It’s June and the Detroit Tigers are off to a 25-28 start, three games behind the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central. The hitting has left much to be desired while the pitching staff has not been what we were hoping it would be at this point in the season.
Players such as Nicholas Castellanos, Ian Kinsler, and even Miguel Cabrera have struggled to get their bats going, while Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, Matt Boyd, and Daniel Norris have not pitched the way we thought they would. In addition, Anibal Sanchez, Bruce Rondon, and Tyler Collins are no longer with the team after their horrendous starts.
But it’s not too late for the 2017 version of the Detroit Tigers.
Through 53 games, the Tigers have played one of the most difficult schedules in Major League Baseball and the month of June looks like it will be much kinder to the guys wearing the Old English “D.”
Tigers general manager Al Avila has done a poor job of building a team, but he is not going anywhere. At least not right now. So, while he is still in control, Avila must make some moves to right the ship before it’s too late.
Here are five moves the Detroit Tigers MUST make NOW to save their season.
1. Give Nicholas Castellanos a change of scenery
Let’s face it. Nicholas Castellanos has been worthless to the Tigers so far this season. Heck, if we are going to be completely honest, he has actually hurt the team.
Following a 2016 season which saw Castellanos break out to some extent (.285 BA with 18 home runs), he has taken a giant step back both offensively (.209 with four home runs) and defensively (11 errors in 51 starts) and it’s time to give him a fresh start.
At this point, the best move for both the Tigers and Castellanos is to send him to AAA Toledo to work on both his hitting and his defense. There is just no way he can continue to play the way he is playing and help this team.
2. Buck Farmer up, Matt Boyd down
Prior to the start of the season, Matt Boyd was a player that many believed had “break-out” potential. Unfortunately, Boyd, who is still only 26, has struggled to find his groove.
Through 11 starts with the Tigers this season, Boyd is 2-5 with a 5.69 ERA. Those numbers are certainly not what we were hoping for from one of our young guns.
Luckily, there is a player in Toledo who could step into the Tigers rotation and allow Boyd to work on some things before returning. That player is Buck Farmer.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Farmer is going to come in and post a sub 3.00 ERA, but he could provide the Tigers with some innings while Boyd gets things figured out in Toledo.
3. Make K-Rod a Mud Hen
Brad Ausmus rubbed people the wrong way with the recent comments he made about Francisco Rodriguez.
“I think we have to find out if he can pitch with the game on the line,” Ausmus said following another outing which saw K-Rod give up multiple runs out of the bullpen.
In my opinion, there is nothing to find out about K-Rod as he has clearly not his old self. Just like Anibal Sanchez, Rodriguez will continue to crap the bed if Ausmus continues to put him in games. The problem is, he is taking up a roster spot and he has to be used if he is still on the team.
It’s time for Al Avila to offer Rodriguez the chance to join Sanchez in Toledo. If he accepts, great. If not, let him walk.
4. Fix Jordan Zimmermann
This is a tough one. When the Tigers signed Jordan Zimmermann prior to the 2016 season, I liked the addition but was not a fan of the money he would get paid.
It was predictable that his numbers would dip moving from the National League to the American League, but there is clearly something wrong with Zimmermann and it needs to be fixed if he is going to continue to be part of the Tigers starting rotation.
Throughout his career, Zimmermann’s best breaking ball was his slider. That pitch has been nowhere to be found this season and unless he can get it back, we will continue to see him get hit hard.
“I’m tweaking my grip a little bit and found something that I’m a little more comfortable with,” Zimmermann said.
“It’s been absolutely terrible,” he said, about the slider. “I haven’t been anywhere close. I have to figure out how to throw it again and get back to how it used to be.”
Maybe it means missing a start or too to work on fixing the slider, but the Tigers must do whatever they can to make that happen.
On the bright side, if Zimmermann is able to work things out with his slider, it would be a huge bonus for the Tigers rotation for the remainder of the regular season and hopefully beyond.
5. Sorry Brad, but your time is up
When the Tigers announced that Brad Ausmus was going to be their manager beginning with the 2014 season, I shook my head. Sure, Ausmus has forgotten more than I know about the game of baseball, but that was beside the point. What I did not like was that the Tigers were bringing in a guy with no managerial experience at the Major League level to lead a team consisting mainly of veterans who were on the verge of winning big.
Since that time, Ausmus has made questionable move after questionable move, and though I have never put a ton of stock into the managers being as important as the guys actually on the field playing, the Tigers need a shakeup in the organization. Firing Ausmus is a no-brainer in my opinion as he will likely be gone after this season anyways.
The big question is, who would replace Ausmus for the remainder of the season? Maybe they go with current bench coach Gene Lamont or third base coach Dave Clark. Heck, maybe they could even give the reigns to Omar Vizquel, who is currently the Tigers first base coach.
But the first call that Al Avila should make is to former Tigers manager, Jim Leyland.
Now, Leyland has made it pretty damn clear that he has no interest in returning as a manager, but it’s worth a try. Avila could offer him the job for the remaining 109 games (and hopefully playoffs) with the understanding that he was free to go back into retirement when the season ended.