With baseball almost back for the 2016 season, the landscape of Major League Baseball has changed as many players have gotten moved around, which always happens in the winter months. The Detroit Tigers were one of the most active teams this past offseason, as they moved a lot of players but signed some notable players in for the 2016 campaign. After a disappointing 2015 season where the Tigers finished last in the A.L. East and 20.5 games back out of first place in the division, they looked to add some fire power in every facet of the game.
The Tigers traded very few major names, such as Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmermann, but signed big free agents. Detroit had the third highest combined team salary in 2015, only behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, at $173,306,250. With their acquisitions this past offseason, that number will be even higher. According to baseballreference.com, the Tigers are committed to pay $192.2 million to their players, and their payroll is $198.5 million.
That might seem like a lot for a team that finished so far behind in the standings, but they want to win now. Here are some of the notable acquisitions and roster moves that the Tigers made in the 2016 offseason:
Milwaukee Brewers trade closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Tigers in exchange for two minor league players. In terms of getting a foundation set in the bullpen, this was it. The Tigers relied too much on an aging Joe Nathan, and after he got hurt, the Tigers’ didn’t have any consistent closer. Although Rodriguez is 34, he has been very consistent over his career. Last season, he posted a 2.21 ERA and a career-low 0.860 WHIP. The only concern the Tigers might have with K-Rod (other than his age) is the fact that his fastball velocity is down, making him prone to giving up home runs. While he might not return his form when he set the single-season saves record, he will still be a consistent piece in the Tigers bullpen. Overall, I would give this trade an A-.
Atlanta Braves trade outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Tigers for two relief pitchers. At the time of this trade, it was somewhat of a head-scratcher. Maybin originally was drafted by the Tigers, but he was traded to the Miami Marlins when the Tigers acquired superstar Miguel Cabrera. Maybin’s numbers weren’t all that impressive last year for an everyday center fielder; he hit .267 with 10 home runs and 23 steals. Not great, but considering the Tigers gave up Ian Krol, an inconsistent left-handed reliever and Gabe Speier, a minor league reliever, it was just an average deal for the Tigers. C+.
Free agent starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann signs with the Tigers for five years, $110 million. Zimmermann was coming off of a fairly good year; he was a huge sign for the Tigers starting rotation. After former Tigers starter David Price declared free agency, the Tigers were looking for another top-three starter, and they got it in Zimmermann. He’s a two-time all-star and coming off of a year where he set his career-high in games started. Zimmermann will turn 30 in May, so the Tigers caught him in the prime of his career. In 2015, Zimmermann had a 13-10 record with a 3.66 ERA. He will join a rotation that features starters Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez and will look to make an impact immediately. However, he had a career-high 19 wins in 2013, and has not come close to that mark since. It’s possible he could be on the decline, but only time will tell. A-.
The Tigers sign free agent starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey to a two-year, $16 million contract. For a lot of Tigers fans, this was one of the weirdest moves in recent memory. Sure, they needed another starting pitcher, but Mike Pelfrey, really? Pelfrey was 6-11 with a 4.27 ERA last season, and those certainly aren’t numbers to boast about. He’s also 31 which is when he should be in the prime of his career, but his numbers say otherwise. Unless he changes something drastically in the way he pitches, it only seems like a guy at that age and with those numbers will be on the decline from here on out. D.
The Tigers sign free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a one-year contract. This deal didn’t really do a whole lot, in my opinion. The Tigers lost catcher Alex Avila to the free agent market, and Saltalamacchia’s numbers are very comparable to Avila’s. He might have more pop from the left side, but the Tigers are taking a step down from the way Avila can handle a pitching staff. Saltalamacchia will be battling for the starting position with James McCann, who is coming off of an impressive rookie season. Saltalamacchia will at least provide depth at the catcher position that will be beneficial to the Tigers. C+.
The Tigers sign free agent relief pitcher Mark Lowe and trade for relief pitcher Justin Wilson. One thing that has been bugging the Tigers for several years is the unreliability of the bullpen. With the addition of Francisco Rodriguez, it’s likely that Lowe, a right-hander and Wilson, a lefty, will both see time as the set-up man for Rodriguez. Lowe was great at getting right-handed hitters out last season as they hit just .196 against him. Although he’s a lefty, Wilson has also been better against right-handed hitters, but he’s held lefties to a .235 batting average over his career. Both additions to the bullpen will add depth and stability in a revamped bullpen. A.
Free agent outfielder Justin Upton signs with the Tigers for six years, $132.75 million. The Tigers said they wanted to add another outfielder, and almost everyone thought they would go after former Tiger Yoenis Cespedes. However, Upton was the next best thing, and the Tigers wanted another big bat in the lineup. Upton is a three-time all-star who batted .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBI’s last season. Tigers fans can expect those numbers to be better this season because of the offense they possess already. However, there are a few concerns. Upton only hit three of his 26 home runs against left-handed pitching last season, and he batted just .191. He also struck out 159 times in 542 at-bats which is close to 30 percent. The way the fans see it, they can settle for 150 strikeouts if he hits 35 home runs and produces 100 RBI’s. B+
J.D. Martinez signs a two-year, $18.5 million deal. Martinez was coming off of an all-star campaign and was arguably the Tigers’ 2015 MVP. He produces 38 home runs and 102 RBI’s, both career-highs for the right-fielder. Although he also tallied 178 strikeouts, which was also a career-high, his defense was one of his most underrated assets. Martinez was third in the American League in outfield assists with 15 which went overlooked considering it was his breakout year as an offensive threat. If Martinez can produce close to the same way he did in 2015 for the next two seasons, he will be a centerpiece for a World Series championship. A.
As a whole, I would give the Tigers a B+ for their offseason adjustments. They lost some players, but the players whom they picked up will be more beneficial for them in a shorter amount of time. For a team that wants to win big, they can’t afford to have to work with guys for two or three years to find their form. They went out and got big names like Zimmermann and Upton, and that will pay dividends for them in the 2016 season.
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