As if the Tigers' 2013 season wasn't exciting enough, the offseason has quickly turned into a wild and crazy variety show that makes the regular and postseason look about as exciting as an insurance seminar. It's gotten to the point where if you stop monitoring Twitter for even half a second to engage in some necessary life activity, such as bathing or eating, you will miss some new critical development in the constantly-changing plot that is the Tigers' 2013 offseason sit-com. You walk outside to get the mail, and Prince Fielder gets traded. You take a 15-minute power nap, and Doug Fister is no longer a member of the team. I'm afraid to turn around to sneeze, for fear that the Tigers will be sold to a European corporation and turned into a men's gymnastics team.
It can be hard to keep up with all of the changes that have taken place since the end of October, so here's a quick recap for those of us who are "one-stop shop" oriented.
Under New Management
In a move that shocked everyone who couldn't obviously see it coming a mile away, Jim Leyland retired as the Tigers' manager to pursue a career more in keeping with his age. He will now serve the Tigers as Director of Puttering Around in High Black Socks and Mumbling Things.
An Ivy League of Their Own
Shortly after Leyland's retirement, the Tigers hired Brad Ausmus, a Dartmouth graduate who double majored in Kosher Studies and Stud Muffinry. A former catcher himself, Ausmus believes he can help the team finally stop the opposition's running game, through creative strategy, defensive adjustments, and tranquilizer darts.
On the Sidelines
Meet the new coaching staff: Dave Clark (third base), Omar Vizquel (first base), Wally Joyner (hitting coach), and Darnell Coles (replacement for Tom Brookens as Obligatory Reminder of the 1984 Championship Team). Now promptly forget their names, because honestly, are we that hard-up for offseason news?
Free the Agents
Dave Dombrowski made his position clear on qualifying offers: "Go to hell, qualifying offers," is what he said, and so Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, and anyone else who was eligible for free agency were allowed to walk out the door and sell to the highest bidder on the open market. Jhonny Peralta signed a sweet deal with the Cardinals, prompting Tony Bosch to open a new clinic in the St. Louis area called "Definitely Not Biogenesis."
NERTS No More
Brayan Pena signed a two-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds. This will henceforth be remembered in Tigers' history as Nipplegate.
Matt Tuiasosopo inked a deal with Arizozona, because apparently Kirk Gibson only bothered to watch the first-half 2013 tapes. In related news, Jim Price is incredibly relieved and sleeping much better at night.
Nobody Loves You When You're Downs and Out
Relief pitcher Darin Downs left and went to the Houston Astros. In other news, apparently the Tigers had a pitcher named Darin Downs.
Goodnight, Sweet Prince
Much to the relief of fans in Detroit who enjoy eating nachos at the game, Dave "Copperfield" Dombrowski got Rangers' GM Jon Daniels drunk enough to trade Ian Kinsler to Detroit in exchange for Prince Fielder and a utility infielder code-named "Cash Considerations." Fielder responded to the news in his typically emotion-charged way by saying, quote, "yawn." A week later, Dombrowski amazed audiences by also making the Statue of Liberty disappear, replacing it with A Monument to be Named Later.
Don Kelly agreed to a one-year, $1 million dollar deal, so ... woo-hoo? Anyone? No? Well, at least we've got another year of #DonnieDeeds to keep us amused.
All Coked Up
Choosing to roll the dice one more time, the Tigers signed Phil Coke to a one-year "non-guaranteed contract" in exchange for Coke's "non-guaranteed promise" to stop throwing batting practice every time he takes the mound. Tigers fans everywhere responded to this news with either extreme disgust or extreme excitement, but it was hard to tell the difference since everyone expressed their feelings by slamming a glove on the ground.
The Fist and the Furious
Dave Dombrowski played a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare over the Thanksgiving weekend, and wound up trading Doug "The Fist of Goodness" Fister to the Washington Nationals for an old pinball machine (works well, may be missing a few parts), a complete set of 1986 Topps baseball cards (some wear and tear), and a year-long contract with a cleaning lady who swears she can get the dank aroma of cigarette butts out of Jim Leyland's old office. Just kidding - the Tigers didn't get anything nearly that valuable in exchange for their Top Shelf starter. The fanbase is currently confused, angry, and in the middle of a major drinking binge as a result of this development - so in other words, "business as usual."
Closing on a Closer
With the memory of two game-losing grand slams given up by the bullpen in the 2013 ALCS still fresh in mind, the Tigers finally signed a time-tested, veteran, proven closer in the person of Joe Nathan, lately of the Texas Rangers. Love or hate the move, I think we can all agree that it was either Joe Nathan or Brian Wilson, and I don't think any of us really wanted to deal with that particular hot mess of a reliever.
So Now What?
So where does all of this leave us? Drew Smyly is set to move into the starting rotation to fill the hole left by Fister. (See what I did there? Gross.) Miguel Cabrera will almost certainly return to first base, leaving third base open to, in all likelihood, become the new "left field" of spin-the-wheel platoon decisions. Prepare for the hot corner to be staffed, by turns, with guys like Castellanos, Kelly, and Lombardozzi (the new cleaning lady, I think). Expect Dombrowski to sign a more consistent offensive player for the left field spot.
For now, the offense looks a lot more "Ty Cobb" and a lot less "Babe Ruth." That might be a good thing, or it might be a bad thing, depending on whether you think more bunting and aggressive base-running is what the team needed, or whether you have more intelligence than a boiled radish.
The bullpen could probably still use some attention. Veras, Benoit, and Smyly are out. Coke, Krol, and Alburquerque are in, along with ace closer Nathan, Bruce "Tender Elbow" Rondon, and (as far as I can tell) Luke Putkonen and Evan Reed. If Justin Verlander struggles at all early in the 2014 season, there will literally be no end to the long line of people insisting he be moved to the 'pen. Hey, there's a bit of comfort in knowing that at least some things don't change, right?
The starting rotation looks a bit weaker, at least from one point of view, and from another point of view, it looks a lot weaker, unless you're of the blindly optimistic opinion that Smyly can hit enough batters to make up for Fister's absence. Let's just hope that Sanchez, Scherzer, and Verlander all finish the 2014 season in a three-way tie for the Cy Young Award, and that Rick Porcello has finally figured out how to record outs against the Angels.
Lots of news, lots of moves, and a rapidly-changing team composition. In the end, whether all of the offseason developments inspire high hopes or nervous twitchings for you, the 2014 season is something we're all going to be watching with rapt attention ... and probably a large supply of antacids.
How about you? Vote in the poll below and let us know what you think of the offseason so far!