November 9, 2012 at 1:00 am

Lynn Henning

Amid offseason frenzy, Detroit Tigers need to take a measured approach

By giving Danny Worth the shortstop position, Tigers pitching would benefit by having fewer ground balls turn into base hits. (Robin Buckson/Detroit News)

Doors are closed. Conversations are candid. Scouts empty their notebooks and their souls, explaining what a particular player can, and cannot do. It's all part of each club's debriefings as baseball's General Manager Meetings wrap up in Palm Springs, Calif.

The Tigers have a better idea today of what they plan to do to amend a roster that got them to the World Series but needs altering ahead of 2013. It's doubtful much has changed in terms of needs and realities since front-office chief Dave Dombrowski and his bird-dogs arrived Tuesday in Palm Springs.

Looking at their agenda, by prioritization of person and position, we can assume this:

Justin Upton was Thursday's hotly rumored Tigers target. He remains today's long shot to join the Tigers. Upton is 25, has speed and power and all the talents Detroit seeks as Dombrowski works to upgrade the Tigers' corner outfield posts.

But there is a reason Arizona is trying to trade him. The Diamondbacks consider him expendable when he batted .280, with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs, in 150 games in 2012, even if he was fighting a bad thumb. His numbers will probably rise, but if you can spin him off now for a heavy package — it's the only way Arizona will deal him — why not let the Tigers and others make a juicy bid?

Except the Tigers would be risking Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, Drew Smyly, or whatever package along with Jhonny Peralta (Arizona would shift him to third base) the D'backs would certainly demand.

Upton is signed through 2015 ($38.5 million), which isn't prohibitive money, unless of course he proves to be something closer to the 2012 Upton. Either way he doesn't translate into the kind of player the Tigers would offer the moon to bring aboard.

Short-term solution

It would be easier to see the Tigers taking a one-season shot at Melky Cabrera, which would be a bridge until Garcia and Castellanos are ready for full-time work in 2014. Garcia could make it as early as next season, but the Tigers need more insurance and more experience even if a 21-year-old kid who helped them down the stretch makes the team in 2013.

Torii Hunter? Still, in this view, a good bet for a two-year deal, although the Tigers have competition there. Same with Angel Pagan, who looks as if he'll get a longer package than the Tigers might care to consider.

Again, a seller's market could make Cabrera the reasonable choice for a team that doesn't have an unlimited payroll, even if owner Mike Ilitch was pleased to have drawn 3 million customers and take his cut from six postseason games.

Speaking of payroll and players who have priced themselves out of consideration:

Anibal Sanchez almost certainly will not be returning to Detroit. In reality, he never had a chance. A free-agent starter, 28 years old and with his track record, was going to get a starry eyed, long-term contract beyond anything the Tigers could - or should - offer when manager Jim Leyland's rotation is not their greatest area of need.

According to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports Detroit, Sanchez wants six years and $90 million, which is absolutely in line with every projection offered by anyone who understands that free-agent pitchers are almost always overpaid and over-extended.

Rather than gamble a bad contract on Sanchez, the Tigers can get along with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Drew Smyly, and Rick Porcello, even if some fans believe Porcello should be dealt and Sanchez should be signed.

Don't do it. And for reasons other than Sanchez is about to be awarded with a silly sum from some hard-up club.

Porcello is 23. He is good for 180 innings per season. Yes, his slider got clobbered in 2012 and his knack for drawing ground balls is bad medicine when Detroit's infield is rickety.

Worth a shot

But the Tigers would be selling Porcello on the cheap, and that's crazy when all he needs to do is throw his curveball, or throw the same slider he throws in bullpen sessions, which for reasons the Tigers can't figure out is a different slider than the one he brings to the mound.

That stuff can be rectified. But if the Tigers get rid of Porcello when they can't sign Sanchez — and they absolutely cannot, which all along was obvious - they're down a No. 5 starter who could look positively priceless once a new guy takes his place and makes everyone realize Porcello wasn't so bad, especially when he should yet be pretty good.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are undoubtedly trying to do something with that wobbly infield. A personal guess is they picked up Jhonny Peralta's 2013 option with the intent of trading him to a team (Arizona?) that could easily install him at third base.

What the Tigers would then do at shortstop is a fabulous question. But if they want to choose the brave, yet necessary thing, they'll give Danny Worth the job. He'll hit .240 or thereabouts, with 25 doubles and 10 or more home runs, and scarf up 80 ground balls that got by Peralta in 2012.

Not a bad tradeoff. Not when the marketplace is crazy, and when the Tigers are a good bet to crack another World Series if they play their cards safely and smartly this autumn.

Lynn.henning@detnews.com

Twitter.com@Lynn_Henning

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