With the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings already heating up before they even officially open, the Detroit Tigers need to take care of one need for certain, but three needs to feel comfortable about the team's chances in 2011. They say they'd like a left-handed reliever. Most people agree they need a corner outfielder, probably a right fielder but for the right player a little creativity is possible. Finally, some of us out there think they need to improve that rotation to have a real shot at the Central Division in 2011.So I'm going to preview the Tigers' needs position by position tonight.
Left-handed relief pitchers
This is my least-favorite target, but I can certainly see why the Tigers might feel it's a necessary one. With moving Phil Coke to the rotation, the possibly lefthanders for the bullpen are Brad Thomas, Daniel Schlereth and Fu-Te Ni. The possible batters from the AL Central they could face in late-inning, crucial situations are Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome (remains to be seen), Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore and more. It's the Twins who scare you the most since they're the ones you have to go through to win the division crown. So yes, feeling comfortable about your left-handed options is a must.
So what are the options? Here's a few among the best available for Detroit's needs. All can probably expect to get nice paydays of several million a year for several years making them expensive specialists.
Scott Downs -- Former Blue Jay. He's a Type-A free agent and said to be talking to the Yankees right now. His worst ERA during the past four years was 3.09. In most years, he's been absolutely locked in against left-handed batters. His WHIP is repeatedly under 1 against them, his strikeouts per nine innings in the 7s and 8s. But relative to cost I'm not sure i like this option.
Arthur Rhodes -- Another Type A, but he wasn't offered arbitration by the Reds so it makes him more palatable. Three of the pas four years, he's been incredible. In all recent years, he's been a strikeout force against left-handed batters and has kept them off base quite well. But he's 41 years old.
Pedro Feliciano -- Another Type--B free agent. And another guy who has just manhandled left-handed batters to the tune of 10.07 K/9 for his career while allowing .216 batting average against. However he's had a high workload with the Mets.
Randy Choate -- A Type-B free agent, so he wouldn't cost the Tigers either. Most recently he was with Tampa Bay. For his career, LH batters have just a .228 average against him. He has a 9.46 K/9 against them. An interesting thought any way. Could be less expensive than the other three but should still get paid well.
J.C. Romero -- The Tigers had been linked to him in mid-November, and MLive's Steve Kornacki says they're still a possibility for the former Philly, who had a 3.68 ERA last year. His strikeout rate against lefty batters was a serviceable 7.83 per nine innings, but he walked 4.30 to go with it. Not an option I'd like unless he came in at an inexpensive cost.
Of course there's several others. Will Ohman is the best bet of the rest. He strikes out a bunch (10.03 K/9 for his career vs. LH batters), doesn't allow many on base. Mark Hendrickson might be a possibility but he's a decent step down from the others. He's got some nice splits vs. lefthanders too, notably an 8.10 K/9 in 2010, but for his career he's not too interesting.
The rest, meh.