‘Aus’picious Off-Season Moves For The Detroit Tigers
In early November Detroit Tigers fans were a bit surprised by the hire of Brad Ausmus as the club’s new manager. As the new skipper revamped his coaching staff it became obvious a new brand of baseball would arrive in spring. The new coaching additions served as a harbinger of smaller ball and Dave Dombrowski has followed course with his off-season moves thus far. The Tigers have traded away some big names, but in doing so will have the funds to retain their best. As we take a look at the roster moves made so far, bear in mind that the game plan in Detroit has changed.
Fielder for a Fielder
Shock waves bigger than Prince Fielder‘s seismic slides rumbled through Detroit on November 20th. ‘The Prince’ was heading to the Texas Rangers in return for Ian Kinsler. Suddenly, the Tigers had shed the burden of Fielder’s salary, opened up first base for Miguel Cabrera, and added some much needed speed to the team. Couple that with new first base coach Omar Vizquel and the station to station days at Detroit appear finished. In 2013 the Tiger’s leader in stolen bases was Austin Jackson with a pathetic total of eight steals. The trade solved some serious issues in Detroit with one swipe of Dombrowski’s mighty pen.
Clinging to Coke
Phil Coke has come up big for the Tigers in the post season. His performance in the 2012 ALCS is truly legendary. Coke saved Game 2, in Game 3 preserved a Justin Verlander gem for his second save, and recorded the final out in Game 4. He sprints from the bullpen to the mound and is a fierce competitor. He may simply be a LOOGY, but he is the best damn LOOGY one could wish for. The Tigers needed lefties in the pen and his signing made sense.
Farewell to Fister
This transaction was was harder to digest. The Tigers dealt Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and pitching prospect Robbie Ray. Detroit simply had too many starters. Drew Smyly spent a solid year in the bullpen, but his potential demanded a starting role. Rightly so the Tigers will give Smyly a well deserved spot on arguably the best rotation in baseball. Fister is a gamer and will be missed. What many have not considered is that he was traded out of the American League. The Tigers may not have received full value in return, however not having him in the same league or division ought be factored in.
Lombardozzi was well liked and treated with reverence by National’s fans. Check out this subreddit to get a feel for fan opinion. Beyond fan praise Lombardozzi is a solid defender who can handle the bat. He fits directly into the scheme Ausmus is preparing and will contribute positively for Detroit.
Krol and Ray are both 22 year old left handed pitchers. Krol has only pitched 27 major league innings but projects to be more than a specialist. A solid lefty in the bullpen is always welcome. Robbie Ray, however, is even more unproven. He has compiled an A ball record of 17-20 with a 4.29 ERA. Fans in the motor city can only wait and see if Ray pans out.
Overall this trade seems to be one of necessity. The deal ultimately hinges on the future success of Robbie Ray. The nightmare scenario for the Tigers would be facing Fister in the World Series.
Perennial closer Joe Nathan was signed for two years and reportedly signed with Detroit for one reason: To win the World Series. Nathan has averaged around 40 saves a year and last year posted a stellar 1.39 ERA with the Texas Rangers. The signing of Nathan places a proven closer in a bullpen in dire need of one. The pitching staff in Detroit now appears complete and solid.
Don Kelly defines versatility. He can be substituted in every defensive position; even catching. He is a smart baserunner. Kelly has even pitched showing off his 86 MPH fastball. He is also famous for this walk off sacrifice in the 2012 ALDS. Kelly is a capable, hardworking player who simply gets the job done. There is a ‘Cult of Don’ in Detroit who are most pleased at his resigning.
Many say that the Tigers are currently no better equipped to win the World Series than last year. They are correct if they are faithful to the three run homer. They also fail to note the impact of fewer runs allowed. This off-season the Tigers have remained a threat to win it all while injecting defense and speed. The bench has become much more solid and the prospects are ‘Aus’picious for a highly competitive season. Their roar will be heard loud and clear.