Tigers make the right moves/Paul Peterson
The below-zero temperatures and growing snowbanks tell us that baseball season is a long ways off.
But the Detroit Tigers are one of the main topics of conversation in the coffee shops, bars and restaurants around town because of the flurry of trades and moves they have made.
Make no mistake, owner Mike Ilitch – like many Detroit fans – was not satisfied with merely first-place finishes in the mediocre American League Central Division.
Or the less-than-scintillating performances they’ve put out in the World Series in 2006 and 2012.
By acquiring a steady second baseman in Ian Kinsler, they’ve added a potential leadoff man. Kinsler has proven that he can hit with power and that he can steal a base, a facet of the game that has been missing for a few years in Motown.
In sending the lead-footed Prince Fielder to Texas for Kinsler (and a few million of Ilitch’s money) they unloaded a player who, in all honesty, had become a liability.
Fielder’s laissez-faire attitude after the team’s defeat at the hands of the Red Sox in the playoffs was the last straw for many fans.
By moving Miguel Cabrera back to first base, the team also improved measurably on defense.
I also liked the acquisition of closer Joe Nathan, who will hopefully fill a void. Nathan, a longtime Tiger-killer out of the bullpen, was good on 41 of 44 saves a season ago in Texas.
Trading reliable starting pitcher Doug Fister to Washington was a risk, but it may pay some dividends down the road.
The Tigers picked up a couple of lefthanded pitchers to strengthen an area of weakness.
One of those, young Robbie Ray, is touted as a possible starter in the near future.
Infielder Steve Lombardozzi, a steady .260 hitter, will add depth in the infield and replace aging Ramon Santiago.
His presence may also help promising young Nick Castellanos, who will take over at third base. The team got a shortstop for the next 10 years last year in Jose Iglesias, a slick-fielding gloveman.
General manager Dave Dombrowski landed more speed when he signed Rajai Davis this week. Davis stole 45 bases last season.
The money gained from Fielder’s departure should loosen the finances enough to re-sign Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who teams up with Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and probably Drew Smyly to form the best rotation in all of baseball.
And like it or not Jim Leyland fans, the retirement of the crusty manager will improve the team’s chances. New skipper Brad Ausmus will no doubt work on the fundamentals that were sadly absent the last few seasons.
I can envision the following lineup:
1. Kinsler 2B;
2. Davis or Andy Dirks LF;
3. Cabrera 1B.
4. Victor Martinez DH;
5. Castellanos 3B;
6. Torii Hunter RF;
7. Alex Avila C;
8. Austin Jackson CF;
9. Iglesias SS.
Avila and Jackson may yet be trade material, preferably for a more offensive catcher.
But all in all, deserving Tigers fans could be celebrating next October.