August 30, 2015

Can Doug Fister Return to the Motor City

Ozzie Guillen Should Be Hired To Manage 

Yoenis Cespedes likely not returning

It certainly doesn't get much worse than this for the four–time reigning Central Division Champion Detroit Tigers. The team built to win "now" for the past several years has finally hit a brick wall. I remember watching the team in Spring Training — a time when you can't necessarily gain a rational perspective — and thinking this team would either be really good or really bad. I didn't expect a mediocre team or .500 record. I thought the Tigers would either win a lot of games or lose a lot of games. I didn't necessarily expect it to be the latter.

The Tigers signed Joe Nathan to be the bullpen savior following the 2013 season. He was 39 at the time but Dombrowski was convinced Nathan would be the answer. He was coming off a solid season with the Rangers BUT he was closing in on 40. 

The Ausmus Experiment Failed

I questioned Brad Ausmus' hire back in 2013 but felt that I owed it to former General Manager Dave Dombrowski that he knew what he was doing. Ausmus' teams came our of the gates both years beating the world up and then faded as the season went on. I believe that the Tigers haven't won more than three games in a row since the team started the season on a great roll, 6–0. The Tigers current manager has struggled with in–game decisions, bullpen management, and preparing hitters for situations. His coaching staff should all be replaced after this season; furthermore, Ausmus should be back working with the Padres.

Fixing the Club

My steps for fixing the Tigers are simple. I would like to believe the team could be retooled quickly but I'm not convinced that is the case. A new leader must come on board and immediately get this team fired up. Back when the Tigers hired Ausmus, I was a proponent of hiring recently–fired Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. Now, I would still consider a former Central Division manager, but this time it's former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.

Guillen is Venezuelan and the Tigers have a Latin clubhouse with many Venezuelans. His personality would jibe well in Detroit's clubhouse and he would command respect. Certainly, Guillen is controversial but he did last eight mostly successful seasons in the Windy City. His reign in Miami was short, but what manager has lasted more than a season there? Guillen masterfully accepted attacks from the media and public frequently to take any focus off of his players. Guillen is a motivator, a former star short stop, and commands respect in the clubhouse. He would be a great fit in Detroit.

Gose a Ghost

I would certainly consider an upgrade in centerfield, as well. Anthony Gose is an excelleant defensive centerfielder but he does not hit well enough to play every day. Rajai Davis is a solid ballplayer and good corner outfielder but he is not an answer in the middle of the outfield. I would like to see Davis stay on the team as a corner outfielder and reserve but I would try to package Gose in a deal for someone for the bullpen.

Additionally, I don't think Steven Moya is the answer in left field but it sounds more and more like the Tigers will shy away from trying to re–sign Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent. He will probably command $20 million a year and the Tigers new GM Al Avila will probably spend that $20 million on free agent pitcher Johnny Cueto.

Yes, Cueto is more affordable (yikes — at $20 million a season affordable!) than the other elite starter available David Price. Price never really liked Detroit and never seemed to fit in so for him to return is unlikely, but at the $30–$35 million per season I expect him to get he is "priced" out of the Motor City. Trading him was the right thing to do. Cueto is more likely to join the Tigers than Price.

Another starter I would consider is Doug Fister, who may be willing to sign a one–year deal to rebuild his value. Fister is the type of pitcher who didn't fit in to Dave Dombrowski's stable as he didn't throw the ball nearly 100 MPH. He might be the perfect type of pitcher to join the retooled Tigers rotation next season. I think the Daniel Norris is going to be solid. And I hope that Anibal Sanchez comes back as a solid starter, but even when the Tigers acquired him, I was concerned about his history of injuries.

Do the Tigers Have a Bullpen Problem

The Tigers have to fix the bullpen. They may want to completely start over. As you saw yesterday, they finally wore out Alex Wilson's arm — it's amazing that he lasted this long. That's another of Ausmus' problems — overuse. I can't say who I would try to acquire, but it might be through a trade or free agent signing. The bullpen has to start over, though.

The Tigers have solid players in Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Jose Iglesias, JD Martinez, and James McCann. It is still debatable whether Nick Castellanos will develop (he has looked better) or whether Moya or Gose can develop into serviceable players. I have my doubts on the complete bullpen but I already mentioned that. I do think the starting pitching can be saved and decent next year.

The Tigers may or may not improve next season. It's clear that work needs to be done. Al Avila did not inherit a great situation like Dombrowski did in the fall of 2001 when he arrived. This team is coming off its it's best run ever but is suffering through an incredibly bad season. Yet, there were signs in Spring Training that this team might struggle. The 2015 season is actually more of a disappointment to Tigers fans than the 2003 team.

Leadership must begin at the top. And the winds of change are not far away.

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