February 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Lynn Henning

A Tigers trade likely coming

I'd be surprised if the Tigers didn't make some kind of trade, perhaps a big one, before the end of spring camp.

The team could -- could -- be staring at an excess of starting pitchers if Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis perform reliably, which is hardly a stretch. Both have had a history of 200-inning seasons and that record was not fatally wounded by last year's Robertson-Willis crisis.

Starting pitching remains baseball's most necessary and problematic element. By the end of spring training, various teams will be staring at injuries or poor performers that leave them in desperate need of a starter. The Tigers potentially will have one to offer.

In Detroit's case, moving a starting pitcher to the bullpen isn't smart strategy, unless the bullpen is running on empty. The Tigers, for all their problems with starters and relievers in 2008, should be in better shape in 2009. It could leave the front office with a starter to dangle ahead of Opening Day.

Other players and positions also could factor into a March deal.

Marcus Thames will have a difficult time getting necessary at-bats now that Carlos Guillen is taking over in left field. Thames needs to play. He needs a chance to deliver on a more regular basis. He won't get that in Detroit.

Thames is a definite possibility as an add-on in any future trade for a starter. So, too, could be Ryan Raburn, who always has been considered a perfect National League player because of his versatility.

What would the Tigers want in return? It depends how things go this spring.