The Detroit Tigers are resting comfortably atop the AL Central standings here at the All-Star break. Their 53-38 record is good enough for the 3rd best winning percentage in the big leagues, trailing only Oakland and the LA Angels.
With a 6.5 game lead in the standings, the Tigers will begin working toward their inevitable October playoff date. GM Dave Dombrowski will almost assuredly shore up his 7-man bullpen all the while leaving his 13 position players unchanged.
With the roster changes on everyone’s mind, I’ll take this interruption in the season to give you my predictions as to what the Tigers’ 25-man roster will look like come Opening Day, 2015.
- 1st base – Miguel Cabrera
- 2nd base – Ian Kinsler
- Shortstop – Eugenio Suarez
- 3rd base – Nick Castellanos
- Catcher – Alex Avila/Bryan Holaday
- Utility – Jose Iglesias
Summary: Rumors began circulating that the Tigers, what with their up and coming middle infield prospects, might look to trade Kinsler as soon as the upcoming offseason. However, he has proven to be a reliable two-way force for the Tigers through the All-Star break and should remain a focal point of the team’s plans at least through the next two years. Iglesias should be back in some capacity but with his shins remaining an uncertainty and Suarez already staking his claim to the shortstop position, it might be safest to project Iglesias as the utility infielder to start the year. Sorry Alex Avila haters, but he’s not going anywhere. James McCann could push Holaday for playing time but odds favor Holaday breaking camp as the backup.
- Left Field – JD Martinez
- Centerfield – Austin Jackson
- Right Field – Melky Cabrera
- Bench – Rajai Davis/Don Kelly
Summary: Torii Hunter is most likely a goner, which opens up a spot in right field, which aside from the bullpen will be one of the few roster spots with major questions surrounding it next offseason. Assuming JD Martinez plays to at least 75% of the production that he has offered in the season’s 1st half he’s a lock to be a starter next year. The future is unclear on Andy Dirks’ status with the Tigers. If Detroit goes ultra cheap then he could be in right field but I think the Tigers will spend some money here and Melky Cabrera fits the bill. He’s a switch-hitter (and the Tigers would prefer a lefty hitter here) and has restored his value and ability two full years removed from his PED suspension (.299 avg., .348 on-base %, 11 HR, 45 RBI’s) and would be a monumental defensive upgrade over the declining Hunter. Why Don Kelly? Well, because he’s Don Kelly, and he plays for the Detroit Tigers!
DH – Victor Martinez – Martinez’s 4-year contract expires after this season. But can you honestly imagine the Tigers moving forward without him? I’d be surprised if he leaves town but if he asks for too many years going into his age-36 season then things could get hairy. Martinez has shown the ability to spell Cabrera at 1st base just enough to at least not be considered a DH-only type of player, which helps the case to bring him back. Anything beyond three years could be the tipping point.
Summary: Yes, this means I think Max Scherzer ends up elsewhere in 2015 and beyond. My hunch is Los Angeles but we shall see. This should open up a spot for Robbie Ray to emerge as a full-time starter for the Tigers. If he isn’t up to the task then Kyle Lobstein might get a crack at the job as well and don’t be surprised if the Tigers bring a veteran starter or two into camp in order to add depth and options should the young guys fail to prove their readiness.
- Joe Nathan
- Al Alburquerque
- Ian Krol/Blaine Hardy
- Chad Smith
- Luke Putkonen/Bruce Rondon
- J.P. Howell
- Luke Gregerson
Summary: The Tigers have Nathan, Alburquerque, and Krol/Hardy all coming back. I have a hunch that Chad Smith establishes himself in the 2nd half of this season and parlays that into a gig next spring. Joba Chamberlain has done enough in his half year in Detroit to warrant serious consideration from the Tigers in terms of re-signing him to a multi-year deal but my gut says he ends up somewhere else next season. I could see the combination of the hopefully healthy Putkonen and Rondon taking up one combined roster spot next year. Also, Phil Coke will be a free agent and I wouldn’t be surprised if he decided to move on from his tumultuous time in the Motor City. Regarding the last two names on my list, I begged for lefty specialist JP Howell this past offseason and the Tigers didn’t listen. I will beg again. And Luke Gregerson is the ideal 7th/8th inning man that the Tigers should target.
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