I recently posted an article about believing that Wily Peralta deserves another Tigers' contract, and someone asked what I thought the rotation is made up of. They wanted to know whether I thought Mize, Skubal, and Manning were 1, 2, and 3 type starting pitchers or more like 2, 3, and 4.
That's an interesting question, the more I ponder it. Exactly how do teams decide who is a 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5? I think it's not necessarily all about talent, but probably durability and consistency.
Verlander was a great #1. He was all you could ask a #1 to be, including being talented. I think that Mize, Skubal, and Manning have some hope of being that, even if it isn't to a Hall of Fame level of performance. Yet, who knows, maybe they will be.
Adding Scherzer, Verlander, or some other free agent star starting pitcher would always be nice, but the cost is so high, and whether they would take the team to the next level is another question. Scherzer probably has several more good years ahead. Verlander may fully recover, or he may take a year or two and then simply start to lose his luster. In either case, unless one or both wanted to offer a big discount to return to the Tigers, I just don't think it is likely a fit.
I think Mize, Skubal, and Manning can be the top of our rotation for the next several years, and perhaps much longer. I'm hoping that some of the other young hurlers will also develop. Tyler Alexander has potential too to be a good starter. Wily Peralta seems consistent, durable, and has performed well too. They would be a good 1,2,3,4, and 5 to me.
Matt Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, and perhaps Michael Fulmer present other options to the rotation. Additionally, Joe Wentz, Alex Faedo, and maybe a surprise like Beau Brieske represent the most ready to climb into the rotation. Plus there are the newest draft additions to the organization: Jackson Jobe, Ty Madden, and Dylan Smith might be ready faster than we might otherwise believe. Jobe might be another teenage star. Madden and Smith are relatively well established college pitchers. There are also other young minor leaguers that could ascend rapidly.
Peralta, Drew Hutchison, Jose Urena, and possibly Julio Teheran seem like good #4 and, or #5 role players in the rotation to me, and all I'd be looking for.
Do Mize, Skubal, and Manning have the potential to take the Tigers to the playoffs? I think they do. I think each has 15 or more win capability, and then it will be up to the capabilities of the #4 and #5 to be as consistent as possible to keep the team winning. In the past we had Verlander, Scherzer, Price, and Porcello, and they'd be nearly 20 win pitchers, but the #5 would be horrendous. If we won 70-72 games with our top starters we would struggle to win 5 with the #5. At the end of the day, you need the prospect of winning 80 games with the starters and between 10 and 20 more with your relief corp. If Mize, Skubal, Manning, Boyd, and Wentz could win 80-85, then WOW! We'd have reinforcements in the wings as well with Turnbull and others knocking on the door.
Of course, having a great bullpen is essential too. Over-paying for starters can't be to the detriment of paying enough to keep good arms in the bullpen. Again this builds the case for not overpaying for the #4 or #5, and ideally having really good young arms to promote to these roles.