The first step in the Detroit Tigers rebuild is a concerning one

Written by :
Published on : July 22, 2017

 

The moment fans have been waiting for, some of us for years, has finally come. The Detroit Tigers have finally conceded that they are not competitive in their division and have seemingly gotten serious about overhauling the team. The opening salvo in this long awaited rebuilding project was a move that seemed imminent for some time now.

 

The Tigers finally went and did what everyone knew they were going to do and they traded away their most valuable market piece, JD Martinez. It was all but certain that Martinez’ days were numbered in Detroit due to the fact that he has a major pay day – one that the Tigers have made clear they want no part of – coming his way. This should have been a happy event for realistic fans of the team who knew that there were some painful days ahead.

 

 Detroit Tigers newest prospect, Dawel Lugo.

 

Trading away a slugger like JD to a contender in need of a monster bat was going to yield some exciting new prospects that would help build the future of the team. Maybe a promising young bat or a hot pitching prospect. Instead, team president, Al Avila, came back with a haul of underwhelming infielders. Which I’m sure the Arizona Diamondbacks were more than happy to ship off for Martinez. The most promising among them is 22-year-old third basemen, Dawel Lugo. The Tigers think his combination of fielding and hitting will continue to develop to the point that he could be in the majors within the next couple years. The other two guys, shortstop Sergio Alcantara (21) and shortstop Jose King (18), are too raw to even project when they might be ready for the big leagues.

 

Looking back to when the Tigers traded away Yoenis Cespedes in 2015 and got Michael Fulmer in return, you would think that the team could have gotten a better haul for Martinez. The you realize that the team really shit the bed by not trading him in the offseason. This is because after years of reckless spending, the team’s payroll is set to exceed the 2018 luxury tax threshold, set at $197 million. What that means is that if the team kept JD Martinez and he left in free agency (which he will because the team can’t afford another $20+ million contract), the team would only be able to receive a 4th-round pick at best for compensation. This gave other teams way more leverage than they should have had in this situation, resulting in this underwhelming return.

 

And this is why I’m concerned about this first step in the Detroit Tigers rebuild.

 

I can’t blame Al Avila for everything that’s wrong with this team and it’s roster, but the strikes against him are starting to add up. It’s because of Avila that the salaries of both Jordan Zimmerman ($18 million this year, $24 the next and $25 the two after) and Justin Upton ($22 million/year) are on the books and killing this team’s ability to be competitive. When coupled with the salaries of both Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, both of whom were homegrown and deserved their big money deals, it’s too much to handle. The guy running the team should have known that this team was getting old and already saddled with some painful contracts, and that adding those two players at that price was a horrible idea. Instead here we are.

 

 Al Avila. Just in case you want to focus your blame somewhere.

 

It’s clearly going to get a lot worse before it gets better for the Detroit Tigers and their fans. The Martinez trade was the first of a probable many trades that the Tigers will make before the July 31st deadline. If this is any indication of how the team is going to shed salary, then what could have been a 2 or 3 year project could take much longer. This team gave baseball fans in Detroit a ton to cheer about over the last decade or so, but they never quite reached the mountain top. Fans have held out hope for a renaissance with this roster in the last couple years in order to finally get that World Series title, but it’s clear that even the team has given up on that hope. Now comes the really hard part, and if this is any indication of how’s it’s going to go down, then it’s going to be harder than even I thought.

 

BE AFRAID.

 

 


Rebuilding the Detroit Tigers

Written by :
Published on : July 7, 2017

 

 

It’s no secret that the 2017 Detroit Tigers are pretty awful. As they sit right now, they are 38-46 and have shown nothing that says they have a chance to contend for the AL Central title or an AL wild card spot. The team’s performance this season, and recent seasons for that matter, has left fans in the Motor City frustrated and ready for a change. But just how much can this team change? And is it even possible to blow it up completely and start a full scale rebuild?

 

The first, and most important, thing the team can do is part ways with manager, Brad Ausmus. He inherited a title contender in 2014, and since being swept out of the ALDS in that season, his team’s performance has steadily declined. While he can’t be totally blamed for the team’s roster and much of the blame lies with the players themselves, this team has not grown under his watch and his all star type players haven’t been able to reach their full potential. For that, he should be given his walking papers and certainly will unless the team wants a fan revolt on their hands.

