With baseball's swap meet set to officially open today -- though one team started shopping early -- reviewing the Tigers' probable strategy would probably be a good idea.
I say we should review the Tigers' strategy rather than their needs, because the folks in the front office don't always see things the way fans do. To wit:, the Tigers appear happy to begin 2012 with two platoons in the infield. Those would be a combination of Don Kelly and Brandon Inge at third base, and of Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn at second base. Neither affair exactly sounds ideal, though I think the temptation is there to blow both out of proportion. Kelly and Inge can provide at least average defense while combining to put up not-awful batting numbers if used correctly. Santiago can at least hit adequately and field, and Raburn can hit sometime after July 10 and, well, not knock fly balls into the bullpen from that distance, as far a we know.
So the Tigers arrived in Dallas with a rather short shopping list: pitching, pitching, pitching. Near and dear to their hearts will be getting a starting pitcher. But thanks to some rather poor outcomes after drafting relief pitching in recent years, they could probably use a reliever, too.
Now you're probably thinking, "What about Yoenis Cespedes?" And you bring up a great question. Because he's not a sure thing, he doesn't seem like a necessity. Sure, the scouts say he has five tools. He's been compared by some in the media to Cameron Maybin, though the skills aren't quite identical. Maybin finally became a useful major league player in San Diego, but I mean, are you going to go out and offer Maybin a $50 million contract? Probably not. Did he get a $50 million contract when he was drafted, based on his potential? Of course not.
That isn't to say Cespedes won't get it, or that he will be a bust. In fact, if he were to play up to the level he's been talked up to, he could probably be considered a bargain. But at this point, I think it's better to consider him a luxury rather than a necessity.
Which brings us back to pitching. I don't doubt the Tigers come away from the meetings with at least one hurler. A reliever might make fewer headlines, but seems a likely outcome As far as names goes, I'd rather see them come away with something a bit less gaudy than an Octavio Dotel. He has obviously been an effective reliever, and relatively consistent at a WHIP of just over 1.25 and ERA around 3.50 most years. I fear he's going to come at too high of a price tag that just wouldn't make him worth it. You don't necessarily need to pay for a big name reliever. You just need a couple of veterans and hope one or two turns out OK.
As far as starting pitchers goes, you have a couple of directions the team could go. One is the higher priced side of things, like Mark Buehrle or CJ WIlson. The latter is unlikely. The former is reportedly asking for $14 million a year, which means he'll probably sign for less. Going this route essentially gives the Tigers more time to allow Jacob Turner (or Casey Crosby, or Andy Oliver, or whoever your favorite starting pitcher candidate is) to mature and allows them time to figure out what they'll do a year or two down the line with Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, both of whom are soon to cost more money but could also serve as trade pieces to fill the team's holes in the infield.
The latter would be to sign a short-term solution veteran, ala Brad Penny in 2010. Basically a stopgap until they feel Turner is ready to go full time. (Short note here: Good decision by the team in not rushing him straight to the rotation.) Erik Bedard would be an interesting way to go if it's on a short-term basis. He seems to have come back from surgery fine. With Boston, he had an ERA of 4.03 and struck out 38 in 38 innings. He was pretty consistent in the years before, too. There are other names out there, too. But the basic gist is, don't get tied to a big deal.
The real strategy in the winter meetings is to come away with the package of players that suits you best. The fans might clamor for a big name to fill their chief concern, but maybe your team is better off patching its holes with a couple of lesser names across the board.
Me, I guess I'm caught up in the Cespedes excitement and wouldn't complain if they managed to sign him but went with veteran, lesser-named pitchers to sort out that need. But maybe I'm just caught in the buying fever and auction mentality.
As long as the Tigers do something in the coming days, I'll be happy. Though, of course, it would certainly be nice if they addressed the second base issue.
So what realistic combination of players would you like to see? (Just, please, don't post a lineup of them ...)