Detroit Tigers: Verlander Happy Team Didn’t Rebuild

Back in October, Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila stated that the team would try to get younger and work toward payroll flexibility. He insisted there was not going to be a rebuild, but it sure sounded like one. As it turned out, no such plan came to fruition. On Friday, Justin Verlander expressed to MLB Network that he is pleased with the team’s decision to keep the core together.

When Avila said the Detroit Tigers organization had been spending “above its means,” many assumed a fire-sale would occur. Though trade rumors surrounded Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Verlander for a portion of the offseason, no franchise pieces were moved. The Astros were reportedly poking the tires on Cabrera, while Kinsler and Verlander came up frequently in talks with the Dodgers. But alas, Cameron Maybin has been the only player to be moved by Detroit all offseason.

Understandably, these types of trade rumors gave Verlander reason to consider the possibility that he’d be traded:

“All of a sudden that gets your wheels spinning a little bit … I’m 10-5 and have a full no-trade [clause], so I would have to OK anything. I love Detroit. I’ve been there my whole career, which nowadays is pretty rare, especially for any length of time. So I would have [had] to weigh a lot of things.”

Obviously Verlander knows his rights as a veteran player and would have had to consent to leaving the Tigers. He has a lot of trust in team owner Mike Ilitch, which he also made a point of:

“Mr. Ilitch has done a great job my entire career there putting a great product on the field, and it looks like we’re going to be that way again.”

While they lack a center fielder at the moment, the Tigers are not far from contention. Nick Castellanos must continue to progress at third base, but the pitching staff could look much better in 2017. Not because anyone (other than Anibal Sanchez) will be replaced, but because a trio of young starters showed promise during their time with the club in 2016. In fact, Verlander also expressed his optimism about having Matt Boyd, Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris in the rotation, too, which should give fans something to look forward to.

“I think if you had told us that at the end of the year, coming down the home stretch, we’d have (three) rookies in the rotation and we’d have a chance to win, I might have found that pretty hard to believe. But those guys, man, they stepped up and did an unbelievable job…Wow, that’s a good sign for our future moving forward. Some of the moves we’ve made in the past, we’re showing the fruits of that labor.”

In 45 combined starts, the trio of Boyd, Fulmer and Norris posted a 3.56 ERA with 285 strikeouts in 325.2 IP. They provided the Tigers with five extra wins in 2016 (5.0 fWAR), which could as much as double in 2017 if they all see a full season’s worth of action. At this point, it’s much easier for Avila to go for it next season rather than try to rebuild. Considering Verlander, Cabrera and Victor Martinez all have 10-and-5 rights, there’s no guarantee that the core would even allow their GM to disband them.

Verlander was definitely right about one thing, though: the Tigers are very fortunate to have an owner whose top priority is giving the city of Detroit a world championship. The team missed the playoffs by only a single game in 2016, but the window of opportunity will close soon. Verlander narrowly missed out on the AL Cy Young award last year, while Cabrera and Martinez both had bounce-back seasons at the plate. All three are at least 33 years old (V-Mart is 38), and they are bound to decline eventually.

In all reality, the Tigers may only have another season or two to win it all with this group of players. The farm system is incredibly thin, and as Verlander put it, “I’m too old to be part of a rebuilding process.”

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