The Detroit Tigers and Bullpen Problems

Something that hasn’t been talked about enough with regards to the recent rise to prominence and dominance by the Kansas City Royals is the fall of the Detroit Tigers.

A proud franchise from a proud city that had won 4 straight division titles, with a World Series appearance sprinkled in that run, Detroit has been the class of the American League Central for quite some time now. The Twins have come and the Twins have gone, (and they’re coming again), the White Sox have come and the White Sox have gone, but the Tigers have consistently been there.

The Tigers are in big, big trouble right now. They are an aging team that owes a bazillion dollars to a pair of stars on the wrong side of 30, has the 30th ranked farm system in the league, (that’s dead last, by the way), and finished in the cellar of the very division they ruled for such a long time.

And then their star GM, Dave Dombrowski, was canned and headed for Boston. Why was Dombrowski fired? Because he wanted to rebuild. Because he wanted to help the franchise get back to their winning ways. Unfortunately for him, Mike Ilitch, the Tigers 86 year old owner, understandably wants to win a World Series before he leaves this earth and will not tolerate a rebuild.

Photo by John Wilcox for Boston Globe

So instead of going about the rebuild like, say, the Twins or the Cubs did – that is, really successfully – the Tigers are about to enter a nuclear winter that might doom the franchise for many years to come.

Now, the only real, perceivable issue the Tigers have dealt with over the course of the past 5 or so years is that their bullpen has been bad, rather appallingly so. They have never been able to find an effective closer, and, puzzlingly, have never really gone out and attempted to get one.

Yeah, yeah Ryan we know all of this. Why are you bringing it up now?

I bring it up now because of the recent trades that Dombrowski has made in Boston, and that new Detroit GM, Al Avila, made just about 3 hours ago.

Since he never really went after a closer in Detroit, naturally the first thing that Dombrowski did when he got to Boston was go out and acquire Craig freaking Kimbrel from the Padres. If there were any closer issues in Boston, they have been solved. And Avila went out and acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Photo by Jesse Johnson for USA Today

Kimbrel needs no introduction, but Rodriguez has quietly been one of the better closers in baseball for the Brewers. Excluding a half season hiatus in Baltimore following a deadline trade, in his 5 years with Milwaukee, Rodriguez has posted a 3.45 FIP to go along with a 136 ERA+ and 9.6 K/9 in 250.2 IP. Those are really solid numbers from a relief ace, something Detroit really knows nothing about.

So Al Avila deserves a pat on the back for going out and finally addressing Detroit’s closer issue. And his acquiring of Rodriguez looks extra impressive when you consider the farm resources and blue chip talent pool that he had to deal from.

As for Dombrowski and Boston, the fans in Detroit are left to wonder why in the hell it took him so long to go out and make a move on a reliever. It was literally the only deficiency the Tigers had during about a 7 year stretch of his tenure, so why didn’t he fix it?

My two cents are that he didn’t want to give up Detroit’s limited farm resources for a potential rental closer, but in Boston he’s got a completely different situation. Boston’s farm system is totally jacked, so Dombrowski had no issues scooping up enough talent to coax AJ Preller into sending him Kimbrel.

But, regardless of what Dombrowski did – or, in this case, didn’t do – during his time in Detroit, Al Avila just made a good move for the Detroit bullpen.

Al Avila
Al Avila. Getty Images

Detroit obviously believes they can contend in 2016, and they are sort of right for thinking that. But this trade won’t really change the fact that they are a team stuck in neutral with a potential nuclear winter, reminiscent of what the Astros went through a few years back, on their horizon.

The Tigers need much, much more than just Francisco Rodriguez to avoid said nuclear winter, and Al Avila had better get hopping if he wants to see his way through it.

Thanks for reading…


The Detroit Tigers and Bullpen Problems