With all of the movement that has already transpired during this offseason, you couldn't blame someone for thinking that the MLB Winter Meetings had already taken place. Most of this year's big name free agents have already found new homes and there have been several major trades over the past couple weeks.
On a local level, the Tigers are a drastically different team after trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister. Dave Dombrowski has been credited by some as making both the best and worst moves of the young offseason, and many are wondering whether there is something bigger brewing. Whether or not Dombrowski's master plan is unveiled, the Tigers have a few things they need to accomplish in order to have a successful week at the Winter Meetings.
1. Don't overpay for Shin-Soo Choo
We detailed the pros and cons of signing Choo last week, and then all hell unfolded when Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Mike Napoli all signed within the next 24 hours. The consensus? Choo is going to get paid. With Scott Boras able to devote close to 100% of his attention to Choo's contract over the next few days, I would be shocked if Choo sees less than $20 million per year in his next deal.
Usually, I wouldn't worry about Dave Dombrowski in this type of situation. Even the questionable Doug Fister trade hasn't really changed my opinion. The one thing that has me worried, however, is the fallout from that deal. Dombrowski was as defensive as we have ever seen when he answered questions about the trade at Joe Nathan's introductory press conference, going as far as pulling out a list of pitchers he targeted. Sure, he could be going Harvey Specter on us, but I'm slightly concerned that Dombrowski's defensiveness may lead to him being more aggressive than usual when negotiating with Boras and Choo.
2. Find a platoon partner for Andy Dirks
The nice thing about the current roster is that there still aren't very many holes, left field included. Dirks' offensive numbers weren't great in 2013, but there is reason for optimism. He hit a respectable .278/.354/.395 in 181 plate appearances in the second half, a .749 OPS. If he can produce these offensive numbers over the course of an entire season against right-handed pitching, the Tigers would have one half of a very effective platoon.
The good news is that there are a few options left on the market for the other half of that platoon. Jeff Baker's first stint in Detroit was a royal failure, but his career numbers against left-handed pitching and versatility -- he can play the outfield, third base, and even second base in a pinch -- make him an attractive target for the other half of that platoon. Rajai Davis is another name that has floated around the comments recently. He doesn't have the power or versatility of Baker, but does have speed to burn. Davis has 216 stolen bases across the last five seasons, but it remains to be seen if he would take the lesser role that he would be offered in Detroit.
3. Don't stand pat in the bullpen
Signing Joe Nathan at $10 million per year was a pretty shrewd move by Dombrowski, but his comments at Nathan's presser indicated that Dombrowski was happy with how the bullpen currently stands. With Drew Smyly moving to the rotation, the bullpen has both gotten worse and taken on more responsibility. Bruce Rondon seems ready to take on a late inning role, but the pen will need to shoulder a greater load with one less 200-inning man in the rotation. Taking a flyer on a couple of cheap reclamation projects could help strengthen the middle relief corps.
4. Don't trade Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander
Hey, just sayin'.
5. Explore all avenues for improvement
Dombrowski and the Tigers have made it clear this offseason that longevity is the goal in Detroit. A title would be nice, but Dombrowski seems to understand better than most that the playoffs are a crapshoot; getting there as many times as possible is the only way to increase your chances of winning a championship. If the right deal comes along -- Matt Kemp and Chase Headley both popped up on MLB Trade Rumors in the past day or so -- don't be afraid to pull the trigger... as long as it doesn't violate rule #4.
What do you think? What does Dave Dombrowski need to do to call the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings a success?