2014 Outlook: Detroit Tigers

2014 Outlook: Detroit Tigers
January 15, 2014, 4:15 pm
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2013 record: 93-69, 1st place in AL Central
Manager: Brad Ausmus, 1st season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $158 million
Key additions: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Joe Nathan, RHP Joba Chamberlain, LHP Ian Krol, INF Steve Lombardozzi
Key losses: 1B Prince Fielder, RHP Doug Fister, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Omar Infante, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Jose Veras

Projected lineup
2B Ian Kinsler
RF Torii Hunter
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
CF Austin Jackson
LF Andy Dirks
C Alex Avila
3B Nick Castellanos
SS Jose Iglesias

Projected rotation
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Drew Smyly

Top relievers
CL Joe Nathan
RHP Bruce Rondon
RHP Joba Chamberlan

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Was the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade the right move? The biggest transaction of the offseason came early when GM Dave Dombrowski dealt Fielder to the Rangers for Kinsler. The trade saved Detroit a lot of money, but was it a smart baseball decision? Losing Fielder hurts, big-time, but Kinsler is a nice pick-up. It also lets Miguel Cabrera move back to first base, where he’s less of a defensive liability. The key: Is 22-year-old top prospect Nick Castellanos, now the everyday third baseman, ready for the big-time?

2. Can Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly take the next step? Dombrowski’s other big trade sent Doug Fister to the Nationals, a move that puts pressure on young Porcello and Smyly to step up and keep the back end of the rotation reliable. Porcello has long been one of baseball’s most-intruiging arms, but in five MLB season he sports a 4.51 ERA. Smyly, meanwhile, was very effective out of the bullpen last year, but Detroit needs the lefty to make a smooth transition to the rotation.

3. Will the new-look bullpen make this team complete at last? The Tigers’ Achilles’ heel the last two season was obvious: They’re bullpen. With more reliable guys closing out games in October, they very well may have won a World Series. So Dombrowski finally went out and spent good money to bring in an elite closer: Joe Nathan. He also added setup man Joba Chamberlain, who is far more of a question mark after underachieving in New York. Those two will play a major role in trying to get Detroit over its October hump.