Since the Detroit Tigers’ World Series appearance in 2006, their first appearance in 22 years, the franchise has transformed from the laughingstock of the MLB, into a championship contending team; a team whose season is deemed a failure if they are not crowned champions.
The 2013 postseason came to an end in a bitter fashion. The Tigers were eliminated in the ALCS by the eventual World Series champions, Boston Red Sox.
As I watched that series, I saw a team with a false sense of entitlement to be champions; not a team that had a burning desire to be champions. It was clear that changes needed to be made in Detroit.
Just moments after being defeated by the Red Sox, Jim Leyland notified his players that he would not be returning as the Tigers’ manager next season. In an emotional press conference, Leyland officially stepped down as the Tiger’s manager on October 21st.
Detroit’s lineup has lost two of it’s biggest sluggers; Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta. Fielder was traded to the Texas Rangers after spending just two seasons in Detroit. The Tiger’s first baseman struggled this year as his personal life issues greatly affected his play on the field. Peralta was suspended 50 games this season due to his affiliation with performance enhancing drugs. There was no intention to re-sign the aging shortstop and as he reached a deal to become a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Omar Infante has signed with the Kansas City Royals. Infante batted .318 last season but was primarily used in the bottom of the lineup.
Utility outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tuiasosopo experienced some success this season but was never given a full-time position.
Starting pitcher Doug Fister, who was due about a $7 million pay increase, was traded to the Washington Nationals. Fister posted a 32-20 record and an ERA of 3.29 in his time with Detroit.
Joaquin Benoit, who was the closer for the Tigers this past season, has agreed to a deal with the San Diego Padres. Detroit also lost relief pitcher Jose Veras, who was acquired from the Houston Astros just this past season. Veras has recently signed with the Chicago Cubs.
Brad Ausmus, former MLB catcher, will now be the Tigers’ manager. The 44-year old has worked as a special assistant in the San Diego Padres’ front office and managed the Israel national baseball team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Ian Kinsler was acquired in the deal that sent Fielder to the Rangers. Kinsler is solid defensively at second base and can bat anywhere in the top half of the lineup.
Detroit landed free agent outfielder Rajai Davis. Davis will primarily play left field when the Tigers are facing left-handed pitchers. He is great at hitting lefties and has exceptional speed on the bases.
Joe Nathan has recorded 341 saves in his big league career and will now hold down the back end of the Tigers’ bullpen. Hopefully this will put an end to the late game woes in Detroit.
After seven seasons spent as a New York Yankee, Joba Chamberlain is looking for a fresh start in Detroit. Chamberlain’s career has been filled with ups and downs and lately it has been mostly downs. If Tigers’ pitching coach Jeff Jones can get him back on track, he could be a key addition to the bullpen as the setup man.
The Tigers acquired two left-handed pitching prospects in the trade with the Nationals. Ian Krol and Robbie Ray provide the organization with some lefty options out of the bullpen and farm system, respectively. The trade also brought Steve Lombardozzi to Detroit. Lombardozzi will be the new utility player for Detroit.
Over the past few seasons, the Tigers’ roster has consisted of sluggers and strikeout pitchers. The inability to manufacture runs and to close out victories late in the game has been the Achilles’ heel of Detroit. They have tried the same formula for a few years now and it has resulted in nothing but disappointment.
Detroit needed a change in philosophy and in the locker room, so far they have taken a step in the right direction. The city has been hungry for a World Series title and these changes can trigger that hunger inside the clubhouse.