The Detroit Tigers took a big step back in 2017. They had hoped to be contenders but once it was evident that they weren’t good enough to win, they decided to have a fire sale. They shipped away as many serviceable parts as they could – including the trade of Justin Verlander to Houston. There might be more of the same coming up as the Tigers could still have a couple moves to make, and it could get worse before it gets better in the Motor City. This team was overloaded with overpriced veterans but now they have shifted into full-on rebuilding mode. That means 2017 could be challenging year for their fans.
2017 Season Recap
The Tigers finished 64-98, which was dead last in the American League Central, 38 games behind Cleveland and 21 games out of the wild-card race. The Tigers were tied with San Francisco for the worst record in the major leagues, which led to the trades of J.D. Martinez to Arizona and Verlander to Houston; the latter went on to win the World Series and he played a big role in the win. The Tigers were 31-34 as a favorite and 33-64 as an underdog, which made them one of the least profitable teams in the major leagues at $-3128. The numbers weren’t pretty for the Tigers, who were 34-47 at home, 30-51 on the road, 31-45 against their division and 8-12 against the National League (they were also a brutal 9-24 against the American League West). The Tigers were also 87-68-7 in the over/under standings.
What Went Wrong
The Tigers were 30th in the major leagues in ERA at 5.36, WHIP at .150 and batting average at .282. The starters were fine, but the bullpen was a disaster, ranking 30th in ERA at 5.70, which is higher than the team overall. Michael Fulmer was 10-12 with an ERA of 3.83, but he had some sort of elbow surgery in the offseason, so that is something to watch. Justin Wilson led the team with 13 saves, then he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. Shane Greene was next in line to be the closer, but rumor is that the Tigers are looking to trade him as he is eligible for arbitration and his salary could go up. The pitching staff, outside of Verlander, was really bad and the Tigers have to turn that around sometime soon. At the plate, the Tigers were decent, but Miguel Cabrera’s injury problems should be a big concern for the Tigers. Cabrera, a two-time MVP, hit .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs last season and had problems with his back. He might have been able to play if the Tigers were in contention, but they decided to rest their slugger. That being said, that is definitely something worth watching in the future.
What Went Right
The Tigers’ numbers at the plate weren’t great, but they weren’t awful either, which is positive. The Tigers were tied for 18th in runs with 735, 12th in batting average at .258, 16th in on-base percentage at .324 and 18th in slugging percentage at .424. Justin Upton was slugging before he was traded to Anaheim, while the Tigers would love to hold on to Nicholas Castellanos, who had 26 home runs and 101 RBIs with a .272 average. The Tigers should look into making Castellanos a building block for their foundation. Ian Kinsler hit just .236, but he also hit 22 home runs and drove in 52 runs. His trade value will never be higher as Kinsler is going into the final year of his deal and he won’t be a part of the future, so the Tigers could look to move him this offseason. The Tigers also replenished their farm system with their trades of Verlander, Martinez, Wilson and Alex Avila (who joined Wilson on the Cubs), and that is a very positive move as the Tigers aren’t going to be competitive this season, so why not? Keep an eye on the status of Cabrera, who still has a lot of years and a ton of money on his contract, but the Tigers aren’t going to challenge any time soon and he might want a shot at a World Series. If there is a team that is willing to take on his money, it will be interesting to see if the Tigers would trade him. After the Verlander trade, anything is possible for the Tigers.
Key Free Agents
The Tigers don’t really have much in the way of departing free agents. The biggest name is Anibal Sanchez, who made $16.8 million last season and the Tigers declined his option for another $16 million after he went between the rotation and the bullpen and had an ERA of 6.41. Sanchez tuns 34 in February and definitely isn’t a part of the Tigers’ long-term plans. The rest of the Tigers’ free-agent exits won’t really matter to them, and nine of them are 30 or older, which shows what direction that the Tigers would like to go in.
Where They Need To Find Help
How busy will the Tigers be in free agency? They would love to land some help for the pitching staff, obviously. There are a few pitchers that the Tigers might take a look at, led by Chris Tillman, Matt Garza and Andrew Cashner. Their best option might be Francisco Liriano, who came out of the bullpen to help the Astros win the World Series, but he might not want to have that high and then go to Detroit. But all of the pitchers before Liriano are veterans who aren’t going to command a lot of money and they can eat innings, which is all the Tigers need outside of Fulmer, who is the best starter they have. They definitely need help in the bullpen, and it is all over the place. They need set-up help, they need a closer, you name it. The Tigers will take anyone willing to come, but it will have to be at a cut-price as they don’t want to rack up a big payroll as they have done in previous years. Don’t expect much out of the Tigers in free agency as they look to continue this rebuild, which probably should have started the season before.
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