Ok. Let's play GM for a moment. Here are what I believe to be the locks for the 25 man roster in 2012 barring any trades:
Avila, Boesch, Cabrera, Dirks, Inge, Jackson, Kelly, Raburn, Vmart, Peralta, Delmon, Benoit, Coke, Fister, Porcello, Scherzer, Valverde, Verlander. That's 18. Who will make up the final 7?
First issue to address is the dreaded fifth starter. I think it's unlikely the Tigers go after CJ Wilson or Mark Buerhle or any other top flight starter. Either we're signing Brad Penny 2.0 aka an innings eater who will sign a 1 year, incentive-laden deal or we going to give Duane Below or maybe Andy Oliver a shot. I do not believe Jacob Turner will start the year in Detroit. Send him to AAA and let him dominate. My gut is either it's Duane Below or we sign someone inexpensive like Tiger-killer, Bruce Chen. If Turner is absolutely shredding AAA, call him up for the stretch run.
Second issue is second base. I've got bad news for everyone The Reds are not going to let Brandon Phillips walk. $12M option is going to happen if they can't work out a long term deal, so that's out. The free agent class is not inspiring otherwise. Aaron Hill is top of a pretty weak class. My best guess, resign Ramon Santiago to a modest two year contract and platoon with Ryan Raburn. Sorry Will Rhymes, your career with the Tigers is done.
Third issue is third base. Brandon Inge's late "surge" will certainly deceive the Tigers brass into thinking he can still be a everyday big league third baseman. Sadly this is not the case and I'm predicting a Gary Sheffield type release and a trade deadline acquisition. Wilson Betemit is inexpensive as a backup plan, though his defense isn't that great and he swings at everything. Aramis Ramirez is too old and going to be looking for ridiculous money. Avoid like the plague. Castellanos will be here in 2013. Let Don Kelly be the platoon with Inge. It ain't pretty, but what other options are out there? (there is one if you keep reading)
Fourth issue is the bullpen. I am not sold on Ryan Perry, David Pauley or Daniel Schlereth. We definitely need to bolster this pen with another veteran or two to compliment Coke, Al Al, Benoit and Valverde. Grab two veterans from the free agent class. Fernando Rodney is avail. :) Let these AAA+ pitchers battle it out with Marte and Villareal for one a spot. All under club control anyway.
Final issue is speed. We have none. Jose Reyes is without a doubt the most desirable acquisition we could make. The question is will they even bother with his price tag? Signing Reyes gives you a bonafide leadoff guy who can play short (moving Jhonny to third), will hit over .300 and steal 40 bases. His injury history is scary and we could regret it, but it could be the piece that puts us over the top.
So my final seven roster spots look like this:
1. Ramon Santiago
2. Righty Free Agent Relief Pitcher #1
3. Leffy Free Agent Relief Pitcher #2/ Schlereth
4. Back up Catcher
5. Duane Below/Andy Oliver/Some Incentive Laden Deal for Veteran
6. Perry/Pauley/Villareal/Marte whoever wants it.
7. Jose Reyes!