With the NFL season coming to a close and the Pistons and Red Wings being stuck in a limbo of mediocrity; it’s time for Detroiters to get excited about baseball season. Spring Training is in full swing and there is a lot of chatter among the Tigers’ franchise. After an absolute dud of an offseason, having made no major changes being made to the team’s lineup, the Tigers could be on their last legs. 2017 may be their last opportunity to make a legitimate playoff push. An aging core of players (Miguel Cabrera – 33, Justin Verlander – 34, Victor Martinez – 38) and a rash of injuries have put the Tigers in a very precarious position heading into the season.
Going into this past offseason, there was much buzz about what the Tigers were going to do. Trading J.D. Martinez, whose contract was up for expiration, for a package of prospects seemed like the inevitable. However, heavy price tags and teams being too far off led to Martinez remaining a Tiger for his contract year. With Martinez stationed in right field for another season, the full-time arrival of prospect Steven Moya has been delayed by at least one more season. One recurring theme that always accompanies the Tigers offseason is at least one blockbuster deal. Whether is be signing a big name free agent such as Jordan Zimmermann or Justin Upton the year prior, or trading to acquire a big name like when they acquired Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder prior to the 2014 season. However, this offseason their biggest deal was sending Cameron Maybin to the Angels for a mid-level prospect.
Heading into Spring Training, there are two major positions up for grabs. The #5 Starting Rotation spot and Centerfield are both vacant with a lot of competition. Filling out the Starting Rotation, there are only two potential candidates who pose a chance of securing the spot. Veteran Right-Hander Anibal Sanchez, who is coming off an abysmal 2016, and Lefthander Matt Boyd, who has yet to prove himself at the MLB level. Both men are likely going to just “out-suck” the other one unless another prospect shows out and surprises everybody throughout the Spring.
The Tigers’ other position with much competition is Centerfield, which was previously occupied by Cameron Maybin. Tyler Collins, JaCoby Jones, and Mikie Mahtook will all be on the spot during Spring Training as they try to solidify themselves as a mainstay in the Majors. A former first round pick, Mahtook was acquired by the Tigers for a PTBNL in late January. Collins has been with the Tigers organization since he was drafted in 2011, and has served as a platoon outfielder since the 2014 season. At the 2015 trade deadline, Jones was acquired for Joakim Soria and has been considered one of the Tigers’ top prospects since.
After a very unconventional offseason for the Tigers, they are in a position where they have to make one last push for a World Series. There would be no better way to honor late owner, Mike Ilitch, who passed away in February.