It's expected to a busy time next Monday through Thursday at the MLB winter meetings in Indianapolis. Judging from all the chatter, Dave Dombrowski has been talking to a lot of teams about a lot of players so the Tigers could be one of the more active teams.
It's pretty hard to guess exactly what the Tigers will do but I wouldn't expect a firesale where the Tigers give up on the 2010 season and trade their top players for low level prospects. The Tigers want to contend in 2010. At the same time, they would like to improve the team without adding any more big salaries to the payroll. With that in mind, a position by position outlook of the Tigers off-season is shown below.
The Tigers would probably like to work young Alex Avila into the catching mix more next year. If so, that makes Gerald Laird, who could make about $3.5 million next year, a trade candidate. Laird had a bad year with the bat but is a strong defender and might have some value to a team with more offense than the Tigers. If they do move Laird, look for them to find a cheap replacement to split time with Avila. Free agents Rod Barajas and Ramon Castro are two possibilities.
There have been rumblings about the Tigers trading Miguel Cabrera but that is very unlikely. Not too many teams can pick up his salary and the Tigers are not likely very interested in trading him anyway, not if they want to contend the next couple of years.
As you all know by now, Placido Polanco is a Phillie and rookie Scott Sizemore is the Tigers new second baseman. If it takes longer than expected for Sizemore to recover from his ankle injury, then Ramon Santiago would probably fill in briefly. Sizemore is expected to be ready for spring training though.
The Tigers need a shortstop both short term and long term. There is still a chance they could acquire a prospect in a trade but I expect them to sign a one year stop gap. They are talking to Adam Everett and Bobby Crosby but would prefer Everett who is the superior defender. The plan would be for Everett or Crosby to split time with Santiago again next year. There has been some talk about rookie Brent Dlugach but he's going to be 27, is not a top prospect, and a starting job does not seem likely.
Brandon Inge is recovering from knee surgery and will be their third baseman again in 2010. It will be the final year on his contract.
Jim Leyland is saying that Carlos Guillen will be the regular left fielder but I suspect he'll end up doing a lot of DHing. Left field will probably be a revolving door again next year with Ryan Raburn probably getting the most starts. They could make a deal for a left-handed hitting left fielder but it's not likely to be a high profile player.
There have been many conflicting rumors about Curtis Granderson. Some think he will surely be traded while others say the Tigers are not anxious to move him unless they are overwhelmed. I think he's staying. His value to the Tigers on and off the field is more than they'll get in a trade. They could use a right-handed hitting backup and rookie Casper Wells is a candidate.
Magglio Ordonez will make $18 million as the Tigers right fielder next year and we'll spend all year worrying about whether or not gets enough plate appearances (135 games or 540 PA) for his 2011 option to vest.
Ideally, Guillen would be their main designated hitter but there will likely be many. This is a spot where they have been below replacement level for two years and need to improve.
Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello are not going anywhere. In fact, the Tigers will probably try to sign Verlander long term this winter. Edwin Jackson, who could make close to $4 million is another trade candidate, They would need to get a starting pitcher in return though. The names Brandon Morrow of the Mariners and Max Scherzer of the Diamondbacks have come up. They need fourth and fifth starters too but look for them to roll the dice with Jeremy Bonderman, Armando Galarraga, Nate Robertson , and Eddie Bonine.
Brandon Lyon is a free agent and is drawing a lot of interest from other teams. I expect him to sign elsewhere any day. They have a better shot at signing Fernando Rodney. If they can not sign either of them, then they'll probably try to sign one of the many free agent relievers on the market. Most of their bullpen will be filled from within with several rookies such as Robbie Weinhardt, Cody Satterwhite, Zach Simons, Jay Sborz, and Casey Fien possibly getting opportunities at some point next year.