There’s no sugar-coating how bad the Detroit Tigers‘ 2015 MLB season was. Originally starting off with playoff aspirations and an 11-2 record, they quickly fell apart from dismal pitching and injuries.
The Tigers finished with a 74-87 record and last in the American League Central. A far cry from their four straight division titles from 2011-2014.
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And now, looking at the long, cold off-season, the Tigers’ new General Manager Al Avila has a ton of work to do. There were very obvious problems with the pitching staff that hindered this team all season long. Give this offense a league-average pitching staff and they would have won a lot more games.
The starting rotation past Justin Verlander is full of question marks. And that’s not to say Verlander doesn’t have issues of his own. But this rotation took some major hits in 2015.
Anibal Sanchez‘s season was decimated with injuries. Coupled with ineffectiveness from Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon lead to a weak starting staff. The final blow came when David Price was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in a Trade Deadline deal.
The Tigers once prided themselves with their vaunted rotation, but it was a shell of its former self by the end of the season.
Before the season even ended, Bruce Rondon was sent home for issues about his “effort level”. The bullpen predictably continued to be a problem after years of holding the Tigers back from a World Series.
The Tigers’ team ERA of 4.64 ranked dead last in the American League. In comparison, the 2014 Detroit Tigers finished with a 4.01 ERA. It’s hard to win games when your staff allows more than a half run per game than it did last year.
If Avila and the Tigers plan to compete in 2016 and beyond, they must fix the starting rotation and bullpen. There’s no question about it.
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The hardest part for Avila though will be the multiple holes on this Tigers roster. Rajai Davis will be a free agent and there’s no way Anthony Gose should be a full-time starter. His son, Alex Avila, will also be a free agent along with many other names.
Just as discussed before, the Tigers are a few starters and multiple bullpen pieces away from contention. There’s no way all of that can come from the free agent market.
Avila is going to have to get creative with the trade market. Ironically, his predecessor in Dombrowski was a master in that department. He would swindle teams landing superstar names like Miguel Cabrera and David Price through trades.
Even the infamous Doug Fister for Robbie Ray trade might not have been as bad as once thought. Fister had a 4.19 ERA in 2015 compared to Ray’s 3.52 ERA, and at the age of 24, doesn’t look bad just two years after the trade.
But the pieces he got for Price earlier this year look to be solid foundation blocks. Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd have serious potential. Both can help out the team next year in terms of filling out the starting rotation.
Avila needs to seriously consider taking a hard look at the youth to fill out this team. Getting them Major League experience can not only help them but the team for the present and the future.
Speaking of trade speculations though, the player that might have the most value on this team might be Nick Castellanos. While fans have a mixed opinion on him, he’s still extremely young at only 23.
His overall numbers were poor, but after the All-Star break Castellanos posted an .800 OPS showing a modest uptick in homers with 15 on the year. The glove needs work but he made huge strides after a miserable rookie campaign.
While this isn’t an open idea to trading Castellanos, Avila still needs to consider parting ways with some of his players. Both Cabrera and Verlander aren’t getting any younger. And with their long contracts, competing during their primes will be important in 2016 and beyond.
All in all, the team’s identity and look are also changing. That’s what happens when you move onto a new GM, even if he was Dombrowski’s assistant for all these years.
The Tigers can be contenders in 2016 and beyond. This offense is too loaded with talent for them not to be good to great.
It’s the pitching that’s the biggest concern. And that’s where Avila needs to start and end.
Now, your thoughts. How do you feel going into the off-season? Good? Bad? Terrible? Whatever the case, there’s Avila and his new crew will have to work hard to make the Tigers contenders once again.