 

 

On the other hand, team president, Al Avila’s job should be safe for at least one more season. With the recent death of longtime owner, Mike Ilitch, it’s hard to believe the team will want to cause anymore of a stir in the organization. With Avila probably safe, you have to wonder what players, if any, the team will be able to trade away for assets in this coming team rebuild.

 

Miguel Cabrera isn’t going anywhere. His contract is insane (he will make at least $30 million annually through 2023) and he’s an icon in Detroit. It would be nice to be able to send him on his way in search for another ring and get something in return for the future hall of fame slugger, but it’s not happening. Being saddled with that contract for years to come hurts but it can’t hurt fan, or organizational, morale to have (arguably) the best player in the team’s history retire wearing the old english D. It’s a nightmare of a contract but there was no other option for the team at the time and that’s just the way it goes.

 

Justin Verlander is almost as iconic as Miguel Cabrera, and for good reason, but the team must ship him off if it can. The trade might not even be possible because of the amount of money that Verlander ($28 million a year through 2019) is owed over the coming seasons. It’s another case of a franchise icon getting paid what they have rightly earned but hamstringing the team with an enormous contract in the end. At 34-years-old he isn’t having the greatest season, but he is coming off of a Cy Young caliber season in 2016, so a contender with money to spend might be willing to risk it. If that happens, the Tigers would be crazy not to pull the trigger and shed that enormous salary.

 

Most likely is a scenario in which Verlander and Cabrera stay in Detroit for years to come. That JD Martinez as arguably the most likely player in the league to be traded to a new team, and he will fetch a nice return for the team. The Tigers have no indication that they wish to re-sign him and add to their already bloated payroll, and his bat would immediately help any team that he went to. So he’s gone.

 

 JD won’t be a Tiger for long.

 

Other trade-able pieces include Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos, Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez (that’s right, Anibal Sanchez). Upton’s contract probably makes a trade unlikely, but everyone else should draw some amount of interest. The team has Dixon Machado as the shortstop of the future so Iglesias should be gone too, and Alex Avila has been playing great since the team brought him back so he could see himself traded away by his own father. How much the team can get in return for any of these players remains to be seen, but you can’t imagine getting any team’s top few prospects for anyone on this roster.

 

With it being unlikely that the Tigers are going to get any world beaters in a trade, it looks like they’ll have to do this thing the old fashioned way and start drafting and developing players in the system. In recent year’s, they have traded away all of their top prospects for big names in the interest of winning now and getting that elusive World Series title. But that never happened and now the team is getting old and is considerably overpaid.

 

It’s going to be a rough few years but it’s time to stop putting it off and get serious about changing this team in a fundamental way. Al Avila has made it clear that the days of spending huge money are over. Even though they will have to simply ride some of these bad contracts out, they can and must trim their salary and build from within. There are some good young pieces on the roster in guys like Michael Fulmer. If the team is smart with their money, with a little luck they could be a contender in a few more seasons. A new era of Detroit Tigers baseball is imminent but it could be a painful journey to get there.

 

 


The Detroit Tigers could be headed to old, (un)familiar territory

Written by :
Published on : November 11, 2016

 

 

2003 was a long time ago. George W. Bush was in his first term as President. Facebook wasn’t even a thing yet. The iPhone hadn’t even been thought of. And the Detroit Tigers were awful. Among the most awful baseball teams in the modern history of the game to be more specific. Their 119 losses in that year was 1 loss short of the 1962 Mets record for losses in a season. When the Tigers won that last game to avoid tying that record you would have thought that they had won a World Series. Players and fans rejoiced that they weren’t the worst. But they were damn close.

 

Three years after that historically disastrous season, the Detroit Tigers had won the American League Pennant, after making the playoffs as the Wild Card team, and went on the the World Series. It was an amazingly quick turnaround that marked the beginning of a new golden era in Detroit baseball. The organization led by Dave Dombrowski, for most of the period since 2003, would go on to appear in another World Series in 2012, and win the AL Central four times.

