January 21, 2013 at 1:00 am

Kurt Mensching: Bless You Boys

Tigers GM Dombrowski delivers goods in offseason shopping spree

In Torii Hunter, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski found a steady corner outfielder who has some pop in his bat. (John T. Greilick/Detroit News)

You've got your shopping list, and the Tigers had theirs.

You, of course, probably didn't set aside $16 million a year in your budget for a starting pitcher.

Then again, unless you're Mike Ilitch, you don't own a major league baseball team either, so that was never going to be much of an issue. Like the cliched spouse handed a shopping list, a handful of dollars and the car keys, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski was sent to the market to fetch a gallon of milk — and a corner outfielder who could both hit well and field well, if one happened to be available.

So, how'd he do? Do the Tigers have the ingredients they need to succeed? Let's see.


If you can't hit, you've got to field. If you can't hit and you can't field, well, there's always the Yankees, Mr. Young. The Tigers entered the offseason needing to find a way to improve outfield defense and to score a few more runs.

Brennan Boesch didn't hit in 2012, and he didn't field all that well either. Quintin Berry and Avisail Garcia were not the answer.

It didn't take long for the Tigers to sign Torii Hunter to deal with the problem. The former Gold Glove winner (for whatever that is worth) may be a few steps slower at age 37, but with a .313 batting average in 2012 he'd hit better than ever in at least one statistic.

Batting average isn't a great predictor, and $13 million a year is probably a bit on the pricey side for the level of production Hunter will provide. But you can't help but come away from this deal feeling better about the Tigers' outfield.


For the first time in years, there was little intrigue on the infield front.Omar Infante, acquired in a trade with the Marlins last July, disappointed, but he was a darn sight better than the Ryan Raburn/Ramon Santiago/Danny Worth triumvirate the Tigers had been trotting out there, and a lot more effective than Scott Sizemore had been at the position before that.

When the biggest question you have to ask is "How do we replace Gerald Laird?" things are going pretty well.

Like any shopper, Dombrowski may have gotten a bit distracted. The Tigers locked up their monopoly on MLB players named "Brayan" by signing Pena, who might actually hit worse than Laird, and added another Cabrera, this one Ramon Cabrera of the Pirates organization.

Now, to find a way to combine the duo into a catcher who can both hit and field. We'll call this one a draw.

Starting rotation

During their postseason run, Tigers starters Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez combined to allow 18 earned runs in about 85 innings. That's an ERA less than 2.

Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Dombrowski elected to keep the band together for another run. At $80 million across five seasons, re-signing Anibal Sanchez did not come cheap.

To make a good meal, you need good beef. Sanchez may not be filet mignon but he's a step up from rump roast.


When last we saw the bullpen, Phil Coke was the ersatz closer in place of the batting-practice-throwing Jose Valverde. The solution to this was to hand the duties over to untested rookie Bruce Rondon — maybe.

The Tigers didn't necessarily name Rondon the closer for sure, but they didn't spend a lot of time listing alternatives to the 22-year-old flamethrower.

This worries many: it's like spending all the money on the chips and forgetting the dip. Others will note you shouldn't be spending $12 on a candy bar while standing in the checkout line anyway.

A high-priced closer isn't worth it so long as you've got someone who can get three outs without giving up the lead most of the time. The Tigers should be able to make that claim.

Ultimately, it appears Dombrowski did a good job on his shopping list. He overpaid for a couple of key ingredients and cut a few corners to make up for it. Now it's Jim Leyland's turn to cook.

If 10 months from now this team failed to satisfy, it might just be time to find a new chef.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at: bybtigers@gmail.com.

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