Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2009 starting rotation

With the Tigers officially eliminated from the playoff race, it's time to look ahead to 2009. It's pretty clear that pitching was the biggest reason for the Tigers dismal 2008 so let's look at the pitching staff first. Who will be the starting pitchers in 2009? Here are the current candidates:
  • Justin Verlander is finishing up a very disappointing season but is still a lock for the 2009 rotation
  • Armando Gallaraga is finishing up a surprisingly good season and is also a lock for the rotation even if he is not a good bet to equal this season's success.
  • Jeremy Bonderman will be one of the starters if he is healthy. There has not been much news about him lately but the general feeling about him seems to be that he will be healthy and ready to go next spring. Still, we won't know for sure that his arm is sound until he starts pitching again. From what I gather, he hasn't been fully healthy since June, 2007.
  • Dontrelle Willis started against the Rangers on Monday and gave up three runs in five innings. He has made progress over the last few months but was still very wild. He'll be a front runner for a starting job due to his $11 million salary but his knee problem and bouts of extreme wildness are still concerns. He won't be in the rotation long if he becomes Steve Blass/Rick Ankiel again.
  • Zack Miner has pitched more good games than bad ones since becoming a starter. He's a fairly good candidate to be one of the starting five at the beginning of next season but the Tigers haven't committed to anything yet and he could end up as a swing man.
  • Nate Robertson has been demoted to a relief role. Some think that his big salary make him a front runner for the rotation next year but he's not a starter now and is certainly not a lock for next year.
  • Freddy Garcia pitched five strong innings last night in his 2008 debut. He will be a free agent but the Tigers did not sign him just so they could show case him to the rest of baseball. If he continues to pitch well down the stretch, they will surely make a big push to sign him. If they do sign him, he will be part of the rotation.
  • Kenny Rogers is done for the season and will likely retire.
  • Eddie Bonine, Chris Lambert and any other pitcher currently in the organization would be a long shot to begin next season in the rotation.
If they don't sign Garcia, I think there is a realistic chance they'll sign someone else. There will be a good number of decent starting pitchers on the market this off-season. Eddie at Detroit Tigers Thoughts has determined which ones will likely be Type A free agents meaning that the Tigers would have to surrender a draft pick if they sign one. Here is the list:

CC Sabathia - Type A
Ben Sheets - Type A
Oliver Perez - Type A
Derek Lowe - Type A
John Lackey - Type A but the Angels have an option and will likely keep him
AJ Burnett - Type A
Andy Pettitte - Type A
Mike Mussina - Type A
Ryan Dempster - Eddie hasn't listed relievers (Dempster was in the bullpen last year) yet but I would guess he's a Type A
John Smoltz
Brad Penny
Kyle Lohse
Greg Maddux
Braden Looper
Randy Johnson
Tim Wakefield
Paul Byrd
Jon Garland

With all the long term contracts for which they are already responsible, I suspect the Tigers will not be able to afford one of the big guns like Sabathia, Sheets, Dempster or Burnett. They also might not want to lose a draft pick to sign a Lowe or a Perez. I can see them going after a pitcher like Randy Wolf or Jon Garland but this is all pure speculation.

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