 

 

Under Dombrowski (now with with Boston Red Sox) and long-time manager Jim Leyland (retired), the Tigers and the city of Detroit enjoyed a decade of relatively good, competitive baseball. They got to see triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera destroy the baseball and Cy Young contenders such as Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price destroy opposing batters. Acquiring and retaining such marquee talent isn’t easy though, and because of it the organization consistently found itself with one of the larger payrolls in the MLB, and a depleted farm system. And that leaves the Detroit Tigers and their fans here, on the edge of some potentially dark days.

 

Shortly after the end of the 2016 MLB season, Tigers president, Al Avila, made it clear that the team would be retaining manager Brad Ausmus and cutting payroll in a big way. Neither of these things should sound like good news to Tigers’ fans. Brad Ausmus hasn’t necessarily been terrible as the manager in Detroit but he has failed to win a playoff game despite having a considerable amount of talent on the roster. The team isn’t doomed with him at the helm, but he probably isn’t the person to take them to the next level either. More of the same.

 

What should really make fans shudder, is that this team seems determined to slash payroll. The most likely victims of the cost cutting mandate in the front office will be Justin Verlander, JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Years of squeezing their farm system to acquire big name players and breaking the bank to keep those players left the Tigers with a payroll of $199 million last season. That was behind only the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox. All teams that made the playoffs. When you don’t make the playoffs two years running and you are spending that kind of money, it’s easy to see why ownership would want to re-examine their methods. That could mean saying goodbye to the players who have defined baseball in Detroit for years.

 

 

The team says they are listening to offers for any and all players. If that’s really the case then there’s a good chance that Verlander is leaving soon. He is 34 and coming off of his best season since 2012. His value is high and he could net a good return in an offseason with a poor market for starting pitching. Trading him will help the team shed $28 million in salary this coming year. With a big enough return, I’m sure the fan reaction to the trade could be mostly positive. I’m not sure the same goes for a trade involving Miggy. His contract runs through 2023 and he is owed no less than $28 million in any of those coming seasons. For an aging slugger, that’s a lot for a potential trade partner to deal with. The team would probably be lucky to unload him at this point, but he is such a fan favorite that I don’t know that they could get enough in return to fill the void left in the hearts of fans.

 

Will the fans really be able to withstand a prolonged playoff drought plus watching their favorite players leave town? That could be hard to stomach in Detroit and could leave Comerica Park looking a lot more empty than it has been for a long time. It’s hard to be too optimistic about the Detroit Tigers in the near future. Rebuilding is never an easy thing. Fans who have joined the team in only the recent good years, might have to suffer through a bit of losing. Something that isn’t the norm. For those that have been in with the team for decades, we might be returning to the dark ages of the 90’s. Nobody wants that but sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

 

 


The Detroit Tigers did the right thing at the trade deadline

Written by :
Published on : August 2, 2016

 

 

This was definitely a different kind of trade deadline for the Detroit Tigers and their of fans. The organization has been a big player at the deadline in recent years, often coming away with top-notch talent. Aside from last year, when the Tigers traded away David Price and Yoenis Cespedes for a stable of young arms, that talent was always brought to town with the idea that it would help the Tigers win right away. In 2014, it was David Price who was brought in to solidify the rotation for a playoff run. In 2013, the team got their shortstop of the future and human highlight reel in the field, Jose Iglesias. In other years past it was Doug Fister or Max Scherzer. No one can ever accuse former Tigers GM, Dave Dombrowski of being complacent or cautious at the trade deadline, but there’s a new sheriff in town.

 

 Avila, with his former boss and Tigers’ GM, Dave Dombrowski, and for manager, Jim Leyland.

 

First year GM, Al Avila, worked under Dave Dombrowski for years and he learned a lot from the opportunity to work with such a successful baseball architect. But he also realizes that years of wheeling and dealing at the deadline has left the organization and its farm system bereft of young talent. The Tigers have sent away talented prospects in droves over the last decade or so, and because of that, they didn’t have a single top-100 prospect in their system this season. Their top three youngsters are Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. All three of them have played in the majors this year, and have been impressive enough to warrant keeping them out of any potential deals with other teams.

