Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the Detroit Tigers.
2007 record: 88-74
Finish: Second place, American League Central
2007 opening-day payroll: $95 million
One great strength, among many, of Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski is his eagerness to beat the insanity of the free-agent market. Every year, while teams start executing their winter plans, Dombrowski has nearly completed his.
In the last two-plus weeks, the Tigers have made three significant moves. First they traded for shortstop Edgar Renteria, allowing the transition of Carlos Guillen to first base. Then, on Tuesday, Detroit re-signed closer Todd Jones to a one-year, $7 million deal, ensuring another year of nerve-splaying saves, and later in the day acquired outfielder Jacque Jones, who will at least platoon in left field and could hold down the full-time job should Marcus Thames regress.
Yes, there are still needs. Namely another starter – Rogers, the Tigers would prefer – to fill out the Justin Verlander-Jeremy Bonderman-Nate Robertson-Andrew Miller rotation and a reliever – Octavio Dotel, Matt Herges, David Riske? – to fill in for Joel Zumaya, who could miss the season after injuring his shoulder moving boxes in the California wildfires.
Neither will come cheaply, probably a combined $15 million to $20 million, and that would take the Tigers' payroll well over the $100 million mark, the highest in the division and one of the top 5 in the game. Whether it allows these Tigers to maneuver through an AL Central with a loaded Cleveland team, a Minnesota franchise stacked with young pitching, a Chicago team ready to spend and a Kansas City team on the come is too early to answer.
So the Tigers must win now, and if they fortify their bullpen, there's no reason they can't do so. Their lineup is fearsome, with MVP runner-up-to-be Magglio Ordoñez coming off a career year, Gary Sheffield still dangerous when he's healthy, Granderson approaching Carlos Beltran and Grady Sizemore for title of the game's best center fielder and Renteria coming off a season in which he set career highs in batting average (.332) and slugging percentage (.470).
For how much Tigers hitters have proven, their rotation still needs to flex. Verlander is a bona fide ace with perhaps the best two-pitch combination in the game. Bonderman, on the other hand, struggled in his fifth big-league season, his ERA jumping nearly 1.50 in his last 10 starts. He did have pinched cartilage in his pitching elbow, but at some point the numbers must match the stuff. Same goes for Miller, though, hey, he's 22 and less than two years removed from college.
The Tigers want to give him time, and yet they know theirs is waning. Pudge Rodriguez and the Joneses contracts run out after '08. Sheffield, Renteria and Placido Polanco's lapse after 2009. And by that time, of course, owner Mike Ilitch might have gone out and paid a new harem of free agents, rendering all of this moot.
But it doesn't make things any less urgent.
Have the money to pay him. Have the relationship with Scott Boras to jump in the fray. Just don't have a place to play him.
Next: Florida Marlins