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MLB Winter Meetings 2010 Detroit Tigers Preview: Starting pitching

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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.

Earlier posts:

Left-handed pitching

Outfielders

Starting pitching

I've harped on this one the entire offseason. Detroit's rotation was 11th -- ELEVENTH! -- in the American League last year with a combined ERA of 4.46. To deal with this feat of flatulence, the team moved Phil Coke into the rotation. Hey, maybe Coke will work out. But if that's not exactly a move that will single handedly save Detroit's rotation. They could certainly go ostrich on the entire issue and hope for the best, but being proactive during the rest of the offseason would be the best decision.

However, this is also the most tricky position to fill due to lack of good options.

Free Agents Who Are Currently Not Recovering From Injury:

LHP Cliff Lee -- The Tigers profess no interest in this guy. He could go for six years and $25 million per year. That's a pretty high cost, especially near the end of the contract. FoxSports' Ken Rosenthal wondered if the Tigers could be a surprise team quietly in the hunt, however.

They make this list only because their owner, Mike Ilitch, is a wild card given to fits of spending.

... (W)hat if Ilitch wakes up Monday morning and says, "I could have a rotation fronted by Lee, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello!"

What I'd get pretty darn excited and they'd probably be a favorite to win the division for a few years, that's what. Worth it? I think so. Going to happen? Absolutely not.

RHP Carl Pavano -- Given the state of the market, he'll probably make three years and $11 million a year minimum. That's hard to stomach, frankly, for a guy whose ERA for the last three seasons was 3.75, 5.10 and .5.77. Frankly I don't know how he's a Type A free agent, but he is, and he turned down arbitration. So he's going to cost a draft pick. I'd prefer if Detroit not get near him, frankly.

Free Agents Who Are Recovering From Injury:

You don't want to take just one of these guys and expect you can plug them into the rotation and feel good about things. They might turn out well, they might not.

RHP Brandon McCarthy -- Last seen with the Rangers in 2009, he was scouted six teams in November, including the Tigers. However, he's battled shoulder injuries -- notably a stress fracture -- in the past. Before his injury, he was seen as a top prospect. This offseason he's pitched well in the Dominican League. Can he stay effective and healthy? A low-cost contract with incentives would be a good way to find out.

RHP Brandon Webb -- There's been no linking of him to Detroit, but maybe there should be. He used to be an incredible ground-ball pitcher -- OK maybe there shouldn't be any linking of him to Detroit! He too has shoulder issues that limited him to four innings over the past two years. But if he gets back to health, it could be an incredible boost to the rotation. Again, low risk, high reward.

LHP Jeff Francis -- He was a Rocky. They don't want to offer him a major league deal. He doesn't walk many (2 walks or fewer per nine innings the past few years). He doesn't strike out many (5.78 per nine innings in 2010). Minor League deal for him would be acceptable but don't count on him too much.

RHP Chris Young -- Fangaphs called him a product of his environment, which is to say, spacious PETCO Field. Even though Comerica Park is no phonebooth, his incredible flyball rate could come back to haunt him in some other parks around the league. His pitches sit in the mid-80s. I'd prefer to skip this one.

Trade options

Trading would be difficult but not impossible. Remember Edwin Jackson came to Detroit for Matt Joyce, and Armando Galarraga came for basically nothing. No easy trade possibilities come to midn. However, there are a few names tossed around that I just wanted to opine on.

RHP Carlos Zambrano -- He's owed about $19 million a year in 2011 and 2012. The Cubs would have to pick up roughly $18 million of it for me to take a risk on him. I'd rather have basically any of the guys listed above. He's walking more and more batters, most recently 4.79 walks per nine innings in 2010 after 4.15 in 2009. No. No. Good gracious great balls of no.

RHP Carlos Silva -- No.

RHP Zack Greinke -- Sure it would be fun. But the Royals say they won't trade him within the division. Detroit's probably on his no-trade clause anyway. And he'd cost a lot.

Feel free to use the comments section to speculate who could be available!