I am so confused. I really am. In all my years writing about the Tigers, CEO/President/GM Dave Dombrowski was a man known for keeping his cards close to his vest. (Strange idiom, that: Did poker players wear vests before they wore T-shirts, hoodies, visors and black sunglasses -- all at once?) Of course you remember this offseason he told the media exactly what positions he needed to find players for, and then he went out and found them. Sunday morning, he continued that openness by having a good conversation with FoxSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi.
What did we learn? Starting pitching is a priority. Third base is, well, they'll keep their eyes on the situation. Second base and the bullpen might not on their radars at all, and despite smoke being blown by the rumor mill outfield was barely even brought up.
A few choice Dombrowski quotes out of the story on the Tigers' four greatest needs, and my comments.
"It’s apparent that (Justin) Verlander’s there, and our other guys haven’t been as consistent. There’s no question we’d like to add somebody to our rotation"
That is no surprise. The rotation has been inconsistent and when your're debating between Charlie Furbush and Duane Below for the back of the rotation, it's a bit of an issue. (By the way, Jacob Turner will probably not make his MLB debut this year because they are worried about his innings.) Would the rotation be an issue if Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello were pitching to their abilities on a consistent basis? Probably not. Few teams have the fifth starter think figured out with great confidence. But it's just a higher priority when your second and third starters don't routinely do their jobs.
It’s no secret we haven’t had production out of second base – but we got (Carlos) Guillen back.
Guillen's return is a nice improvement for Detroit. He actually is an infielder, and he may not field the position with Gold Glove quality but he's a darn good sight better than Ryan Raburn, and he hits better than Ramon Santiago. The problem is that expecting Guillen to remain healthy the entire season is like expecting Joel Zumaya to return healthy. At some point, you assume they'll need a second baseman again. Hopefully not, but history is history.
Really, the only spot we have is third base. We’ve got a couple guys there (Inge and utility man Don Kelly). We’ll see how they do. Brandon Inge has not had a good year – I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But we like Brandon Inge.
Third base is certainly an issue. Brandon Inge is average with the glove and makes boneheaded plays with the arm. Of course the real problem is that he is a shadow of his former self at the plate, and that former self didn't hit the ball that well to begin with. Beyond that, there might not be any internal solutions. Francisco Martinez? That would be rushing him, but he's probably going to do better than Inge. Certainly they should be looking for a solution here, but with Inge's contract expiring after next year and his popularity pushing him out the door is unpalatable. Possibly finding a rental at third base allows Inge to consider the spot his for next year and keeps his spirits up? It's a tough situation. But ultimately, baseball is a business and I hope all involved remember that.
I keep reading, ‘The Tigers need bullpen help. Well, we don’t feel we need bullpen help. Can we be better? Sure. ... (S)ometimes, statistically, it can be misleading
Dombrowski goes on to cite the fact Valverde has been a terrific closer, and you're not going to find another Joaquin Benoit. As well, the pen is boosted by getting back Al Alburquerque from the DL and Phil Coke from the rotation. So they don't need pen help and the second-worst bullpen ERA in the league is misleading.
Well, if only it were that easy, and I think Dombrowski knows that. Hey, he's the one who traded for David Purcey, who isn't working out that well. He's the one who designated Brad Thomas for assignment and decided Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry needed to go back to the minors to work on their control. The fact is, if Detroit's starter stumbles out of the gate the Tigers will almost certainly lose the game. There is virtually no chance of the middle relief giving them a shot at a comeback. (30 runs to the Mets in two games?! 15 to the Giants in a single game?!) Detroit's short and late bullpen is pretty strong, but before that it's a big scary hole of suck. You don't have to trade for an exciting name. But you can't rely on Brayan Villarreal, Adam Wilk, Lester Oliveros, and the like either.
So now that Dombrowski has our attention with his right hand, I wonder what his left is doing ... .