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Detroit Tigers links: The return of Mike Hessman and Dayton Moore won't go away

The Tigers must make a big free agent move to ensure their success (or not), we're still waiting on bullpen moves, the Twins drop serious coin on pitching, Royals fans aren't happy and Mike Hessman returns to Fifth/Third Field. These stories and more in today's Afternoon Prowl.

Jim McIsaac

Are the Tigers just one BOLD move away from being the best team in baseball in 2014? Richard Justice makes a case for the Tigers making a big time splash in free agency.

Tigers one move from being favorite heading into '14
Richard Justice,

Let's check out three obvious possibilities ...

-Shin-Soo Choo? He'd be a perfect fit at the top of the order with all that firepower -- Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, etc. -- behind him.
-Carlos Beltran? He would elevate the Tigers from good to scary good. How about Beltran hitting in the No. 2 hole between Hunter or Ian Kinsler and Cabrera. Yikes.
-Curtis Granderson? Another nice fit. A left-handed bat. A defensive upgrade in the outfield. A winner.

Dombrowski is believed to have checked in on all three. If he lands any of them, the Tigers could enter Spring Training with the "Best Team in Baseball" designation. Wouldn't that be the perfect way for Brad Ausmus to start his managerial career?

At the Freep, Shawn Windsor says otherwise. The Tigers' roster just needs tweaking.

Detroit Tigers don't need much to retool
Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press

Every year, every team turns over a part of its roster, even the last team standing. So yes, Dombrowski isn’t done making moves. He still needs a closer, and now he has to account for Fielder’s 106 RBIs.

Kinsler may get some of those. Whoever plays third base — the best guess is Nick Castellanos — will get some, too. Unless Dombrowski grabs a marquee left-fielder, Fielder’s production will likely be made up by committee.

Some columnist named Kurt Mensching reminds everyone the Tigers have yet to address their numerous bullpen issues, throwing Joba Chamberlain into the set-up mix.

Bolstering bullpen should remain atop Tigers' to-do list
Kurt Mensching, Detroit News

Maybe the right-handed answer will involve Chad Qualls, Pat Neshek or even Joba Chamberlain, though the latter on that list will need to get his walks back under control. Scott Downs, Boone Logan, J.P. Howell and others may offer left-handed help. Maybe the Tigers can find a way to keep Benoit while also signing a closer.

In an Mlive chat, Chris Iott took Tigers questions from his sometimes wacky readership, including Phil Coke's Brain.

Chat: What moves will Detroit Tigers make in free agency, during winter meetings in December?
Chris Iott,

It's Cyber Monday. Are you running any specials on the MLiveGold account subscriptions?

Chris Iott |
Yeah. Telling me I'm an idiot in the comments sections is 50 percent off today. Which means it's still free.

Best value on the internet

The real-life Crash Davis of minor league baseball, slugging Mike Hessman, has returned to the fold! The Tigers have signed the 35-year-old career minor leaguer (who's had five cups of coffee: 2003-04-07-08-10) to a minor league deal.

Detroit Tigers sign 3 to minor league contracts
Toledo Blade

Detroit signed 1B Mike Hessman to a minor-league contract, along with RHP Eduardo Sanchez and LHP Patrick McCoy. Hessman played for the Hens from 2005-09 and is the franchise's all-time leader in career home runs (140) and RBIs (373), among other categories.

Around the AL Central:

While the Tigers' brain trust was deathly quiet over the Thanksgiving weekend, the Royals and Twins made noise. On Friday, Royals' owner David Glass announced the team had extended the contract of GM Dayton Moore. At Royals Review, the news sent Josh Duggan into a doom spewing rant.

Royals, Glass Family Extend Dayton Moore Through 2016
Josh Duggan, Royals Review

This means that Dayton Moore will get two more off-seasons to jump into the free agent marketplace before it takes shape, undervalue* getting on base, sign middling talent to deals one to two years too long, hoard #4 starters, field trade offers from parties with whom he is outmatched, place a premium on grit, force an inflexible and outmoded pitching development program on all of the arms in the system, insist upon the non-existence of advanced metrics, retain the services of the likes of Chris Getz and Wade Davis while clinging to the notion that they are something they are not, commit countless public relations gaffes, and incense this corner of the internet with his general baseball philosophy.

*Can you really say he's "undervaluing" something that he doesn't seem to value at all?

The Moore extension led Jim Margalus of South Side Sox to delve into the relative stability of the AL Central front offices. Dave Dombrowski remains the Grand Old Man of the Central.

AL Central: Bastion of front-office stability
Jim Margalus, South Side Sox

And yet the extension isn't surprising. It might even be wise, since the last thing a fragile franchise needs is a GM needing to save his job. There's nothing saying the Glass family has to keep Moore in the position, and it's easier to pay a parachute than to get multiple Wil Myerses back.

But the extension could also be seen as a function of the division in which the Royals belong. Things just move slower in the AL Central.

After signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million deal, the Twinkies dove back into the free agent market to ink Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24 million contact.

Meet: Phil Hughes
Jesse, Twinkie Town

Hughes turns 28 in June, which means that Minnesota is on the hook for $8 million (plus an extra million in incentives based on innings pitched) for his age-28, 29, and 30 seasons. That's young for a free agent, which is a plus. But there are certainly a number of things which are worthy of caution flags.

In 2010, 2012, and 2013, Hughes' three most healthy and productive seasons to date, he pitched 176.1, 191.1, and 145.2 innings. The Twins are paying him as though they expect him to throw 180 to 190 innings per season, and I'm not entirely confident he can hit those marks.

In a piece written after the Hughes deal and before Scott Kazmir signed with the Athletics, Let's Go Tribe ponders the Twins wild card chances and how their spending could affect the Indians' playoff odds.

The Twins are on a shopping spree; should Indians fans be worried?
Jason Lukehart, Let's Go Tribe

All told, I would guess the Twins project to win 76 games or so, a substantial improvement, but not enough to make them legitimate contenders in 2014. A contract for Pierzynski and arbitration raises for others on the roster would likely push the Twins' 2014 payroll to ~$90 million. That's more than they spent in 2013, but less than in 2010, '11, or '12. Is it possible the Twins could add Nolasco, Hughes, Pierzysnki, and another notable player?

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