The free agency filing period is over, rumors are flying around the net and Tiger fans are dreaming of new line-ups and rotations for 2006. So I thought now would be a good time for my hot stove preview. I’ll go through the roster position by position and tell you what I expect the Tigers to do this winter. I’m just a fan with a blog and have no inside information. I’m basing my thoughts on recent Tiger history, vague quotes from Tiger management which have shown up in local newspapers and a little bit of common sense.
There have been some rumblings about a possible trade of Ivan Rodriguez. There is some thought that the Tigers would like to get rid of him because he was a disruptive influence in the clubhouse last year. I don’t see it happening though. Given his age and contract, I don’t think the Tigers will be able to get enough in return. He had a poor year offensively this year but I think he’ll bounce back a little next year (although he’ll probably never get close to his 2004 numbers again). He’s also still a very good defensive catcher. Vance Wilson is still on the 40 man roster and figures to return as the backup catcher again despite an awful first half this year.
First base/Designated hitter
Chris Shelton should have a lock on a starting job. They will likely trade either Dmitri Young or Carlos Pena. I’m hoping it’s Young because he’s getting older, is coming off an injury and is not in great physical condition. I don’t have a good feeling about where is career is headed. His salary will be tough to move but they might possibly be able to trade his salary for another bad salary perhaps a pitcher). Pena will likely be easier to move.
Second base/ shortstop/ third base
I expect Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge to open the season at second, short and third with Omar Infante as the back up. I’d love to see them acquire a third baseman so Inge could become a supersub but there aren’t a lot third basemen available that would be upgrades over Inge or even as good as Inge. Trading Infante is a possibility but I still think his potential exceeds his trade value and they will need a backup for Guillen who still may not be 100% next year or ever.
The Tigers are looking to become more left-handed this off season and outfield might be the easiest place to do that. Curtis Granderson is a left-handed batter and Magglio Ordonez is not going anywhere with his contract so Craig Monroe would be a logical candidate. I expect
This is one area where the Tigers will surely be active. At the very least, they need to replace Jason Johnson’s innings and hopefully they’ll get an upgrade over Johnson. With so few pitchers being available and so many teams looking for pitching, it will be difficult for them to sign a free agent pitcher. Acquiring a pitcher in a trade might turn out to be their only option. That would likely cost them a good prospect or two so I’m sure they’ll explore the free agent route thoroughly before they do anything there. Whomever they get will join Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson in the rotation. The fifth starter will probably be a youngster such as Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya or Roman Colon
Dave Dombrowski has said that he wants a closer and a left-handed reliever. They might have better luck with free agents here because there are quite a few relievers available. I hope that they don’t blow too much money on a big name closer because I think the money would be better spent on a few good arms rather than one closer. If hey spend big money on one pitcher, I hope it’s a starter rather than a reliever. The most likely returning relievers are Jamie Walker, Chris Spurling, Fernando Rodney and Franklin German.
Sorry I don’t have any good tales to stoke the fire but I’d prefer to wait until there are some legitimate rumors out there before I throw out any names. Tiger Tales does not want to be responsible for starting any fake internet trade rumors! In summary, I think their line-up will not change much except that they may have one new outfielder and one of their first basemen will go. Also, I expect them to acquire one starting pitcher and a couple of relievers.
OK, if you really want to see a fresh new rumor (one that makes sense), there's something about Farnsworth over on the Detroit Tiger weblog.