The Detroit Tigers spent a good portion of 2009 in first place in the American League Central, but could not hold off the Minnesota Twins at the end. Losing the play-in game to the Twins was a disappointing end to a season for the fans in the Motor City, that despite being unemployed, showed up at the ballpark more than most team’s fans. Third baseman Brandon Inge epitomized the city because despite his painful injuries, he kept coming to the ballpark to play (161 games). However the Tigers season was marred by inconsistency. The pitching staff was led by ace Justin Verlander (who proved a workhorse and came in third in the CY Young voting) and baby-faced rookie Rick Porcello (who came in third in the ROY voting). All-Star Edwin Jackson had a great first half, but he became unreliable down the stretch when the Tigers needed him most. Armando Galarraga, coming off a superb 2008, completely fell apart in 2009 and was relegated to the bullpen. Adding lefty Jarrod Washburn from Seattle at the trading deadline proved to be a bust.
The offense was just as inconsistent as the rotation. The Tigers were carried by MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera for the entire season, until right fielder Magglio Ordonez’ bat finally woke up. Curtis Granderson put up huge power numbers (30 HR and 71 RBIs), but could not hit left-handed pitching (.183), struck out 141 times, only had an OBP of .327 in the leadoff spot, and saw his average dip to an all-time low (.249). The Tigers brought catcher Gerald Laird over from the Texas Rangers and he was an upgrade behind the plate but his offense was virtually nonexistent (.225), leading to the promotion of Double-A All-Star Alex Avila who may have hit his way onto the 2010 club. Shortstop Adam Everett proved his reputation as a good glove, no offense player, which led to Ramon Santiago getting more playing time at the end of the year.
Looking to purge the payroll due to the economy, the 2009 offseason could prove to be a disastrous one for the Tigers. The 2010 attendance could be in for a worse decline and not because of the unemployment rate in Detroit. It was a sad day in Detroit when, in a three team blockbuster deal, the Tigers sent the face of the city Curtis Granderson to the NY Yankees and starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 3 pitchers and Yankees top prospect Austin Jackson. Granderson will be a tough act to follow in centerfield for Jackson. It could be a hard transition as fans will be expecting greatness in his rookie year. Manager Jim Leyland’s job may be in jeopardy if he does not mesh the young and the veterans together into a competitive team. Here’s the Tigers wish list:
- A shortstop: The Tigers have Ramon Santiago, a decent hitter (.267 and a career-high 7 homeruns in 2009), back for 2010. However they do not see him as an everyday player. Their priority was to re-sign defensive specialist Adam Everett, which they did. Look for Santiago to see significant playing time if Everett does not hit.
Adding relievers: The Tigers have young relievers coming through the farm system, but none are ready to join Ryan Perry in the bullpen. With setup man Brandon Lyon (who recently signed with the Houston Astros) and closer Fernando Rodney on the free agent market, the Tigers have huge holes to fill. Management is counting on fireballer Joel Zumaya to fill part of the void, but it is a risk. Zumaya has not been the same since his freak shoulder and finger injuries. Versatile Zach Miner (he can start, be a long man, or setup) and lefty Bobby Seay are the veterans returning to the bullpen mix. In the three team trade with the Yankees and Diamondbacks, the Tigers netted three pitchers, all of whom may end up in the bullpen. Lefty Phil Coke thrived in 2008 when he moved to the bullpen upon his promotion to the majors and became the go to lefty for the World Champion Yankees in 2009. Daniel Schlereth made his debut for the Diamondbacks in 2009 but could get more seasoning in Triple-A Toledo to become a lefty specialist. Max Scherzer may be the most intriguing. Most likely he will be in the 2010 Tigers rotation, but many believe that he could be a dominant reliever. The bullpen will need to be huge for the 2010 season to take the pressure off the rotation.
- Flexibility with the payroll: Tigers fans were hoping that the payroll purge would not include the popular players. Unfortunately it did due to the many high contracts. The unhealthy and struggling combination of Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis will make $35.5 million in 2010. Do not look for the Tigers to add players on the free agent market. It will be interesting to see if ace Justin Verlander will consider a contract extension with the financial state of the team for the next few years.