A recent insider comment on the Detroit Tigers trade rumors indicated that the team may stand pat, rolling on with the roster as already assembled. Jim Leyland was the bearer of that news and it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
GM Dave Dombrowski likes to operate in the shadows and then emerge with a mega deal. That’s his M.O. He did it with Miguel Cabrera, same with the Curtis Granderson trade, and more recently Doug Fister. My initial reaction to this is that Leyland was simply ordered to throw the media off the scent so that the wheeling and dealing GM can do his thing prior to the trade deadline.
The one common theme that has persisted since Prince Fielder inked his deal with the Tigers is that this team must experience the postseason in 2012. Anything short of that would be deemed a cataclysmic failure.
At the All-Star break, the Tigers are chasing both the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox in the meager AL Central standings. Detroit has played better of late, or has it simply been that their level of competition has dropped? Easing into the All-Star hiatus against Minnesota and Kansas City was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Interestingly enough, the Tigers will also finish up the regular season with their last 13 games being played against these same two teams (7 v. KC and 6 v. Minnesota). So don’t be surprised if the Tigers finish hot.
However, Detroit’s first 29 games out of the midseason break are against teams with a better than .500 record. How the Tigers survive that stretch will have a huge effect on the standings and their ability to take the division come early October.
If the Tigers do indeed hold steady and keep this roster intact a lot of things will have to change in order for this team to take down the White Sox.
- Andy Dirks needs to come back healthy and contribute. He is not expected back now until sometime in August.
- Delmon Young needs to prove that his recent power surge is something more than a guess hitter getting lucky for a weekend.
- Alex Avila has to find a way to stay in the lineup and be the devastating hitter he was in 2011.
- Jhonny Peralta needs to hit for more extra-base power and maybe his 2 double and a homer effort on Sunday was a sign. Last year he had 21 homers and 86 RBI’s. So far this year he has 5 and 27, respectively. He’s had over 80 RBI’s in 4 straight seasons, which appears to be coming to a sudden halt.
- Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch both must find their game. They have been horrible in 2012, performing far below any reasonable expectation.
- Max Scherzer and Doug Fister will need to stay healthy and pick up several key wins.
- Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly simply must be serviceable. Win some, lose some, and that should be good enough.
- Jose Valverde is going to have to get some pressure saves in the 2nd half. The Tigers can’t throw their season away based on his volatility. If he slumps, Joaquin Benoit will be your new closer.
That’s a lot of stuff that needs to change, not just stay the same, but improve in a fairly dramatic way. Even if the Tigers do squeak through the AL Central door, clearly the most frail and cracked door of any division in baseball, this roster would then have to elevate their play even more to hang with the likes of Texas, Los Angeles, New York, etc., during the playoffs.
At the onset of spring training this team wasn’t crafted simply to make the big dance. They did that a year ago and left an empty taste and a hunger for more on the table. This team was supposed to be able to contend for a World Series title, a crown not seen around these parts since 1984.
If this team, as presently constructed, is capable of winning a World Series then I know a lot less about baseball than I let on. Nice try, Leyland. Expect some serious roster action prior to July 31st.