The best (and worst) part of Major League Baseball's offseason is the continuous tinkering fans do in hopes of predicting the best (and worst) moves their major league club could make prior to spring training. More commonly known as "rosterbation," we will likely see several dozen tweets, comments, FanPosts (write your own!), and Facebook posts about what the Detroit Tigers should and should not do to bolster their roster for 2016.
While I don't generally engage in the "Tigers should sign [this guy]!" banter given the likelihood I will look extremely foolish later on, I have noticed a statistical trend that the Tigers could take advantage of. There are several extreme fly ball pitchers on the open market, including Wei-Yin Chen, Ian Kennedy, and Marco Estrada. Chen should get paid, but the other two -- along with Kansas City's Chris Young -- should be rather cheap. Justin Verlander allows a healthy number of fly balls himself, and fifth starter dark horse Matt Boyd has the potential to enter the conversation with a full season of work under his belt.
The Kansas City Royals have popularized the idea that a run saved is equal to a run earned, but defense still isn't getting paid like offense. Outfielders like Colby Rasmus, Chris Young, and Gerardo Parra are available, and are plus defenders in the corner outfield spots. Adding a premium talent like Jason Heyward or Yoenis Cespedes is also feasible if the Tigers avoid signing an expensive starter.
Comerica Park isn't a pitcher's park by any stretch -- it has played relatively neutral for the last half decade or longer -- but there is plenty of outfield grass to swallow up fly balls, especially in the gaps and in center field. Exploiting that, along with the truly pitcher-friendly parks elsewhere in the division, could help the Tigers save a few more runs in 2016 relative to the actual money they are spending. Caveat: this has the potential to go extremely wrong if anyone gets homer-happy, and walk rates need to be kept to a minimum.
Call it "coordinating" the roster, if you will. The defense should play to the pitching staff's relative strengths and weaknesses now that the Tigers don't have their monster rotation of yesteryear, and keeping the home ballpark in mind can't hurt either.
Now that Cespedes has hit it off with the Mets, should we not have our hopes up that he could be coming back? I think a lot of us thought we were saying "see you later," not "bye" when he left.
I don't know if I ever trusted the theory that Yoenis Cespedes would be back in Detroit in 2016, and any fleeting ideas I had of a long-term deal ended the moment the Tigers traded him away at the deadline. Sure, it's possible that Cespedes returns, but he will likely be making double the manageable $10.5 million salary he was paid this season.
Regardless, Cespedes deserves a lot of credit for adding to his own bankroll with a whale of a 2015 season. He finished his contract year with a flourish, hitting a ridiculous .287/.337/.604 with 17 home runs in 57 games with the Mets, and could potentially add "World Series winner" to his résumeé in two weeks.
Long story short: he's going to command a lot of money, and is probably too flawed to ever live up to that mega-deal. Cespedes' walk rate dropped for the fourth consecutive season in 2015, resulting in just 33 walks (five intentional) in 676 plate appearances. He also struck out a career-high 141 times. Cespedes was worth 6.7 WAR in 2015, more than double his previous career-best of 3.3 in 2014. Spending over $20 million per year on a three-win outfielder is probably market value at this point, but it's a very inefficient way to add some pop to your lineup.
One thing working in the Tigers' favor is the Mets' potential disinterest in him. The Wilpons have been hesitant to add payroll in recent years, and rookie outfielder Michael Conforto is emerging as a potential star in his own right. With Curtis Granderson in one corner and Juan Lagares in center, there is no room for Cespedes, barring a trade. Granderson has two years and $31 million left on his deal, and could be a viable trade chip after his productive 2015 season.
@blessyouboys Do you think we sign any of these guys? Greinke, Cueto, Price, Zimmerman, Kazmir.— Hi (@The_DeVastater) October 22, 2015
General manager Al Avila has given us all sorts of conflicting information so far this offseason. While vowing that the Tigers' payroll will be "highly competitive," Avila also laughed off the notion that the Tigers would spend $190-200 million, calling the idea "ridiculous." There is a happy medium here -- the Tigers had the fourth-highest Opening Day payroll in baseball last season -- but it's tough to see a team with its foot on the gas cutting payroll at a time like this.
That's a long-winded way of saying I have no idea which of these players the Tigers will actually sign. They all have their pluses and minuses. David Price has pitched here before. Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto are very good pitchers. Jordan Zimmermann is from the midwest. Scott Kazmir isn't going to cost an arm, a leg, and Al Avila's youngest child.
Sheer probability tells me the correct answer is "none of the above." If I have to choose one, I'd say Kazmir because he will sign the shortest contract of the group due to his past injury concerns and shaky second half in 2015. He will be 32 in January, has had a litany of shoulder issues earlier in his career, and posted a 5.19 FIP in 13 starts with the Houston Astros. He's easily the biggest risk of the group, but getting out of a deal in three or four years has its own appeal. The Tigers look poised to start building through their farm system a bit more under Avila, and Kazmir helps them bridge that gap to someone like Beau Burrows or their 2016 first round pick.
We answered this question on the podcast earlier this week -- shameless plug link goes here -- and, unfortunately, Venditte has already been claimed. The Toronto Blue Jays, a team notorious for claiming everyone and their brother on waivers during the offseason, picked up Venditte earlier this week. If the Jays somehow cap off an ALCS comeback, there's a small chance Venditte gets used in the World Series, but it seems that Aaron Loup is back with the team after missing Game 5 for a family emergency.
This means that the Tigers passed on Venditte during the waiver process, a potentially wise move given the number of players they need to add to their 40-man roster this offseason. Minor league pitchers Michael Fulmer, Luis Cessa, and Jairo Labourt will all need to be put on the 40-man to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, and we could potentially see players like Edgar De La Rosa or Johan Belisario added as well.
With 34 non-free agents currently on the 40-man roster -- potentially 33 if Neftali Feliz is non-tendered -- roster space could be tight this offseason. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers need to designate players like Jefry Marte or Jeff Ferrell to make more room if and when they sign free agents.
@BYBRob Should the Tigers consider moving Verlander or Miggy if 2016 falls apart?— Josh Nelson (@SSS_joshnelson) October 23, 2015