The Tigers will get DH Victor Martinez (.330, 12, 108 in 2011) back this season. Delmon Young held that role that season, but he is off to Philadelphia. Torii Hunter (.313, 16, 92) comes over as a free agent from LA and takes over in RF. As solid of an offensive player he is, he improves the teams' defense just as much. 2B Omar Infante (.272, 12, 43) mans the position for the entire season with SS Jhonny Peralta (.239, 13, 63) due for a bounce back season as he sets to test free agency and his next big contract. Austin Jackson (.300, 16, 66) patrols CF with Andy Dirks (.322, 8, 35 in 88 games) expected to play LF. Catcher Alex Avila (.243, 9, 48) hopes to perform closer to his 2011 form (.295, 19, 82).
Then there is Fielder (.313, 30, 108) and AL Triple Crown winner Cabrera (.330, 44, 139). The lineup could get even better with the addition of top prospect Nick Castellanos, who could be ready this season. Avisail Garcia and Quintin Berry provide depth in the OF, with Ramon Santiago, Matt Tuiasosopo and Don Kelly all useful options off the bench. Tuiasosopo, who came to spring training with the Mets last season, actually sent his resume to General Manager Dave Dombrowski before he was signed to his minor league contract. The Tigers should line up like this: Jackson CF, Hunter RF, Cabrera 3B, Fielder 1B, Martinez DH, Peralta SS, Avila C, Dirks (eventually Castellanos) LF, Infante 2B.
In addition to this lineup, the Tigers possess possibly the best starting pitching in all of baseball. Verlander (17-8, 2.64, 239 Ks in 238 1/3 IP) had a "down" season compared to his 24-5, 2.40, 250 Ks in 251 IP season of a year ago. Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74) had 231 Ks in 187 2/3 IP. Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45) and Rick Porcello (10-12, 4.59) move down in the rotation to make room for Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86) , who signed a 5 year, $88 million deal to stay in Detroit. Sanchez pitched to a 1.77 ERA in 3 starts (4 ER, 0.984 WHIP in 20 1/3 IP).
While much has been said about the Tigers lack of presence in the back of the bullpen, I see an answer that will stop critics from stating the Tigers lack of a closer. His name is Al Alburquerque. Alburquerque pitched to a 0.68 ERA in 8 games after missing time in 2012 due to injury and was 6-1, 1.87 with 67 Ks in 43 1/3 IP in 2011. If given the chance, he will be a solid closer. Top pitching prospect Bruce Rondon will start the season in the minors and should help out at some point. Phil Coke (2-3, 4.00), Joquin Benoit (5-3, 3.68 with 84 Ks in 71 IP) and Octavio Dotel (5-3, 3.57) will provide set-up relief with starting pitcher candidate Drew Smyly holding the job as the long man/ spot starter. Former Tigers closer Jose Valverde, as well as former MLB closers Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Wilson remain as free agents and could come to help for cheaper as the season goes on.
I think the Tigers have more talent than any other team in all of MLB. I think there is too much talent this time for the team to not reach expectations. With that comes the possible pressure of having to live up to said expectations. They struggled with less talent and high expectations last season, with the White Sox leading the AL Central for a good part of the season. The Tigers tied the Dodgers for the highest over/ under this season at 90. I think the Tigers will finish over, at 96-66, first place in the NL Central. In my opinion, only injuries can ruin what at the least should be an easy regular season division championship. What I think is best about this team and the spot they are in, they still have the farm system to made a trade to be even better. And the leadership of GM Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland puts them at in an advantageous position.