 

Michael Fulmer has been the brightest spot on the Tigers roster all season long. He is currently rocking a 9-2 record with a 2.50 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, and is a legit candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. As one of those young arms that was brought to town at the deadline last year, Al Avila realizes that Fulmer and guys like him are the future of the team. And it’s for that reason that the Detroit Tigers made the correct move by standing idle at the trade deadline. There were plenty of discussions with other teams, but the team is determined to build a winner from within and you can’t do that by trading away your most talented young pitchers. They probably could have gotten a king’s ransom for Fulmer but they weren’t willing to part with someone who has been so impressive in their rookie season.

 

 Michael Fulmer: The Future.

 

The decision to stand pat is probably the best thing that could happen to this team right now. Coming on the heels of two straight series sweeps against the Red Sox and Astros, many people thought that the Tigers would be buyers at the trade deadline and try to add another starter to the rotation. I’m glad that cooler heads prevailed because even though Fulmer was deemed untouchable by management, trading away Norris, Boyd or both, would have put the future of the team and the farm system in jeopardy all the same.

 

The team is finally clicking this season and because of that they have probably saved Brad Ausmus’ job. I don’t really like the idea of having to deal with Ausmus for another year, but as a true fan I can’t help but hope for my boys to win as much as possible. They are sitting four games behind the Indians in the division and one and a half games out of the second wild card spot. That’s a whole lot better than I thought they would be is you had asked me about them in early June. It seems like they have finally figured it out. The bats are alive and the arms are throwing some fire. With everything clicking, why risk breaking up the chemistry by trading away important pieces to try something new.

 

Better to wait until the offseason to further improve the roster and ride it out with these guys. The farm system and the organization as a whole will be better for it in the end. Al Avila seems to know that and it’s because of that fact that I believe that while it may have been a quiet trade deadline for the Detroit Tigers, it was also a successful one.

 

 


Earning His Stripes: How Al Avila Won Big in His First Off-Season as GM

Written by :
Published on : January 23, 2016

 

After winning four consecutive American League Central Division titles from 2011-2014, the Detroit Tigers had high hopes entering last season as they again looked to contend for the division crown. After a 6-0 start and eventually winning as many as 11 of their first 13 games, everything seemed to be on the right track.

 

While sweeping the Minnesota Twins to start the season, the Tigers outscored their opponent 22-1 over the course of three games, setting an American League record of 24 scoreless innings to start a season. An unearned run in the 7th inning of the final game in the series ended Detroit’s string of pitching dominance.

 

 

On the mound, David Price looked locked in to have a Cy Young season, heck with the starts Alfredo Simon and Shawn Green got off to early on, it appeared his own teammates may be his toughest competition. With former Cy Young winner and league MVP Justin Verlander out until June or July, it was a very promising start from the new look rotation.

 

At the plate, things looked just as good through the first couple weeks as Miguel Cabrera was in his usual groove showcasing Ted Williams like numbers, and unlikely heroes José Iglesias and newcomer Anthony Gose were spraying the ball all over the outfield while flashing some leather in the field. For a team that hadn’t won the World Series since 1984, it had the feeling early on that this just may be the year. After four consecutive division titles, fans hoped that the third time was the charm, considering the Tigers made it to the World Series twice in the past decade only to come up short both times.

 

 

But how quickly things can change in this cruel game. Just a month or so later, the Tigers would drop eight consecutive games and fall to .500 for the first time all season. The Tigers would hang around the .500 mark for the next few months before deciding to unload at the July trade deadline. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and closer Joakim Soria packed their bags late in July as Detroit cut its losses and began to carve out a plan for a quick “reboot” according to then President/General Manager Dave Dombrowski. Vowing this team wouldn’t endure another 15+ year rebuilding process that I witnessed during the bulk of my childhood and early teen years, but instead that this “reboot” would have us back next season.

 

Just a week later, Dombrowski was gone. Said to be a mutual decision between he and owner Mike Ilitch, Dombrowski resigned, handing the reigns to his assistant Al Avila after nearly 14 years with the team. Some two weeks later, the Boston Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski to the same role and a few months later kicked off the off-season with some blockbuster moves, highlighted in a piece I wrote last month. But what about Dombrowski’s former team? How would the Detroit Tigers do with their offseason? With Dombrowski no longer apart of the organization, were the Tigers still in a “reboot” and ready to make a splash of their own during the offseason with new General Manager Al Avila? The answer, Detroit fans would come to find out, was yes.

