After a strong postseason but a lackluster World Series, general manager for the Detroit Tigers, Dave Dombrowski, has a few holes to fill for the 2013 team. Here are my predictions of what positions they need to fill.
Starting pitcher: Just like the past couple years, the Tigers are going into 2013 with four of five rotation spots ready to go with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. The fifth spot is the question mark.
The Tigers will have to decide if they want to re-sign Anibal Sanchez, who had a tremendous postseason, or go with Drew Smyly, who had an up and down rookie season. Smyly is the cheaper option, and I would expect the Tigers to re-sign Sanchez.
Bullpen: Last year, the bullpen was unpredictable. For 2013, it is projected to consist of Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal. If Alburquerque can bounce back from missing most of last year and pitch like he did in 2011, their bullpen should be fine. Villarreal posted a 2.63 ERA last season and needs to do the same. As for Benoit and Dotel, they need to work on their consistency.
Closer: The closing situation became a problem after Jose Valverde blew two saves this past postseason. He’s a free agent and the Tigers have no intention of bringing him back.
Phil Coke closed out games towards the end of the postseason and did an above average job. Rafael Soriano is a possible free agent option but Dombrowski has stated that minor league closer Bruce Rondon is expected to fill the spot. Rondon throws a hard fastball which peaks at 103 MPH, however control is the questionable aspect to his game.
Here’s how the position players break down: Alex Avila will be the starting catcher for 2013. The backup situation is where it gets interesting. Gerald Laird, who was Avila’s backup for 2012, recently signed with the Atlanta Braves. The front runner for the job right now is rookie catcher Bryan Holaday. Prince Fielder is the undisputed starter at first base.
The middle of the infield will shape up like this: Omar Infante will be returning for 2013 and will be the starting second baseman.
Jhonny Peralta’s option was exercised and he will likely return to play shortstop in 2013. However, there is a slim possibility he will be traded, which will open the position. Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera are names that have been thrown around as possible targets.
Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera will keep his spot at third base.
With Delmon Young not returning, it is likely that Andy Dirks will be the full-time starter in left field. Another option is Quintin Berry, who had a very good rookie season. Austin Jackson will return to play center field.
Right field is one of the more questionable spots for this off-season. The Tigers signed former Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter to be the starter in right field.
Hunter will take over Brennan Boesch’s spot following a dismal 2012 campaign for the young right fielder. Hunter, on the other hand had one of his best years last year batting .313 with 16 home runs.
With Young gone and Victor Martinez coming back from missing the entire season, it Martinez will likely be the designated hitter.
The Tigers will have Ramon Santiago, Berry and Danny Worth as their go-to guys off the bench. Top prospect Nick Castellanos will most likely start the year in Triple-A Toledo, but will make his way to Detroit sometime in 2013.
Overall, this 2013 Tigers team has even more potential than they had going into last season. They are expected to be World Series contenders.