Trades, not free agents signings will lead the Tigers back to the playoffs.

Bumped to the front. Great work! --Rob

Most experts agree that the roster spots the Tigers need to address most this off season are middle relief, 2nd base & 3rd base. While the hot stove season always has plenty of middle relief candidates that can help, this year is a veritable black hole for those seeking an upgrade at 2nd & 3rd. So the Tigers can go in any of 3 directions in regards to these two spots. One, they can stand pat with a platoon combination of Raburn/Inge/Kelly/Santiago/Worth/Rhymes. Two, they can persue a variety of aging free agents of questionable skills. Or three, they can do what Dave Dombrowski does best and swing a trade for established talent in exchange for a package of promising young kids currently working their way through the minors.

There was an intriguing possibility via free agency in Brandon Phillips, but that possibility evaporated when the Reds exercised their $12 million team option for 2012. Aramis Ramirez anyone? He's about to turn down $16.5 million to play for the Cubs next year, and will be turning 34 next season and wanting one last big multi-year contract. Thanks, but no thanks. That leaves only one impact level free agent infielder, the much discussed Jose Reyes. Aside from the possible adverse effect that a Reyes signing would have on All-Star Jhonny Peralta, there are approximately 130 million other reasons the oft injured shortstop won't be wearing the olde English D next year. A mid-market team like the Tigers just can't afford $70 million dedicated to just 3 players in each of the next 4-5 seasons, especially when up and coming stars like Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch & Austin Jackson will be due some pretty hefty raises before these contracts would be coming off the books.

After those three the pickings are pretty slim. Aaron Hill & Kelly Johnson top the list of 2nd sackers and those two are no more attractive than the in-house candidates already on the roster. After Ramirez the 3rd base free agents are even more dour. The Tigers already gave Wilson Betemit a try, with middling results. Next it's 38 year old Casey Blake or 37 year old Miguel Tejada. Neither of these guys have leadoff potential and again are not an improvement over what the Tigs have in house.

So where will the Tigers get an infielder who can bat lead off, run up the pitch count on opposing pitchers, take a walk, have a solid OBP and play better than average defense? The same place the Tigers have aquired so much of their current talent, via the wheeling and dealing of Dave Dombrowski. The Angels have a wealth of infield talent, including Alberto Callaspo who hit .288 with a .366 OBP in 2011 and plays 2nd or 3rd. At 28 he is in his prime and just happens to be from Venezuela, so chemistry wise he may be a good fit. Maicer Izturis, another Venezuelan with both speed and an outstanding glove that plays 2nd, 3rd or short would also fit the Tigers wish list. Yet another Angel infielder, Howie Kendrick has a .292 career average and has better than average speed, something the current Tigers lack. Add recent gold glove winning SS Erick Aybar and the Halos appear to be one over the limit on speedy, top of the order infielders. Did I mention that all of the afore mentioned are currently making less than $3.5 million per season? What about former Angel and current Mariner Chone Figgins? A career .280 hitter who was great with the Angels but just plain awful as a Mariner. He has a couple years left on an expensive contract so it may not take much to get him from the M's, and a change of scenery to a contender may do wonders for his psyche.

Current Oriole Brian Roberts, a prototypical leadoff hitting 2nd baseman is an interesting possibility, as long as he can show that the cocussion problems that plagued him in 2011 are a thing of the past. With the emergence of Robert Andino at 2nd, the O's would almost certainly entertain offers for Roberts. Might the Red Sox listen to trade talk for young talent Jed Lowrie? With an already crowded infield in Boston, they might if the right amount of talent were coming back in return.

When Dombrowski made the trade deadline deal for Fister, it had the effect of making young guns Drew Smyly, Adam Wilk, Duane Below and Andy Oliver less crucial to the clubs future. Add to that they are all coveted young lefty starters and they could have real appeal to potential trade partners. Don't count out number one prospect Jacob Turner or established starter Rick Porcello as possible trade bait as well. If they were part of a deal that brought in an established star like a David Wright, Pablo Sandoval or Micheal Young then it may well be worth it. Remember can't miss prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin? It just shows that no one is untouchable to Dombrowski, if the trade makes his team better.

There are many other possibilities out there, to be sure. And with owner Mike Illich's desire to win now, coupled with Dombrowski's williness to deal, it appears that the Tigers best chance to improve the roster and make another deep playoff run in 2012 will be through another flashy trade, Dombrowski style.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.