After being swept in the 2012 World Series by the San Francisco Giants, the Detroit Tigers have a 1-8 record in the Fall Classic during Jim Leyland’s tenure with the club. Despite the disappointments, owner Mike Ilitch continues to give GM Dave Dombrowski the ability to add players via multi year, big dollar free agent deals. A year after signing Prince Fielder to $214 million contract, Dombrowski kept his core intact and added a valuable veteran to the mix.
During the Miami Marlins July 2012 fire sale, Dombrowski was able to add starter Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez will remain in the Olde Englishe “D” cap in the foreseeable future, he signed a five year $88 million dollar contract in December. Considering Sanchez’s 17-22 record,1.27 WHIP and 3.77 ERA in 392 innings over the past two seasons, the contract was a bit extravagant and lengthy.
Longtime elite defensive center fielder Torii Hunter was the odd man out in Anaheim after the emergence of Mike Trout and the addition of Josh Hamilton. Though he will be entering his 17th season in the majors, Hunter still produces at a consistently high level. As an Angel from 2010 through 2012 he averaged 21 home runs and 87 RBI. His OPS numbers of .819/.765/.817 during the past three seasons indicate the 37 year old has plenty left in the tank. Just as important, he is considered a positive clubhouse presence, the type of guy who can steady the ship if the Tigers fall behind in a playoff series. His contract is two years for $26 million.
Much of Dombrowski’s work this winter consisted of keeping the Tigers together. Rotation members Max Scherzer ($6.7 million), Rick Porcello ($5.1 million) and Doug Fister ($4 million) agreed to one year contracts and avoided arbitration. Left handed setup man and postseason closer Phil Coke agreed to one year deal for $1.8 million while right handed reliever Octavio Dotel had his club option exercised for $3.5 million.
Starting center fielder Austin Jackson also agreed to a one year $3.5 million deal and catcher Alex Avila signed a one year $2.95 million contract, both avoiding arbitration. The club exercise its option on shortstop Jhonny Peralta for $6 million.
Strengthening an already formidable lineup will be Victor Martinez. The DH slugged .470 and drove in 103 runs in 2011 with Detroit but missed the entire 2012 season with an ACL injury.
One question mark that remains as the Tigers enter spring training is the closer role. Jose “Papa Grande” Valverde was allowed to walk after tossing beach balls to the A’s and Yankees in the postseason. Coke, Dotel and Joaquin Benoit have some closing experience, but the most interesting candidate is prospect Bruce Rondon. The Rich Garces-esque Venezuelan tips the scales close to 300 pounds, owns a 100 mph heater and saved 29 games at three levels in 2012. He may get the chance to close for the Tigers in 2013.
The generous $150 million dollar payroll allows Dombrowski to give the Tigers a solid lineup and rotation. There are quality arms in the pen, the closer situation should work itself out. The Tigers are not the best team in baseball, but are easily the class of the AL Central. No team should be more favored to win their division in 2013 and another deep postseason run is not out of the question.