Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Tigers Have Become the Latest Version of the Post-2009 Phillies

             Remember when the Philadelphia Phillies were really good? They had one of baseball's best rotations consisting of Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee. They also had players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Ryan Howard. They won the 2008 World Series and returned the next year, only to lose to the New York Yankees, 4-2. After that, it was a steady drop-off that devolved into monstrous contracts and a barren farm system. Now, the Phillies are in another year of rebuilding, stuck near the bottom of the National League.
             Enter the Detroit Tigers, a team that had a fantastic run when Dave Dombrowski was general manager. They made two World Series appearances, won four straight division titles from 2011 to 2014, and even had a Triple Crown winner in Miguel Cabrera (2012). Unfortunately, they didn't win a World Series during that run. Ever since their 2013 ALCS loss to the Red Sox, it has been a steady decline for the Tigers that has been comparable to the Phillies. Anchored by fat contracts to the likes of aging superstars Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, the Tigers have plenty of bad contracts on their payroll. Instead of retaining Max Scherzer, who has continued his assent to becoming the best pitcher in baseball, they re-signed Victor Martinez, an aging veteran who can barely move around the basepaths. They also signed Mark Lowe, Mike Pelfrey, and Francisco Rodriguez last year, players who are no longer on the team.
            The Tigers also have a bare cupboard in terms of their farm system, only boosting one player in's Top 100 prospect list (Matt Manning at No. 63). The main cause of this has been Dave Dombrowski's willingness to trade prospects for superstars. This was made evident by the trade he made to acquire Chris Sale for the Boston Red Sox, which saw Boston send MLB's No. 1 prospect, Yoan Moncada, and No. 11 prospect, Michael Kopech, to the Chicago White Sox. Players like Avisail Garcia, Andrew Miller, and Robbie Ray were a part of the Tigers' farm system, but were traded to acquire players like Yoenis Cespedes and Cabrera.
            The Tigers might attribute their misfortunes to Brad Ausmus, who has done little to fill the void Jim Leyland left as the manager of the Tigers. Critics are quick to point out Ausmus's inability to engage with the players, probably explaining why players like Cabrera, Verlander, and Nick Castellanos are underperforming this year. Currently, the Tigers are on an eight-game losing streak that includes a winless West Coast trip (at least so far). Who would replace Ausmus as manager? One rumor, and perhaps a favorite name among Tiger fans, is Ron Gardenhire, the former manager for the Minnesota Twins. But one name that could really help is Omar Vizquel, who managed the Venezuelan team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Vizquel is said to have developed great chemistry with the Hispanic players on the team, which could help the Tigers going forward.
            Regardless, there seems to have been plenty of regrettable decisions for the Tigers' future in the past few years. From Verlander's $180 million extension to re-signing aging players like Victor Martinez to giving away the farm system, the Tigers will have no choice but to wipe the slate clean. They can start off by trading superstar J.D. Martinez for a prospect or two, but this will be the best they can do. Ian Kinsler has a laundry list of teams he doesn't want to be traded to, Cabrera's contract is enormous and so is Verlander's. And what team would want Victor Martinez and Jordan Zimmermann with those contracts? These are the reasons why the Tigers should just tank it the rest of the way, start from scratch, and not get stuck in a long rebuild the way the Phillies are right now.

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