There are many things the Detroit Tigers could use as the inaugural season of the rebuild begins in April. With the exception of Miguel Cabrera, this roster was stripped of stars and a good chunk of payroll in 2017.
General manager Al Avila finally deemed a rebuild was in the making after the Tigers were on their way to a 64-98 record and a third consecutive whiff at October baseball. Not a “reboot” as Avila’s predecessor Dave Dombrowski claimed in the summer of 2015. This is to be the start-from-scratch renovations that will more than likely leave Detroit out of contention for the next few seasons.
Avila’s master plan got off to a hot start when he dealt J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson and his son Alex in July. In August, he shipped Justin Upton and Justin Verlander, who would help the Houston Astros to the first World Series title in franchise history. Ian Kinsler could be moved this winter, as trade talk resurfaced earlier in the week between multiple clubs.
Without further ado, here is the Tigers offseason wishlist.
1. Starting Pitching
The Tigers are pretty thin when it comes to starting pitching at the moment, an unfamiliar territory for this club. They no longer have Verlander, who was the team’s ace since his rookie year in 2006. Jordan Zimmermann has been a bust in two seasons since signing a five-year deal worth roughly $110 million in November of 2015 and is reportedly being looked at by other teams.
Anibal Sanchez and his $16 million option for 2018 will not be picked up, as the team decided they would let him go and pay for his $5 million buyout in October.
Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in the ’15 trade for David Price, have experienced a frustrating amount of growing pains at the big league level. With a pretty wide open rotation heading into spring training, the lefty youngsters will have a good shot at sticking around and making an impact if the consistency is there.
Michael Fulmer is coming off of elbow surgery but is the newly-appointed Opening Day starter after Verlander’s departure. Zimmermann, Norris and Boyd follow suit as the fight for a fifth spot will be held in spring camp.
Buck Farmer, Drew VerHagen and Spencer Turnbull — all on the 40-man roster — could compete for a spot on the staff. In terms of free agency, the Tigers are in no position to go after any top-tier arms but instead are looking for a bargain deal. Per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Matt Garza Andrew Cashner and Doug Fister could be options.
Regardless, gone are the days where Cy Young winners reside in the Detroit staff. For the next few years as the rebuild progresses, it will appear to be a starting pitching carousel at Comerica Park.
Similar to the rotation, a once star-studded outfield has transformed into a scarce corps in 2018. Corner outfielders Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez were traded this past season, and Mikie Mahtook seems to be the only returner with a secure job.
Mahtook played his tail off in his debut year with the Tigers. Alex Presley, Jim Adduci, Tyler Collins and Steven Moya — all big-league regulars at some point over the last two years — were released in November.
JaCoby Jones, 25, will have the chance to fill one of Upton or Martinez’s spot for the next few seasons. Despite a poor batting display in ’17, Jones can fly and has the ability to go and get it at any three outfield positions.
When Jeimer Candelario was acquired in a July swap with the Chicago Cubs, Nicholas Castellanos began working in the outfield, including some playing time in right field. Castellanos has failed to develop into even an average defender at third base, and Candelario’s arrival may have killed those plans at a future at the hot corner.
The 25-year-old Castellanos played the outfield in the minors, even making his major-league debut in 2013 at left field. If the Tigers were to shore up an outfield in-house, it may look like Jones in left, Mahtook in center, and a raw Castellanos patrolling right field.
The Tigers are in need of a lot, and they could technically use some sort of help in a majority of areas. The current state of starting pitching and the outfield are the biggest red flags, however.
Unlike off-seasons of the past, management is parting ways with the careless spending and being in play for nearly big-name free agent. Fans should expect more of a conservative approach for the next few winters with second-tier signings considered to be more of the norm.