 

 

Heading into the offseason, the Tigers had three glaring holes to fill if they had any dream of contending for a world championship, let alone the American League Central. Some of those holes required more than one player to fill them. First and foremost, the starting pitching needed to be addressed. With David Price dealt away at the deadline and Anibal Sánchez having a less than stellar 2015 season, Detroit needed a guy that had ace like stuff. They got that with Jordan Zimmermann, who had been with the Nationals. While some may worry about the decline on his fastball and the fact that he has had Tommy John surgery in the past, Zimmermann can flat out pitch and has a great strikeout to walk ratio. As a backend of the rotation type guy or potentially even a long relief bullpen arm, the Tigers also signed veteran Mike Pelfrey, most recently with the Minnesota Twins. This one was by no means a no-brainer like with Zimmermann and potentially a head scratcher at $8 million per, but these days signing a starting pitcher for less is rare.

 

Sticking with pitching, the Tigers also needed to add a couple quality arms to their bullpen. While the starting rotation didn’t have its best year in 2015, the bullpen didn’t fare any better. Aside from Joakim Soria, who was dealt away in July and maybe Alex Wilson too, the bullpen didn’t give Tiger fans much confidence in the later innings of ballgames. Al Avila made what appears to be a fantastic move by acquiring Francisco Rodríguez, or K-Rod, from Milwaukee for a prospect who many don’t see making it beyond AAA for any extended period of time. So the Tigers scoop Major League Baseball’s active saves leader for the next two seasons for just under $12 million? Yes, please. Avila, also added two more relievers in RHP Mark Lowe and LHP Justin Wilson.

 

The third and final major hole the Tigers needed to fill came after the trade of Yoenis Cespedes. When the Cuban Centipede was dealt away at the deadline, Tiger’s fans knew an outfield of JD Martinez, Anthony Gose, and Rajai Davis was not the answer for 162 games. Very early into free agency, the Tigers brought back a familiar face in an attempt to upgrade the outfield by acquiring Cameron Maybin from Atlanta in exchange for Ian Karol and a LHP prospect. With Atlanta covering $2.5 million of Maybin’s 2016 salary, this move was a low risk, but potentially also low reward. Over the next couple months, fans saw guys like Jason Heyward sign with the Cubs, Alex Gordon re-sign with Kansas City, and hoped that the Tigers would go out and splurge by bringing back Cespedes or another left fielder high on many GM’s lists, Justin Upton. While the familiarity of Cespedes probably had most fans preferring the highly touted 5-tool Cuban, Upton had the potential to add a wide variety of talents to a contending team. Then, late Monday night, the Tigers and Justin Upton had agreed on a 6-year deal.

 

 

Things moved really quick with the Upton deal. It was barely considered a legitimate rumor around much of Major League Baseball, but Al Avila got the final word from Mike Ilitch to go ahead and make the move even though it places them well above the luxury tax range. But as Mr I has always said, “Scared money don’t make money.” He said that right? Well, at any rate, Upton could be the final piece to the Tigers contending in 2016 and beyond. While Upton does have an opt-out clause after year two of the deal, both parties seem to be interested in keeping Justin here for the long haul. Upton brings a bat with great extra base power, a decent walk rate, and can steal you 15-20 bags a year to go along with solid defense in left field.

 

At first glance, Al Avila’s first full off-season as the head man in the front office for the Tigers probably couldn’t have been much better. He addressed every need, even going as far as to get multiple guys at each of the positions, and adding a few other backup spots elsewhere on the diamond as well. What Tigers fans need to understand is they were never in on guys like David Price, Zack Greinke, or Jason Heyward. So to come out with Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton and Francisco Rodriguez to fill your biggest voids grades out at a solid A in my book. With the 2016 season just around the corner, the Tiger’s “reboot” appears to be complete and while Rome wasn’t built in a day, Detroit hopes it’s beloved baseball team has been rebuilt in just one offseason.

 

 

 


Support Us
Support ScoreBoredSports on patreon!

patreon-medium-button
Sponsors

Hide Error message here!

Forgot your password?

Error message here!

Error message here!

Hide Error message here!

Lost your password? Please enter your email address. You will receive a link to create a new password.

Error message here!

Back to log-in

Close