Article Written By: Manny Alcala
2013 Record: 93-69 (1st place in AL Central)
Key additions: Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, Rajai Davis, Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol.
Key losses: Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Joaquin Benoit, Omar Infante, Brayan Pena, Jose Veras. Johnny Peralta
Most important players for 2014: Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter.
The reigning AL Central champs will enter this season with a much different feel after a busy off-season. They’ve added some great talent to their team with all star players like second baseman Ian Kinsler and closer Joe Nathan, but they have also lost players that were crucial to the Tigers’ success in recent years.
The trade that sent Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers created a big hole in the Tigers’ lineup. Yes, in return they got some financial flexibility and a great second baseman in Kinsler, but who will be protecting Miguel Cabrera in the lineup this season? Dave Dombrowski, general manager of the Tigers, stated that he hopes Victor Martinez can be that player that hits behind Miggy, but there is still some doubts surrounding that decision.
Players like Doug Fister, Joaquin Benoit, and Omar Infante were also huge parts of this team. The loss of Fister immediately impacts the starting rotation as he could at times be as dominant as anyone in the league and always pitched plenty of innings. Benoit was a late inning reliever that served the role as a closer at times. And Infante served as a very smart middle infielder that knew his role very well.
But it’s not all that bad for the Tigers this season. Let’s not forget about the starting rotation they still have. Their first three pitchers are probably one of the most feared big 3 in baseball with Verlander, Scherzer, and Sanchez. Scherzer is coming off a Cy Young award winning season and is due to hit free agency after this year. Look for him to continue his dominance as he will get his payday soon. Verlander is coming off a surprisingly down year for him in which he went 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA. He will most likely pitch this season with a sense of revenge as he will be that dominant pitcher we know he is.
As for Anibal Sanchez, he quietly earned his way to the leagues lowest ERA last season (2.57) because most were more impressed by the show that Scherzer was putting up. Together these three pitchers can take the Tigers a long way this season once again.
Miguel Cabrera doesn’t even need an introduction. The back to back AL MVP winner should continue his flawless hitting. Only reason for concern is his health as we saw him play through some pain at one point last season. Keep your fingers crossed and hope that he will be in good shape to play the whole season as it is a pleasure to see him play not only for Tigers fans, but for all MLB fans.
It will be interesting to see how this team develops in the 2014 season. Kinsler could be an upgrade at second base even though Infante did great for the Tigers last year. The loss of Fielder might make a big impact on this team for this season, but it seems the Tigers made the move to have the money to resign Scherzer after season’s end. All in all I believe that the Tigers could be dethroned of their AL central crown by either the Kansas City Royals or the Cleveland Indians, but right now they are still the team to beat in this division although a three team race for the division is bound to happen.