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Mailbag: Nick Castellanos is still the Tigers' third baseman

Introducing a new BYB feature!

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

We here at Bless You Boys are lucky to have a knowledgable and passionate fanbase, both for us and the team we cover on a daily basis. With social media taking over the blogging world, we get more questions about the Tigers (and baseball in general) than ever before. Instead of firing off 140 character answers, I've decided to bring a semi-regular mailbag feature into the picture.

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In the horrific event that the Tigers are unable to re-sign Victor Martinez, do you think that there should be at least some consideration given to making Miguel Cabrera the primary DH and shifting Nick Castellanos to first base? The Tigers could then pursue a much better fielding third basemen and hopefully get enough offense to avoid a huge net loss offensively.


A lot of people -- myself included -- seemed to be surprised at how bad Castellanos' defense was in 2014. We expected him to be below average, but still measurably better than Miguel Cabrera was in 2013. Instead, Castellanos was worse. Like, almost twice as bad if you believe Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), but only slightly worse according to UZR. Still, "worse" was both unexpected and unpleasant.

That said, I'm not sure I'm ready to pull the plug on Castellanos at third base. For one, he hadn't spent any time there in game action since early 2012 when he was in the low minor leagues. Losing over a year's worth of development time didn't help, especially when you consider that his glove was never expected to be great to begin with. I don't think they need to further confuse the kid by giving him his third position in as many years. Also, it's a lot easier to find a decent designated hitter than a decent third baseman who won't kill you on both sides of the ball. It's kind of an all-or-nothing position, and the Evan Longorias and Josh Donaldsons of the world are few and far between. Meanwhile, at DH you have Martinez, Billy Butler, and Kendrys Morales all hitting the open market this winter. Add Torii Hunter into that mix, and there are plenty of other options for a designated hitter in 2015.

Plus, Miggy's actually a decent first baseman, so no need to move him off there just yet.

I think we already saw a little of that occur indirectly in 2014. The Houston Astros were facing a roster dilemma and cut an underachieving outfielder. Six months later, the legend that is J.D. Martinez keeps on rolling. Baseball teams are constantly looking to take advantage of other teams' mistakes in this manner, and I would expect no different this offseason. With clear holes in center field and the bullpen, Dave Dombrowski will likely look to teams with potential surpluses in both areas in order to rearrange the Tigers' roster. His one tendency as a GM is his preference to deal from areas of relative depth in the farm system, so don't be surprised if we see another starting pitcher or young toolsy middle infielder on the move in the coming months.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, are their own topic. By all accounts, their ownership group is richer than God and they have no qualms about paying the luxury tax. For all we know, they could be in play to sign Max Scherzer to a gaudy contract this offseason. But when it comes to their outfield, the players they have are considered overpaid for a reason. Carl Crawford hasn't been the same since he spent one too many years taking a beating on the astroturf in Tampa, Matt Kemp has only shown flashes of his former self in the past few seasons, and Andre Ethier is the priciest platoon bat in the history of baseball. Worst of all, none of them are the answer that the Tigers are looking for in center field. And don't forget that the Tigers have payroll questions of their own. Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, and Max Scherzer are free agents. Several other players are due for arbitration raises. The bullpen is in shambles. We don't know how deep Mike Ilitch's pockets run or how far he's willing to go into the red to get his hands on a World Series trophy, so taking advantage of another team's financial misfortune -- especially when that misfortune inevitably involves damaged goods -- is anyone's guess.

Of all the Tigers pitchers who made their MLB debut in 2014, how would you rank them in terms of how likely they are to contribute in 2015?


If we're talking about any pitcher that made his MLB debut with the Tigers in 2014, I think the obvious choice for a surefire 2015 contributor is Blaine Hardy. He pitched well out of the bullpen for most of the year and I don't know if the Tigers will look to bring back Phil Coke, who is a free agent. Pat McCoy will also see some innings because he's left-handed, but barring some major changes or signings, I would guess that Hardy and Ian Krol are the two lefties in the bullpen on Opening Day.

In terms of starting pitchers, I think that Kyle Lobstein opened a lot of eyes with the way he pitched to end 2014. His peripheral numbers weren't overly impressive, but he gave the Tigers some big innings in a tight spot. Without him, they probably don't win the division. That said, this doesn't necessarily give him a leg up over any of the other potential fifth starters heading into 2015. Personally, I would like to see a two-man race between Lobstein and Robbie Ray, with everyone else -- namely Buck Farmer -- relegated to bullpen duty in hopes of fixing that mess. This won't be the last time you hear me wonder what Farmer is capable of if he gets to let loose for an inning at a time.

Don't expect this, though. He'll probably be in the fifth starter mix next spring.

Miggy is [the] best player I have ever seen but is it the best strategy to tie up $30 million to someone over 30 and hope he doesn’t get hurt?


Normally, no. But when said player is the "best player I have ever seen" then you don't really have a choice. The Tigers would have faced a PR nightmare had they let Miguel Cabrera walk as a free agent, and Hall of Fame talents usually don't decline until well into their late 30s. Even with all the things Cabrera battled through this season -- the core muscle surgery, the bum ankle, among other undisclosed injuries -- he still ranked 10th in baseball among qualified hitters with a 147 wRC+.

While I don't mind the decision to lock up Cabrera, the "stars and scrubs" method of roster construction has been the Tigers' Achilles heel over the past few years. The bench depth has been nonexistent, making them more susceptible to being affected by injuries. Tying up too much of the payroll in order to keep a select few players limits their ability to acquire talent elsewhere to fill holes.

Hope the tigers go after Russell Martin, Andrew Miller, think they might trade for Cameron Maybin too? He's fallen out of favor in SD.


I get the love for Russell Martin -- he's coming off a huge year and he's the only decent free agent catcher on the market -- but I don't see the Tigers dumping Avila or shelling out big money for Martin to be a part-time backstop. Despite his faults, Avila was still worth 2.1 WAR, which is excellent when you consider he was only paid $4.35 million. Martin could easily fetch three times that amount on the open market this offseason, especially considering how durable he has been. He has played in 110 games or more in eight of his nine seasons, often providing above average offensive production for a catcher.

Andrew Miller is a possibility, but like Martin I think that Miller is about to get paid this offseason. He has been one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball over the past couple seasons, and Buck Showalter has given him plenty of chances to prove that he can work a full inning. Miller could be the Tigers' "big splash" signing this offseason, but I feel like some other GM will overpay in years on Miller's contract to make him their setup man. As good as he has been, Miller still doesn't have the "proven closer" tag.

I'm not really sure if we would even want Cameron Maybin at this point, or whether he represents an upgrade over the Tigers' current situation in center field. Maybin is a superior defender to Davis, but offensively has provided next to nothing in just over 2,000 career plate appearances. The "buy low" aspect is intriguing, but I wonder whether he actually has a ceiling to make it worth it now.


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