After the Detroit Tigers ended up in the basement of the AL Central in 2015, it was unclear what the plan would be. In August, the general manager Dave Dombrowski was released, and Al Avila -- his heir apparent -- was promptly promoted in his place. With a new yet familiar face at the helm, the Tigers could have opted for rebuild, retool or to just hope that some of 2015's bad luck doesn't repeat itself. Whichever way you want to label it, Avila's focus was on improving the team and their postseason chances for 2016.
The Free Agents
The Tigers began their offseason by signing Jordan Zimmermann, and seemingly wrapped up their offseason by signing Justin Upton. Zimmermann on his own would have been a slightly strange addition. With pitching a slight need, the Tigers still seemed to have more pressing issues to address using their payroll. The most dire need was in the outfield and after Upton stayed available way too long, the Tigers finally snapped him up.
In between those deals, the Tigers also addressed their bullpen by adding Mark Lowe. And they did this all without losing their first round pick. Despite Zimmermann and Upton receiving qualifying offers, the Tigers finished so poorly last season that their first round draft selection was protected. Make these additions to a team with Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Ian Kinsler among others, and you've got a team looking for contention.
By addressing some needs on the free agent market, the Tigers had the luxury to make some more minor tweaks via trades. Over the course of the offseason, the Tigers acquired Cameron Maybin, Francisco Rodriguez, and Justin Wilson. Without adding Upton, the Maybin acquisition was a bit worrying. The Tigers were in more dire need than just acquiring Maybin to patrol center field. Especially after losing Rajai Davis as Anthony Gose's platoon-mate.
The Tigers bullpen got some help by acquiring veteran closer Rodriguez as well as Wilson off of his best season yet. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus will have a lot more options out of the bullpen and they will be more trustworthy than the departing Al Alburquerque and Neftali Feliz.
What's most alarming about this is that Avila didn't really part with much. In total, the Tigers parted with Javier Betancourt, Manny Pina, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Ian Krol, and Gabe Speier. Cessa likely has the most upside, but there's no guarantee that the 23-year old will pan out and scouts assess his future value as a below-average major leaguer. Cessa now sits as the 16th-best prospect in the Yankees system according to MLB.com.
Reasons to worry
Maybin still doesn't inspire as a center fielder, but having Gose as a bench option could help with the defense. That being said, Gose's defense wasn't particularly good either by UZR.
Other than that, the only thing to worry about is that the team isn't getting any younger. Obviously this is true of every team, but watching Cabrera and Kinsler enter the twilights of their careers could be unfortunate and could also mean their competitive window is closing. Furthermore, Victor Martinez showed his age last season. It would be a shame for the team to let such amazing players wither away without another postseason run.
Reasons for hope
For Tigers fans, there's a lot for which to have hope. First of all, James McCann had a pretty great rookie showing. Furthermore, the returns from the David Price trade could start paying dividends as soon as next season. Daniel Norris pitched 60 innings last season in the majors and will likely compete for a rotation spot out of spring training. Matt Boyd could also end up in the rotation.
To help their case even more, no one team in the AL Central got substantially better. The Chicago White Sox made some nice additions. The Kansas City Royals also made some nifty moves. The Tigers could be poised to reclaim division-supremacy, but there's definitely no guarantees. Depth Charts projects the Tigers to finish second in the division with 82 wins behind the Cleveland Indians. There's a reason the games get played.