The Detroit Tigers finished 2016 with a record of 86-75. Detroit remained in contention for a playoff bid until the final week of the season but was unable to breakthrough. The Tigers have missed out on the playoffs the past two seasons after a string of four straight appearances. It was a disappointing season for a team with high expectations and the fourth highest payroll in Major League Baseball.
Now it is up to the front office to make the necessary adjustments to keep Detroit competitive in a tight division. The Cleveland Indians won the division and competed in the World Series this year. The Kansas City Royals are just a year removed from winning a championship and played in consecutive World Series. Detroit has many pieces in place to contend, but the team must be improved heading into Spring Training.
Detroit Tigers 2016 Offseason Needs
Detroit must improve their starting rotation this offseason. Six pitchers made 18+ starts for the Tigers this season, but only two of those pitchers, Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer, posted quality seasons. Anibal Sanchez finished with a 7-13 record alongside a miserable 5.87 ERA. High-priced acquisition Jordan Zimmermann could not stay healthy on his way to a 4.87 ERA over 18 starts.
Further compounding the problem is that Sanchez, Verlander, and Zimmermann are owed a combined $62.8 million for 2017 alone. The best way for Detroit to improve their rotation would be through a trade, but it may still be necessary for the team to eat some salary in a deal.
Get Jordan Zimmermann Healthy
Zimmermann signed a $110 million contract with the Tigers this past offseason. Though hefty, the contract was understandable given Zimmermann’s track record. He was coming off four straight seasons of 30+ starts and 3.5+ WAR. Zimmermann also maintained a 3.40 FIP and a 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings over seven seasons with the Washington Nationals. All signs pointed to the fact that Zimmermann was a safe investment.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed his effectiveness and limited him to 18 starts in his first season with the Tigers. Zimmermann can still be a quality starting pitcher, and Detroit must rely on him to perform better in 2017. Making sure he is healthy going into Spring Training should be a top priority for the Tigers.
Francisco Rodriguez occupied the closer role for Detroit and performed well this season. Rodriguez appeared in 61 games and notched 44 saves with a 3.24 ERA. However, his contract expired and he will be a free agent. Rodriguez will not be the top relief pitcher on the open market, but that could very well help Detroit’s efforts to re-sign him. The Tigers will not have the funds to pursue top relievers Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen. Detroit’s best option is to bring back Rodriguez on a short-term deal. Rodriguez is 34 years old, but has demonstrated he can still be effective, with 126 saves over his past three seasons.