Well, last night was no fun. The Tigers saw their 2013 season come to an end at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, dropping Game 6 of the ALCS by a 5-2 score. The fanbase heads into the offseason with a lot of questions, but for the Tigers, there should only be one thing on their minds:
How long until Spring Training?
Despite their flaws, the Tigers will return an absurdly talented roster for the 2014 season, headlined by one of the best starting rotations in baseball history. All five starters are under contract next season, and only Max Scherzer will be free agent eligible after 2014. A (hopefully) Miguel Cabrera will headline a lineup that was second in the majors in runs scored despite abysmal stretches from Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder. The bullpen... well, we will get to that.
The only question about the starting rotation is whether the Tigers will explore a trade for Max Scherzer. Last year's blockbuster trade that brought James Shields to the Kansas City Royals for top prospect and likely AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers has many hopeful that the Tigers could net a similar return for a likely Cy Young winner in Scherzer. If they can get enough value in return, a trade could set up the team for long-term success, much like the trade that brought Scherzer to Detroit in the first place. However, if they don't make a trade, the rotation returns intact for another season. The Tigers are in a win-win situation as long as they don't sell themselves short when shopping Scherzer.
In the field, the Tigers' two major losses will be their Opening Day double play combination, Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante. Peralta is all but guaranteed to be wearing another uniform next season now that Jose Iglesias is in the fold, but it's likely that the Tigers will look to re-sign Infante for the next few years. He is sure to garner a pay raise after hitting a career-best .318/.345/.450, and he's the best second baseman on the market once you get past Robinson Cano's enormous price tag. Re-signing Infante (or bringing in another second baseman) should be the Tigers' top priority.
While Peralta's void at short will be filled by Iglesias, there are questions about his "other" position in left field. Andy Dirks struggled in 2013, hitting .256/.323/.363 in 131 games and was surpassed by Don Kelly on the depth chart during the postseason. Nick Castellanos will get a long look during Spring Training, but the organization may also bring someone in if the price is right to take the pressure off Castellanos to succeed right away.
Despite their bad reputation, the bullpen doesn't need a major overhaul either. Joaquin Benoit is the only pending free agent, and the young arms will be another year older and more experienced. If Bruce Rondon can stay healthy, he could make a huge difference at the end of games. Odds are the Tigers will still look to bring in another arm or two, but there are plenty of potential bargains on the market. For instance, Koji Uehara signed a one year, $4.25 million deal with the Red Sox last offseason and now he's the ALCS MVP.
Long story short: the ship isn't sinking. The Tigers have the pieces to win and were a few bounces away from this year's ALCS being a completely different series. With a few minor tweaks, they will again be among the favorites to win the World Series in 2014.