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Detroit Tigers burning questions: It's baaaack

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Over the weekend in the Detroit News, Lynn Henning's latest piece was 5 questions in regard to the current state of the Detroit Tigers in what's been a controversial off season. After reading Henning's Q & A, I decided it's as good of a time as any to dust off one of my old bits.

Back when I was writing about baseball regularly at TWFE, before I took my blog over to the dark side (that being the Detroit Lions, what was I thinking?), one of my more popular recurring posts was "Burning questions."

I'd fisk the Q & A of a local beat writer or columnist, and answer their own questions in my own inimitable way.

The usual suspects in the MSM should take heed ... It's baaaack.

Who fills the bullpen holes?

Henning seems sold on Jose Valverde. Yes, signing him would be a solid addition at the back end of the bullpen, and he has had success as a closer in the recent past.

But … there’s always a but, right?

As Kurt so adroitly pointed out when the Tigers’ interest in Valverde became public, after trading Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, and getting plenty of relief arms as part of the return, "why would they give up a draft pick and forfeit the payroll savings by paying what it would cost to sign Valverde?"

Why, indeed.

Spending big money on a closer flies in the face of what the Tigers have done up to this point of the off season. The big trade was supposedly made to allow the Tigers to get better in the long term, younger in the short term and cheaper immediately. Especially cheaper, even if the Tigers' brass won't come out and say it.

I’m thinking the Tigers’ top priorities in finding a closer are as follows:

  1. How much money does he make?
  2. See number 1.

So this is why I believe the Tigers will attempt to fill the "holes" in-house. Daniel Schlereth, Ryan Perry and yes, Joel Zumaya, appear to be the most likely candidates. They all have shown to have closer stuff, and more importantly, are already under Tigers control with affordable contracts.

More questions, and my answers ... after the jump.

Can the Tigers entrust center field to Austin Jackson?

Henning hypothesizes Austin Jackson isn't quite ready, yet leaves Lakeland with the job, but is sent back down to Toledo much sooner than later. That’s not going to fly with a fan base ready to vent their spleens from the stands, feeling betrayed by the trade of the face of the franchise.

The Tigers have put the kid into one Hell of a spot. Despite never playing in a major league game, Jackson is being asked to anchor the outfield defense playing between a pair of gimpy corner outfielders who should be DHing, and supply respectable offense while replacing the most loved Tiger player since Al Kaline. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jackson cracks under the pressure like Rick Porcello cracked Kevin Youkilis’ skull.

So to answer the question, no.

I’m not saying Jackson will ultimately fail in Detroit. I am saying don’t be surprised if he doesn’t take the CF job and run with it this season. Jackson will get more than one chance to take over center, as Dave Dombrowski’s future depends on it.

Will the Tigers actually play Carlos Guillen in left field?

Jeebus, I hope not.

Carlos Guillen is a danger to himself, and the Tigers’ chances of winning games, if left to his own devices in the outfield.

I actually agree with Henning as to who should be in left. Ryan Raburn may not be the best fielding outfielder in the AL, but he’s far, far better than Guillen. Raburn played well enough in ’09 to have the inside track on left this year…before Guillen bellyached to the press about playing the field. As for Guillen, regardless of what he believes, his body and outfield glove have proven to be so frail, I can’t see him playing any other position than DH.

In order for the Tigers to get any sort of return from what’s left of Guillen’s hefty contract, he must stay healthy. He has proven that’s too much to ask if forced wear a glove. Even if it’s an affront to his manhood (which is the impression I got from his demands to play defense), Guillen is best used as a full-time DH.

And there’s nothing wrong with that…just ask Edgar Martinez.

Will there be enough pitching to pull off a pre-Opening Day trade?

Is Henning serious? His piece went to print, so he must be.

Let's humor him, and see who might the Tigers be eager to unload.

There’s Jeremy Bonderman, who hasn’t been healthy for 2 years, and is owed $12.5 million. Dontrelle Willis, who hasn’t been effective for 2 years, and has a contract big enough to make even the Yankees and Red Sox gag at $12 million. There’s also Nate Robertson, who hasn’t been healthy or effective for 2 years, and is making $10 million. Let's not forget Armando Galarraga, who isn’t making stupid money, but his solid 2008 season is proving to be the career exception, not the rule.

To paraphrase one of Dombrowski's most famous quotes, "YOU try and trade them!"

If the Tigers can get any sort of useful player in return for damaged goods, Dave Dombrowski will lock up the executive of the year award in March. If a miracle occurs, and one of the overpaid and underperforming players pitch well in the spring, and into the eyes of other GMs, it’s not as if the Tigers are set in the rotation.

As the rotation stands today, after Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer the Tigers should hope for two days of rain.

If there is enough pitching to make a trade before opening day, I’ll eat my Tigers cap.

Will the Scott Sizemore experiment go smoothly at second base?

Henning gives a non-answer, saying, "It better."

After thinking about it long and hard, I have to say … it better.

The Tigers are walking the 2nd base high wire without a net, having left themselves no fallback if Scott Sizemore can’t fill the immense (Feel free to insert a "Placidome has a large noggin" joke here) cap of Placido Polanco.

Going by Sizemore’s performance in the minors, it’s time he got his shot. After letting your showing signs of decline, but still solid at the plate and gold glove worthy in field, 2nd sacker walk in free agency, there’s no better time find out if Sizemore’s ready.

If so, then great! All is well, and the Tigers are set on the right side of the infield for the next several years. If not, then the Tigers are up the proverbial creek, hoping Ramon Santiago can paddle like mad.