Section 313, Seat No. 17: Detroit Tigers 2018 Offseason Blueprint, Part 1

Section 313

Seat No. 17, part 1


Now that Justin Verlander is a World Series Champion, we can shift our focus away from our romanticism with a beloved player back to the team we will actually be rooting for next season. The Tigers 2018 season is not going to be the prettiest baseball, not like the expected championship runs of the last decade. But, if we understand that the team will not be what we’ve become accustomed to, and “trust the process,” it can pay off in the long run.

The goal of the 2018 season for the Tigers is simply this: save money by suffering through a season of a couple inflated contracts and get your younger players the most experience possible.

In order to achieve this goal, there are certain off-season moves the Tigers should make. We’ll handle them in four sections: cuts to be made, free agents to sign, trades to make, and projecting the 25-man roster. Each section will be released on subsequent Fridays for the next four weeks.

We’ll start with the cuts.

Tigers offseason cuts —

The day after the World Series the Tigers announced they had outrighted six players: Jeff Ferrell, Tyler Collins, Jim Aducci, Alex PresleyKyle Ryan, and Myles Jay. They also lost super-utility man Andrew Romine to a waiver claim by the Seattle Mariners. And, lastly, they chose not to pick up the option on Anibal Sanchez’s $16 million, ending his career in Detroit. All of this, I’ll admit, made me rethink my plan for the offseason and direction for 2018. I think the message is pretty clear: we’re going young in every position we possibly can. And if we revisit the goal for 2018, this fits the narrative entirely.

There’s a chance most of the roster spots could be made up of players all under the age of thirty; a change from the last few years. Because of this, two guys the Tigers need to sincerely consider cutting ties with are Jordan Zimmermann and Victor Martinez. However, Zimmermann should be given a slightly (keyword) longer leash than Martinez.

Jordan Zimmermann–

Jordan Zimmermann was signed prior to the 2016 season, for five years and $110 million according to Spotrac. Given his performance over the last two seasons, it hasn’t been a good signing. In two seasons with Detroit Zimmermann has battled injuries, fought his slider, and been an expensive 0.6 WAR pitcher. In his two seasons, Zimmermann has racked up a 5.63 ERA, 17 wins, and 20 losses in 262.1 innings pitched, according to Fangraphs.

That ERA is the second worst in the last two years (minimum 250 IP) and puts him in the company of guys like Ubaldo JimenezJames ShieldsWade MilleyChris Tillman, and Kyle Gibson. Combined those five guys made a total of $103 million, Zimmermann made $36 million; that’s 35.9% of what five other guys made and none of those guys we’d want on our staff either. By the way, only Shields has a contract for 2018, while Zimmermann’s contract jumps to $24 million for 2018.

A few Section 313s ago I proposed an idea. To put it simply, Zimmermann has Spring Training 2018 to prove he’s made adjustments and is worthy of his contract. If not, you cut the cord. However, I’ll propose a second option, because we’re paying him regardless. We give him the Anibal Sanchez treatment. Send him to the minor leagues to pitch, he’s still in the system for depth and if he figures things out, it’s a win-win.

Victor Martinez —

Victor Martinez had his fair share of struggles this past season. First and foremost, and not to be mitigated nor used as fodder is his physical struggle with his heart. We sincerely hope, for the sake of Victor and his young family, that he gets that issue worked out. However, that may be a reason for him to hang the cleats up.

If he chooses not to hang up the spikes, it is in the best interest of the team going forward that Victor is not on the roster. Since joining the Tigers in 2011, Martinez’s WAR has fluctuated between -1.6 and 5.5, according to Baseball Reference. In 2015, Martinez posted the first negative WAR of his career. He bounced back in 2016, but to a mere 1.6 wins above a replacement player and in 2017 (again shortened by injury) he posted a 0.6 WAR. A downward trend to be sure.

But even beyond his ability on the field, his comments off the field and his presence in the locker room have seemingly become a problem. He has complained about the dimensions of a park he signed a contract to play in, got in a dust-up with Justin Verlander, and has been trouble in the clubhouse for more than a little while. If there are going to be a lot of younger guys in the clubhouse this season, a non-leader veteran like Martinez doesn’t need to be around and Gardenhire doesn’t need him.

Yes, the Tigers will have to eat his $18 million owed this season, but after having shed nearly $100 million in trades last season, they can fulfill the goal for 2018 and afford to eat Victor’s money.

One curious move the Tigers didn’t make was to keep Bruce Rondon around for the time being. Rondon has been nothing short of a disappointment in the Tigers organization and many have called for his outright release. Maybe they’re willing to give him one more shot, but I think we all know what we have. What’s that saying, “fool me once…”

By removing these players, the eight mentioned in the beginning along with Zimmerman and Martinez, it will free up spots on the Tigers 40-man roster, allowing them to protect young players from the MLB’s Rule 5 Draft. A smart move by Al Avila.

Upcoming: Tigers offseason Trades (released Next Friday, 11/10/17)

Written by AJ Reilly

A.J. is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid storyteller. His debut novel, The Askren Boys, won the Literary Classics Gold Medal and Seal of Approval in November of 2018. When not writing, he is spending time with his wife Jessica, son Jack, daughter Nora, and new arrival Teddy. A.J. lives in Metro Detroit.

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