Tigers offseason preview: Find some pitching, extend J.D. Martinez
The Detroit Tigers had one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory, finishing the year 74-87 and in last place in the AL Central. The Tigers had won the division title in the previous four season but wound up on the other side of the spectrum in 2015. Their early struggles led ownership to fire the longtime general manager Dave Dombrowski and sell off some of the biggest stars for prospects at the trade deadline.
While the Tigers still have a core of talented players, including one of baseball’s best hitters in Miguel Cabrera, they have plenty of holes to fill this offseason. They aren’t in complete rebuild mode, but there are a few things that must happen if the Tigers want to content in 2015:
1. Stock up on pitching. Detroit’s new GM Al Avila made it clear in his end-of-season press conference that bolstering the pitching staff is a top priority. But with such a rich free-agent class of pitchers, teams will have to bid top-dollar if they want to land one of the big names.
"My hope is to find two starting pitchers, Avila said. "Different levels of starting pitching is going to be dependent on how the market unfolds and what’s available."
The Tigers aren’t likely to sign David Price or a top pitcher like Johnny Cueto due to payroll constraints, but rather go after the second-tier guys. Starters Ian Kennedy, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir have been mentioned as players the Tigers will look to pursue, in addition to Wei-Yin Chen, a Scott Boras client.
While Detroit could look to upgrade its starting staff via trade, the team reportedly has no interest in dealing pitching prospects Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer.
2. Address the bullpen. Detroit’s relievers posted a 4.38 ERA (27th in the majors) this season, even worse than the 2014 bullpen (4.29 ERA, 27th in the majors). Drew VerHagen, Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson are decent relief options, but there isn’t much else.
Avila said he intends to acquire "at least two" bullpen arms, but he’ll have his work cut out for him.
"Well, that’s a tough task. Because if you look at projected free agents out there, I don’t know that there are any," Avila said. "But it’s something that could come via trade, say a legitimate closer."
One of those trade options could be Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who could be on the market this offseason. However, Chapman only has one year left before free agency, which might scare the Tigers away.
3. Work out a long-term deal with J.D. Martinez. This one seems like a no-brainer for Detroit. Martinez finished the season with a .282/.344/.535 slash line, 38 homers and 102 RBI. Victor Martinez is clearly on the decline and Cabrera is no longer in his prime, making J.D. the perfect guy for a long-term deal.
As it stands, Martinez will be a free agent after the 2017 season, but the two sides reportedly have mutual interest in an extension. However, if he continues to play under his current deal and produces the way he did in 2014-15, Martinez could garner a huge free-agent contract upwards of $150 million when he hits the market. If the Tigers were smart, they would’ve worked out an extension, like, yesterday.