimmermann
  4. SP Jeff Samardzija
  5. SP Mike Leake
  6. OF Ben Zobrist
  7. SP Scott Kazmir
  8. SP Ian Kennedy
  9. RP Darren O’Day
  10. RP Joakim Soria

About The Author

Detroit Tigers writer and fan. My favorite player is Austin Jackson. My favorite things to do are attend baseball games or play baseball. My personal blog can be found here.

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