2018-2019 Offseason Preview: Detroit Tigers

Felipe Zwanzger – November 17, 2018

2018 Record: 64-98 (3th in AL East)

2018 Payroll: $130,959,889

tigrs
Source: ClickOnDetroit

 

Projected 2019 Lineup

All player projections for 2019 from Steamer

  1. 3B Jeimer Candelario         .239 AVG/.323 OBP/.409 SLG/2.6 WAR
  2. 2B Niko Goodrum               .237 AVG/.300 OBP/.390 SLG/0.9 WAR
  3. RF Nicholas Castellanos    .275 AVG/.334 OBP/.477 SLG/1.8 WAR
  4. 1B Miguel Cabrera              .282 AVG/.368 OBP/.479 SLG/2.7 WAR
  5. LF Christin Stewart            .245 AVG/.327 OBP/.447 SLG/1.3 WAR
  6. DH John Hicks                     .247 AVG/.295 OBP/.387 SLG/-0.5 WAR
  7. C James McCann                 .238 AVG/.293 OBP/.368 SLG/1.8 WAR
  8. CF Jacoby Jones                   .224 AVG/.283 OBP/.369 SLG/0.8 WAR
  9. SS Ronny Rodriguez          .259 AVG/.293 OBP/.409 SLG/1.1 WAR
 

Projected 2019 Rotation:

  1. Michael Fulmer               175 IP/4.37 ERA/1.34 WHIP/2.3 WAR
  2. Matthew Boyd                  170 IP/4.79 ERA/1.35 WHIP/1.4 WAR
  3. Jordan Zimmerman        164 IP/5.07 ERA/1.37 WHIP/1.0 WAR
  4. Daniel Norris                   132 IP/4.94 ERA/1.47 WHIP/0.9 WAR
  5. Blaine Hardy                    120 IP/4.53 ERA/1.36 WHIP/0.9 WAR

nickss
Source: Detroit Tigers

Season Recap

The 2018 Tigers missed the 100 loss mark and actually finished in 3rd place in what was a historically weak AL Central. Nick Castellanos (2.9 WAR) continues to blossom into a very good offensive threat, although his defense really hurts his overall value to the team. It genuinely pains me to say this, but the 5 year $110 million dollar contract the Tigers gave Jordan Zimmerman may be one of the worst free agent contracts ever given to a starting pitcher. Fortunately for the Tigers and Zimmerman, he posted his lowest ERA (4.52), xFIP (4.35), BB/9 (1.78) and K/9 (7.61) and flashed stretches of brilliance during the season, including his 8 inning 11 strikeout performance against the Rangers on July 6th. He likely won’t return to his Washington Nationals days, where he consistently posted WAR’s of 3.0 and above, but Zimmerman’s improved 2018 is a positive sign for the Tigers if they wish to salvage any value from that deal. Michael Fulmer also endured growing pains during 2018; an increased HR/FB rate can be to blame for his troubles. Fulmer is a hard-working and resilient individual, and while this can’t be quantified, is an important attribute to posses after a difficult season.

While the Tigers lack overall depth in their bullpen, Joe Jimenez was the teams lone All-Star last season and struck out over 11 batters per nine and posted a FIP of 2.91 out of the bullpen, easily the best in the team. Closer Shane Greene saved 32 games but an ERA of 12.00 in September bloated his overall ERA to over 5.00. He isn’t far removed from a dominant season in 2017, so the verdict is still out on whether he can be an impact arm out of the bullpen. Mike Fiers had an outstanding first half for the Tigers and brought two mid-tier prospects back to Detroit following his trade to the Athletics. Matthew Boyd posted an excellent WHIP of 1.15 and continued to solidify himself as a valuable piece of the Tigers rotation.

Niko-1024x766
Source: The Athletic

The key to success with rebuilding teams is finding diamonds in the rough, which is exactly what the Tigers found in Niko Goodrum, whom they claimed off waivers from the Twins last offseason. He proceeded to hit 16 HR with a WAR of 1.5 over 131 games while showing exceptional athleticism and versatility on the field. His ability to play first base, second base, and the corner OF positions is a valuable asset to the Tigers moving forward to next year.

Offseason Preview

The Tigers have $14 million in salary commitments to players who no longer play for them in Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder. They also owe Miguel Cabrera $30 million and Jordan Zimmerman $25 million. That’s $69 million for a combined WAR of 1.2 for the Tigers in 2018. Payroll flexibility is not on the team’s side, and given that Nicholas Castellanos will reel in about $11.3 million in arbitration, the team has over $80 million committed to five players, three of which will actually play for the Tigers in 2018. Nonetheless, there’s no reason to go after any big name players given that the Tigers are still in the early stages of their rebuild, instead leaving more cost-efficient, short term options on the table.

The teams biggest needs are starting pitching (Daniel Norris can’t stay healthy and there’s no guarantee Blaine Hardy will succeed as a starter) and shortstop. It’s quite possible that the Tigers re-sign shortstop Jose Iglesias to a two-year deal, although they may decide to move on from their frustrating, yet defensively excellent shortstop. To address the rotation, the Tigers may decide to bring back Francisco Liriano or former Tiger Doug Fister, who would serve as the teams swingman and/or fifth starter. Another interesting target could be Jeremy Hellickson, whose pitching style fits well at Comerica Park and can likely be signed for a one-year deal to help rebuild value after a rocky 2018 season.

The Big Picture

The 2019 Tigers will be nearly identical to the 2018 Tigers. I expect the team to do everything possible to sign Nicholas Castellanos to an extension before the start of Spring Training, but if this comes to no avail, exploring a trade would be the best for sides. The AL Central will remain a weak division, and while this doesn’t mean the Tigers will be in the hunt to compete for the division, they should avoid the 100-loss mark once again. Trading Michael Fulmer would mean selling low, so don’t expect to hear much news on that front. There’s not much to be excited about with this current Tigers team, but the impending debut of first overall pick Casey Mize gives Tigers fans something to look forward to later in the season. Last, but certainly not least, while his trade valuable is practically nonexistent given his massive contract and numerous injuries during the past few seasons, Miguel Cabrera’s (hopeful) return to health is imperative to the team’s success in 2019.

2019 Predictions

  • Predicted Record: 66-96
  • Team MVP: Nicholas Castellanos
  • Team CY Young: Michael Fulmer
  • Free Agent Prediction: Jeremy Hellickson. 1 year, $12 million
  • Trade Prediction: Trade Joe Jimenez to the Boston Red Sox
  • Player to Watch: Christin Stewart 

Bold Season Predictions

  • Christin Stewart hits 30 home runs with a batting average under .230
  • Michael Fulmer posts an ERA in the low 3’s with 200 innings pitched
  • Miguel Cabrera plays under 130 games but hits 30 home runs and drives in 100 runs.

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