So the Tigers have set their 25-man roster that they will break camp with on Monday. Some things were obvious from the outset but there did end up being a few surprises. I will also throw in another projection specifically for the bullpen towards the end of this article.
So here is the roster:
And then here are the players starting the season on the DL, all on the 15 day:
And I mention the DL listing because that was a big story for the Tigers this pre-season. Not just these injuries, but also the injuries to VMart and Anibal, soreness and tightness reported near daily, and it just seemed to be a major issue. I also mention it because the reason some of the roster is unexpected is because of injuries.
Certainly Hardy and Wilson would’ve been handed a bullpen spot out of camp based on last year (and the previous year for Hardy), but their absence has allowed room for Buck Farmer and Logan Kensing. At the outset of camp Farmer was expected to be a reliable 6th starter down in Toledo, one of many including Shane Greene who also made the club because of the injury to Norris.
There are some other stories about signing former Mets pitchers and then waiving other players etc, but the truth is, Verhagen and Ryan outpitched almost everyone this spring, and probably would’ve made the club regardless.
But that is where the ‘performance earns you a job’ train likely ends. Norris pitched pretty poorly, but was handed the fifth spot based on two months of decent pitching with a last place club. Greene has pitched extraordinarily well this spring, but the talk was him in the bullpen. Although, I can say that I would be gunshy over Greene as well, look how he imploded last year. Tyler Collins won a spot, and I am very happy about that (I wrote earlier this spring about how he should have a spot over Maybin) but if Maybin had not broken his wrist, no matter if he performed poorly, he would’ve won the spot over Collins. Mike Aviles did absolutely nothing this spring. He didn’t hit anything thrown at him and he played very poorly in the field. He was unexpectedly bad this spring, which is saying a lot, because everyone expected he would be bad. But he won a job over Dixon Machado, or even Bryan Holday who could probably play the corner outfield spots and third base as well or better than Aviles, and who tore the cover off the ball all spring.
So how do the Tigers look coming into the regular season? Well, worse than I previously thought. I don’t place much onus on Spring Training, I really don’t. But it did appear that everything people thought about this team came true this spring: can’t stay healthy, middle of the road defense, high powered offense, pretty bad pitching up and down the roster. This team hit a ton of homers, and that dominated the headlines and I love that, but they also gave up a ton of runs. Verlander didn’t look great and his velocity is way down, Anibal was hurt most of the time, Norris was getting crushed, and outside of a couple guys I already mentioned, the bullpen got clobbered. If they were expected to be great and had that spring, I wouldn’t think twice, but they are expected to be bad and they have been, so I worry (plus they never got that additional arm I was looking for).
They are expected to be bad? Yes! The latest projections came out and gave the bullpen and fWAR of 1.9, which is a 2-win improvement over last year, which is great! It is like adding an all-star to your team! But the 1.9 is still ranked 25th out of the 30 teams, yikes.
The good news is that generally bullpen arms are easy to find during the season. The bad news is that there is no more expensive commodity mid-season then a good bullpen arm. Generally a team will pay a 230% premium, meaning they will pay 2.3 times what it would’ve cost them in the offseason. This cost is generally in lost cheap performance or prospects. So, if you have a lot of prospects it is as impactful. But we all know the Tigers don’t. So making moves during the season is expensive and frankly makes little sense when they knew they needed another arm during the offseason.
The final concern I have is that we are not aware of how hurt VMart is/was and I fear, based on his track record of coming back too soon and being completely ineffective, that he is not ready. Thankfully they start the season in the NL with no DH. Hopefully the extra couple days help, and hopefully the projected 35 degree weather on Friday won’t tighten up that hamstring.
Well, here we go, regular season is about to start and my next post will be all about Opening Day! I’m pretty pumped!
I still think this is a 90-win playoff team! Let’s have some fun!