A few of the key role players on the AL Central champs' roster are now free agents. And the Tigers will be bumping up against the league's luxury tax threshold of $189M very quickly this winter. If they decide they need to spend more than that to compete for a title, they'll pay a 17.5% tax on every extra dollar they spend as first-time offenders. On the other hand, if they attempt to stay under the tax they'll have limited options to replace their departing players and/or fill other holes in their roster.
Detroit boasts some of the top players in baseball, but they'll need a solid team throughout to get back to the postseason, let alone the World Series. No matter what happens this winter, look for the Tigers to be favored to win the Central in 2014.
Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante, Joaquin Benoit, Jose Veras, Octavio Dotel, Ramon Santiago, Jeremy Bonderman, and Brayan Pena
Since Jose Iglesias appears to be capable of actively channeling quantum superposition, Peralta isn't likely to be back. Seriously though, Iglesias went from second base (remember the shift was on for David Ortiz) to left-center field. Anyway, the real concern here is the bullpen. Bruce Rondon will probably spend more time in the majors next year. But if the Tigers let Benoit and Dotel go (in addition to Veras, whose option was already strangely declined), they might want to bring in an established reliever or two. The club could depend on homegrown options Melvin Mercedes, Jose Ortega, and perhaps Casey Crosby.
Lefty Phil Coke might also be on his way out. Omar Infante could sign an extension, but if he doesn't the team's best in-house replacement is probably Hernan Perez -- he isn't likely to produce Infante-caliber production immediately.
2B, RP, CL, LF, bench
They can fill a few of these holes by re-signing players and perhaps they'll decide Rondon is ready to close. If they don't bring Benoit and Infante back they'll be on the hunt for replacements there, but the number one concern might be finding a dynamic left fielder. They also need a back up catcher and might want to bring in a few solid bench contributors as well.
The Tigers could decide to use Nick Castellanos in left field -- which would be the prudent choice -- but they may decide he is their best bet at landing something useful on the trade market. If the Tigers attempt to make any moves via trade, teams will be asking about Castellanos first. GM Dave Dombrowski might see Rick Porcello as expendable with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister holding down most of the rotation. Drew Smyly and Jose Alvarez could compete for the last spot if Porcello is moved, or Dombrowski could pick up a reclamation project/low-end starter via trade or free agency. The Tigers are not actively shopping Max Scherzer and would likely have to be astonished by an offer to consider moving him.
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