Sunday, August 08, 2010

Looking Ahead to 2011

I generally don't like it when fans talk about the season being over in July or August.  It's particularly annoying when that sentiment is expressed when the team is two or three games out of first as the Tigers were until recently.  After all, things can turn around fast and unexpectedly in baseball.  I'm not one to ever give up while the Tigers are still mathematically in contention, but realistically they have little chance of getting back into the race this year. 
Now ten games behind the White Sox and 8 1/2 behind the second place Twins, it's time to start thinking about 2011 at least a little bit.

So, today, I'll take a position by position look at which players might be back next year.

Catcher

Gerald Laird has been very disappointing this year to say the least.  He is batting .185 with little power and even has defense has declined.  He is on the last year of his contract and I don't expect him back next year.  Alex Avila has also been a disappointment, although he might have been rushed in an effort to add a left-handed bat to the team.  I still think the Tigers view him as the catcher of the future though and he should be back next year.  They will likely get a veteran catcher to split time with Avila.

First base

There's much to talk about here.  Miguel Cabrera be back for at least the next five years

Second base

Right now, Carlos Guillen, Will Rhymes and Scott Sizemore are potential second basemen for 2011.  Sizemore has been slowed by injuries (ankle and hip) this year and has likely never been fully healthy all season.  He has hit well at triple-A but not in the majors.  Assuming they don't get a replacement outside the organization, Sizemore is probably the favorite to win the position next year, but he won't be guaranteed a starting job as he was last spring. 

Given his health history, they certainly can't count on Guillen to be the regular second baseman.  There is a chance they might eat the final year of his contract but I think he'll return as a designated hitter and back up second baseman.   Jim Leyland likes the scrappy Rhymes but I think his ultimate role will be backup infielder.

Third base

Brandon Inge is in the final year of his contract and Jhonny Peralta is in his final guaranteed year.  There is little chance that the Tigers will exercice Peralta's $ 7 million option.  They may try to bring him back at a reduced salary, but I think there is a better chance that they re-sign Inge.  Although his range has declined since he hurt his knees last year, Inge is still the superior fielder and there is not much difference between the two offensively. 

Shortstop

Peralta is playing shortstop at the moment, but is not a good defender at that position so I doubt he's a real option there for next year.  Danny Worth is a strong defender but I don't know if he'll hit well enough to be a regular.  The Tigers have long believed that Ramon Santiago does not have the durability to be a regular so, he'll continue as a backup and a very good one.  I suspect, they will push hard to obtain a shortstop in a trade.


Right field

Until recently, Brennan Boesch was once the most appealing option in right field but it's hard to know what to make of a player who hit like Vladimir Guerrero in the first half and a double-A hitter since the all-star break.  Whether or not he can make the adjustments down the stretch will determine whether he'll go into next season as a starting corner outfielder.  They certainly need a young left-handed hitter badly, so he'll be one of the players to watch the rest of the season.   

The injury to Magglio Ordonez means that his $15 million option for 2011 will not automatically vest.  They may try to sign him at a lower salary but, given that his agent is Scott Boras, that won't happen easily.  He'll probably be a late off-season signing and there is a good season the Tiger swill be heavily involved in that drama.  How hard they'll push may depend on Boesch.

Center field

Austin Jackson has been one of the few consistent bright spots this season and should be the starting center fielder for years to come.

Left field

Johnny Damon is finishing a one year deal and probably won't be a top priority in the off-season.  It's not that he has been bad, but he'll be 37 next year and the market for 37-year-old designated hitters is not strong.  I think the Tigers will try hard to obtain a left-handed corner outfielder from outside the organization.

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