What is Dave Dombrowski thinking?
Could he possibly be content to go into the season with a rotation of David Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Shane Greene, and Alfredo Simon?
Or is he thinking two or three moves ahead?
When the trade for Alfredo Simon was consummated, Dombrowski stressed that he was one of the Tigers' six starters, not five. He may be thinking that Simon and Kyle Lobstein can split duty as the fifth starter, as Rob recently explored.
Simon can start against teams with predominantly right-handed power, and Lobstein against teams with lefties. When Kyle Lobstein struck out ten Indians on September 2, 2014, Cleveland started four lefties and two switch-hitters. Maybe the Tigers' GM thinks that Simon and Lobstein can share the fifth starter slot, and pitch in long relief when not starting?
Or maybe Dave is putting faith in Simon's excellent first half of 2014, and plans to have him start only the first half of 2015. Then Simon goes to the bullpen before he tires, Lobstein is swapped in for the second half? It would take some extraordinary confidence to pull Simon if he is pitching well.
Tigers will undoubtedly need a sixth starter at some point, so Simon and Lobstein will be needed simultaneously. What else could Dave be thinking?
Does he think that Max Scherzer and Scott Boras will wait too long? Teams will sign all the other free agents and nobody will be able to afford the $200 million asking price. Or all the teams that would value an ace the most will be satisfied with their rotations. Either way, Max could end up asking if the $144 million offer could be negotiated.
Or maybe it is not Max Scherzer who is last to sign, but James Shields? Big Game James could be on the market in early March, a Tigers' starter is shut down for a sore arm, and suddenly there is a Price-Shields reunion.
Still on the market are proven fifth starters Ryan Vogelsong, Chris Young, Randy Wolf, Carlos Villanueva, Paul Maholm, Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez, Kevin Correia, and Bruce Chen. Perhaps the Tigers sign one of these for a bargain?
Also available are reclamation projects Chad Billingsley, Brandon Beachy, Alexi Ogando, Johan Santana, and Mark Mulder.
When all of these names find a home, most teams will have added a starter. Maybe Dombrowksi's crafty plan is to trade for a back-end starter supplanted by one of the signings?
There is always hope on the farm, even if it feels like most prospects have been traded. One of the new prospects will shine and be ready in the second half. Drew VerHagen, Kyle Ryan, Josh Turley, Buck Farmer, Kevin Ziomek, or Austin Kubitza could be the answer. One of them is surely to step forward in the first half, though it could be a three month fluke.
Finally, there is always the trade deadline. Who had David Price on the radar last summer? There are over 30 pitchers who will be free agents at the end of 2015, at least one of whose teams will be out of contention in late July. How about Johnny Cueto?
Who will be in the rotation on August 1, 2015? I do not think Dave Dombrowski knows which move he will make, but is prepared for all the options.