It appears the big-spending days for the Tigers are over for the foreseeable future as the team looks to continue getting younger, leaner and more athletic through drafting and developing from within. Look for the team to continue doing that over the next couple seasons.
Having said that, the team still has to make some important moves with regards to the 25-man roster for Opening Day in 2018. In fact, there are five things that should be addressed come the offseason.
TRADE VICTOR MARTINEZ
We at Detroit Sports Nation are hoping for a speedy and successful recovery for Victor Martinez. The 15-year-veteran is scheduled to undergo heart surgery for his recurring irregular heartbeat problem he has endured this season and will not play for the remainder of the year.
Martinez finished the season hitting .255 with a .697 OPS. The 10 home runs and 47 runs batted in are the lowest of any season in which he has played in a minimum of 100 games. And with the “younger and more athletic” initiative put in place, the Tigers are likely going to consider moving on from Victor.
Don’t be surprised if Martinez first gets placed on waivers in the offseason, to see if any teams claim him. Contractually, Victor is signed through the 2018 season and owed $18 million next year. He may not fit into the Tigers’ plans, but he could be quite resourceful to other clubs as they retool their respective rosters.
Obviously being limited to a DH-only role, the list of potential suitors for his services are immediately chopped in half. Two teams stand out right away: Houston Astros and New York Yankees. Both teams have DHs on expiring contracts — Carlos Beltran for the Astros, Matt Holiday for the Yankees. Victor could be a very adequate replacement for either club.
The Cleveland Indians, a former employer of Martinez, could be a team of consideration as well. The Tribe have slugger Edwin Encarnacion under contract for two more seasons, but Carlos Santana is set to become a free agent. They could move Encarnacion to first and acquire Victor to DH, theoretically.
As an absolute last resort, the team may just cut him entirely and swallow his salary if they absolutely don’t want to keep him around.
TRADE JOSE IGLESIAS
It should be known that as a fan, it pains me to even fathom this option. But from a strictly business standpoint, parting ways with Jose Iglesias may be the best move for Detroit.
The 27-year-old slick-fielding Iglesias is having one of his better seasons offensively, certainly from a power standpoint, and could be having perhaps his best season defensively as well. In other words, his stock is increasing heading into the offseason and, like with Martinez, the Tigers may need to consider shipping him out.
A big reason for this is to find a regular home for fellow shortstop Dixon Machado, who has finally received a respectable amount of playing time this season to show the Tigers and Tigers fans that he can be an everyday shortstop in the big leagues. And while in rebuild mode, it’s best to roll with a guy that is up and coming, versus a player in his prime that would be not only much more valuable to another club, but also net back something of quality in return elsewhere on the field for the Tigers.
What may accelerate this move even more is the supposed willingness of second baseman Ian Kinsler to be part of the rebuild in the Motor City and be a mentor to the younger players. A well-formulated argument has been made in favor of keeping Kinsler over Iglesias for the long haul.
ADD A ‘FOURTH’ OUTFIELDER
We presume that two of the outfield spots are claimed for come Opening Day in 2018: Mikie Mahtook in left field and JaCoby Jones in center. The former really emerged and established himself as an everyday player midway through the season, while the latter is still trying to find his footing and produce enough at the plate to earn a starting job.
And with Nicholas Castellanos gradually easing his way into the outfield, it’s a very real possibility that he could be the team’s starting right fielder in 2018. This means the team will need to explore adding a ‘fourth’ outfielder to the mix.
Ideally, the goal is to find an outfielder that can comfortably handle playing multiple outfield positions — best case scenario, they play all three — and be ready to play in case of injuries, struggling performances to starters, days off, etc. These guys essentially serve as a nice safety net, and can be flipped for something at the trade deadline if need be.
So who might be good candidates for the job? Well, they could start in house and re-up Alex Presley to a major league deal. The 32-year-old played under a minor league pact this season and put together his best season offensively while playing both center and right field. Not that money is no longer an issue for the Tigers, but he’d be a very cheap option.
If the team opts to go external for outfield options, there’s a number of impending free agents who fit the mold of what the Tigers would want. Names that jump off the page right away are a pair of former Tigers in Curtis Granderson and Rajai Davis.
SIGN A FIRST BASEMAN
This suggestion coincides with our first and third options on this list. Parting ways with Victor Martinez opens up a spot at DH for Miguel Cabrera to assume moving forward. This leaves a big hole at first base (assuming Castellanos is not a candidate to play there).
Prospect Jeimer Candelario, who is one of many young Tigers seeing regular time this month as means of auditioning for a starting gig next season, can play both corner infield positions, but Detroit is likely to use him primarily at third base. And with no immediate answer in house or lower down in the organization, the best move here might be signing a first baseman.
The list of primary first basemen who are impending free agents is rather thinned out. The Royals’ Eric Hosmer headlines the list but it is widely perceived that he is the one of many free agents for Kansas City that they would like to retain the most.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options are there. Players like Lucas Duda, Mitch Moreland, Yonder Alonso and Logan Morrison are all set to hit the open market this winter. And if Detroit wants to open the book some, they could look at utility infielders and have them primarily play first base.
The team may also consider bringing back Efren Navarro, who saw significant time in September.
SIGN VETERAN STARTERS
This could be the most intriguing area for the Tigers in the offseason. With Justin Verlander no longer leading the pitching staff and the leash on Jordan Zimmermann gradually becoming shorter, the rotation is a giant mess.
Outside of Michael Fulmer, there are no rotation spots guaranteed heading into spring training. This includes fellow young southpaws Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris. Both have either regressed in their development and/or been riddled by injuries in 2017, subsequently causing the Tigers to pump the brakes on where they fit on the staff.
Are they going to give up on either entirely? Of course not, it’s far too early for that. But their rotation spots should by no means be guaranteed for 2018, as of right now.
Due to all the uncertainty in the rotation, Detroit is likely going to be pursuing not one, but perhaps multiple free agent starters. Who exactly? That’s a great question. Because with a laundry list’s worth of starters available in the offseason, the Tigers could go a number of directions.
It’s likely going to be a young staff all around, starters and relievers, so a strong veteran presence is of the utmost importance. And it’s hard to imagine the team making a big splash in terms of monetary value any time soon (this applies to the outfielder and first baseman proposals, as well). One name perhaps worth giving a look is CC Sabathia. At age 36, the once power lefty turned crafty vet is still providing adequate work.