A season that started with such high expectations and ended with such a demoralizing Grand Slam - now has a team that is leaderless.
Detroit Tiger manager Jim Leyland retired on monday, October 21, to the surprise of everyone but a mere handful of people that were privy to the decision. An intensive and accelerated search is now in progress to find his successor. GM Dave Dombrowski has publicly indicated the criteria that is sought in the new manager.
The season ending 2013 Tigers are who we suspected they were - a team with a very questionable bullpen and one with limited clutch hitting - as of the end of August. The club, in addition, had much less collective team speed than other worthy opponents.
2013 was a backward step, as the previous year saw them rise, then lose in the World Series. This year they were supposed improve and win it all.
What should be done now
The Tigers have only one position open among the starting eight. That would be left field. One option is to retain Johnny Peralta, now a free agent who lost his shortstop position to Jose Iglesias an emerging team sparkplug - the best fielder on the team.
The better option is to sign a free agent outfielder who has speed, a good glove, and a bat that could net .280, with 15 homeruns.
Relief pitching is the team's biggest Achilles heel, and certainly they need to add at least two or three excellent arms for that role in the off season. That is a mandatory condition. Jose Veras, attained by trade in mid 2013, has not distinguished himself at all, since his arrival. Rookie Bruce Rondon, however, will probably give a good accounting of himself.
Trade of a very worthy starting pitcher
The speculation started one year ago and now it has to happen. Rick Porcello must be traded. (Pictured right) His value has never been higher. As a fifth starter, comparatively, he upgraded himself to a status of 'excellent". The Tigers have outlived this as any kind of necessity. Drew Smyly - the "starter-in-waiting" must assume that mantle, and become the only left hander in the rotation.
Second base swapping
Omar Infante, 31, has to remain the second baseman. He should be very productive till his late 30's - just like Placido Polanco was - a player who was sent packing, which created a once gaping hole. Serious consideration must be given to the trading of rookie Hernan Perez, Devon Travis, or both.
Perez is an outstanding fielder, with good speed - fine commodities, but will he ever hit? Travis, 22, (pictured below.) is a single A farm system stand-out at second base. He hit .350 at two different levels this season
Outfielder Nick Castellanos
Nick Castellanos, 21, is a converted third baseman. He does not show promise as an outfielder, though he has been ranked as the Tigers top prospect. Something has to give. In baseball's version of the New York Stock Exchange, GM Dave Dombrowski has been elite at "selling stock before it falls" ( trades of numerous young prospects that never evolved to haunt his days.)
This team has to implement the painful process of manufacturing runs - one at a time, and to also solidify team defense. Castellanos is not the answer to either proposition. Will he really ever become a dangerous big league hitter? Trade him now!
The acquisition of Prince Fielder was an ill fated adventure personally initiated by owner Mike Ilitch. If Fielder was somehow traded, Miguel Cabrera could safely go back to first base and a real infield could be crafted. The only way to trade Prince is to send along 50 million ( to reduce the huge balance of his contract) to the team that Detroit trades with. Is that possible? Is it affordable?
Prince Fielder is presently a controversial figure in Detroit. He's probably a "good guy", but lives by a powerful personal code - that is - he will not ever show "weakness" or vulnerability to the media. When he needs to be contrite or make an appeal to the public - We're sorry - that sentiment becomes a victim of collateral damage. To communicate differently would mean that Fielder is "letting himself down". That is the the one last bridge he cannot burn.
This combination of trading strategy and free agency pick-ups should result in a much more balanced Detroit Tigers for 2014. The farm system will be closer to providing more help at various fill in roles. That small window of World Series opportunities can yet be honored.
The Tigers need a left-handed hitting outfielder. Can this be? The return of one of their most popular players ever - one Curtis Granderson? He's a free agent. A pipe dream, but isn't it Grand?