Central issues: Where Tigers' competition stands this offseason

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
The Tigers traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets last season. He is now a free agent. Is it possible the Tigers could get him back?

Detroit – While the Tigers have been busy rebuilding the back end of their bullpen, adding two starters to the rotation, plus an outfielder and backup catcher, the rest of the Central Division has been relatively quiet this offseason.

Understandable in one sense. The Tigers, after bringing up the rear in the division last season, had the most work to do.

So the Tigers have added Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey to the rotation while the Royals lost Johnny Cueto, Ryan Madson, Greg Holland and possibly Alex Gordon, and signed Joakim Soria and resigned Chris Young.

The Tigers acquired Justin Wilson, Mark Lowe and Francisco Rodriguez presumably to pitch the seventh, eighth and ninth innings while the Indians added Kirby Yates, signed Joba Chamberlain to a minor league deal and face the prospect of no Michael Brantley for most of the season.

The Tigers added Cameron Maybin to play either center or left with Anthony Gose while the White Sox lost Jeff Samardzija, said adios to Alexei Ramirez, retooled their catcher position with veterans Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, and acquired pitcher Tommy Kahnle.

The Twins, meanwhile, lost Torii Hunter (retired) and traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees, but made big news by signing Korean slugger Byung Ho Park.

Henning: Here's why Tigers need Gordon (or Cespedes)

So, what are we saying, the Tigers won the winter? Not just yet. There are no hard deadlines in team-building (at least not until the July trade deadline) and they don't give out prizes to the team who made the most deals before Christmas.

So, just because the Royals, Twins, Indians and White Sox haven't been as busy as the Tigers yet, doesn't mean they are standing pat.

The free-agent shelves are far from bare – Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, Chris Davis, Chris Carter, Mike Leake, Wei-Yin Chen, to name a few – and there are several teams still in deconstruction mode, like the Reds, who have elite players available for trade (Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman).

With that as a backdrop, here's where the Central Division stands this offseason.


Last season: 76-86, fourth place.

Key additions: Third baseman Brett Lawrie (trade from Oakland); catcher Alex Avila (free agent from Detroit); catcher Dioner Navarro (free agent from Toronto); pitcher Tommy Kahnle (trade from Colorado).

Key subtractions: Pitcher Jeff Samardzija (San Francisco); infielder Gordon Beckham (Atlanta); catcher Geovany Soto (Los Angeles Angels); catcher Tyler Flowers (free agent); shortstop Alexei Ramirez (free agent).

Still working on: The White Sox are among the teams believed to be interested in acquiring Todd Frazier from the Reds. They finished 26th in home runs last season, so they are looking to add a power bat or two. They may be somewhat stuck in having to rely on the likes of Adam LaRoche ($13 million salary) and Avisail Garcia to have bounce-back seasons.

Brett Lawrie


Last season: 81-80, third place.

Key additions: Outfielder Collin Cowgill (trade from Los Angeles Angels); outfielder Joey Butler (waiver claim from Tampa); pitcher Kirby Yates (trade from Tampa); pitcher Joba Chamberlain (signed to minor league deal); catcher Anthony Recker (signed to minor league contract); outfielder Shane Robinson (signed to minor league contract).

Key subtractions: Outfielder Mike Aviles (free agent); outfielder Ryan Raburn (free agent); pitcher Nick Hadadone (released); pitcher Anthony Swarzak (released).

Still working on: The Indians, who need offensive help, are another team with interest in Frazier. There is a lot of interest across the league in their young starting pitching (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar), but thus far, the Indians have resisted. They will also be without outfielder Michael Brantley (torn labrum) for much of the season, so you expect them to add another outfielder or two. They have had talks with former Tiger Rajai Davis.


Last season: 95-67, first place, World Series champions.

Key additions: Pitcher Joakim Soria (free agent from Pittsburgh); catcher Tony Cruz (trade from St. Louis); pitcher Chris Young (re-signed).

Key subtractions: Infielder Ben Zobrist (free agent signed with Chicago Cubs); pitcher Ryan Madson (free agent signed with Oakland); outfielder Alex Gordon (free agent); pitcher Johnny Cueto (free agent signed with San Francisco); outfielder Alex Rios (declined option); outfielder Jonny Gomes (free agent); pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (declined option); pitcher Greg Holland (free agent); pitcher Franklin Morales (free agent).

Still working on: They are still keeping a watchful eye on the Alex Gordon market. Expect them to add at least one outfielder. They have been linked in trade talks with the Reds' Jay Bruce. They were also reported to be interested in free agent Gerardo Parra. With Zobrist gone, they could make a play for former Met Daniel Murphy. As it stands now, they will go into 2016 with Omar Infante at second. Also, expect them to add another starting pitcher.

Joakim Soria


Last season: 83-79, second place.

Key additions: Designated hitter Byung Ho Park (free agent from Korea); catcher John Ryan Murphy (trade from Yankees); catcher John Hicks (waiver claim, Seattle).

Key subtractions: Outfielder Torii Hunter (retired); pitcher Mike Pelfrey (free agent, Detroit); outfielder Aaron Hicks (traded to New York Yankees); catcher Chris Herrmann (traded to Arizona); pitcher Blaine Boyer (free agent); pitcher Neal Cotts (free agent); pitcher Brian Duensing (free agent); pitcher A.J. Achter (waiver claim by Philadelphia); outfielder Jordan Schafer (free agent).

Still working on: The Twins are seeking another relief pitcher, preferably a left-hander, and a fourth outfielder. Former Tiger Rajai Davis has been mentioned here, too. There had been rumors about the team shopping third baseman Trevor Plouffe, but that talked cooled. The Twins are hoping to move Miguel Sano to the outfield next season, rotating Joe Mauer, and Park at first base and DH.


Last season: 74-87, fifth place.

Key additions: Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (free agent, Washington); pitcher Mike Pelfrey (free agent, Minnesota); pitcher Francisco Rodriguez (trade from Milwaukee); pitcher Mark Lowe (free agent, Toronto); pitcher Justin Wilson (trade from New York Yankees); outfielder Cameron Maybin (trade from Atlanta); catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (free agent, Arizona).

Key subtractions: Catcher Alex Avila (free agent, White Sox); pitcher Alfredo Simon (free agent); pitcher Ian Krol (traded to Atlanta); pitcher Al Alburquerque (free agent); pitcher Neftali Feliz (free agent); outfielder Rajai Davis (free agent); pitcher Tom Gorzelanny (free agent); infielder Josh Wilson (free agent); pitcher Guido Knudson (waiver claim, Pittsburgh).

Still working on: The Tigers are looking for another utility player, preferably a right-handed hitter who can play corner outfield, as well as third and first base (Steve Pearce, Sean Rodriguez). Their eyes are still open for more bullpen help, as well.

Cameron Maybin