Pitchers and catchers are about four weeks from reporting to camp. That means the offseason is winding down, which in turn means it's time to figure out who were the winter's winners and losers. We're not going to address every team in this space, simply the one that stood out for having arguably the most disappointing offseason: the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers exited last season with 86 wins -- a few short of qualifying for the postseason -- as well as an aging roster and maxed-out payroll. The Tigers had to decide, then, whether they would enter a rebuild phase or if they would push forward -- taking one more shot with the core they had in place. For a while there, it seemed like the latter would be the pick.
The beginning of the offseason was accompanied by rumors of a mass retooling. To wit, there were murmurs about Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and J.D. Martinez being available. Nothing has heretofore came of those whispers, however, and it seems unlikelier with each passing day that a trade will happen before the season begins.
At the same time, the Tigers have as little to help their roster improve its short-term standing. The extent of their offseason moves can be summed as such: they dumped Cameron Maybin on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and signed Alex Avila to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The only other member of the Tigers' projected 25-man roster who wasn't with the organization last season is Daniel Stumpf, a Rule 5 pick. That's it -- hence some combination of Anthony Gose, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones potentially manning center field; hence Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe taking up bullpen spots; and so on.
The Tigers are essentially in the same place they were when last season ended. Their core -- Cabrera, Verlander, and Kinsler -- is collectively nearing their mid-30s, while their budget hasn't expanded to allow for meaningful additions. In other words, there's perhaps more risk of attrition, or at least more potential downside than upside here -- even given promising young talents like Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris.
Realistically, the Tigers should still compete for a playoff spot deep into the fall. In fact, you can make the argument Detroit has the second-best roster in the American League Central, trailing just the Cleveland Indians. You can certainly understand Al Avila's reluctance to fold; you can understand wanting to see what this roster can do for one more season; and you can understand ownership's unwillingness to pour more resources into a team with a payroll that topped $200 million at the end of last season.
But it seems like the Tigers have thus far missed their opportunity to push harder -- one way or another. That's a bummer because, most of the time, when it comes to these do-or-redo cases, the worst-possible option is idling -- the exact route the Tigers took. We'll see if it pays off -- for now, though, you'd be justified in feeling like Detroit didn't make the most of its offseason.