Detroit News writers: How to fix the Tigers

Detroit News staff

Would you keep spending and spending?

Or would you try to get younger, maybe spinning off some of the older, more expensive players, and start building for the future?

Everyone’s got an opinion on how to fix the Tigers, who have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons after winning the American League Central each year between 2011-14.

Second-year general manager Al Avila soon will gather his lieutenants to start figuring out what course of action to take for 2017.

And discussions, certainly, will start with whether to retain manager Brad Ausmus.

Until then, however, our team of baseball writers and columnists are more than eager to share suggestions or solutions.

Chris McCosky

In a perfect world, the Tigers would go out and buy another front-of-the-rotation starter and sign the best available center fielder. But they aren’t likely to exceed a $200 million payroll.

Finding takers for Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe won’t be easy without eating salary. Trading Ian Kinsler or J.D. Martinez would only create more holes. Plus, can they really trade Martinez when Justin Upton can opt-out after next season?

This likely will be the last bridge year. Some money comes off the books in 2018 and that’s when the next era will begin taking shape. For now, pick up the options on Francisco Rodriguez and Cameron Maybin, try to find a creative way to fortify the pitching staff and anticipate more growth from within.

Lynn Henning

The Tigers haven’t made the playoffs the past two years. They’ll be tempted to go for it in 2017, but it’s time to think long-term. They need bigger bullpen arms and another rotation piece. Their outfield defense costs them games. And they must get serious about speed and more youth. So, cash in on painful trades this offseason (J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander or Justin Upton after his 31 homers restored his luster), and get the club on a better long-term track.

The Tigers failed in 2016 primarily because of pitching. It doesn’t add up that they would trade a Cy Young Award contestant in Verlander, except, again, they must think long-term and not focus solely on 2017’s playoffs. That mandates trading painfully this offseason to add multiple pieces, an easier task because they’re obligated to trim payroll. Get on with it.

Source: Tigers bringing Brad Ausmus back

Tony Paul

Assuming Mike Ilitch still is in good health to call the shots, the $200 million payroll shouldn’t go down. If not, there might be serious cuts.

If there’s no cut, the Tigers don’t have one opening among the starting nine, and the rotation looks like it could be good for years, with those youngsters who delivered in 2016. So the bullpen would be the starting point — picking up Francisco Rodriguez’s option, and then dreaming really big, and signing Aroldis Chapman.

If there are cuts ... this is tougher with so many bloated contracts. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera certainly are here to stay, so the Tigers might have to make the tough decision and trade their one or more other guys with good trade value, Ian Kinsler or J.D. Martinez — and insist the buyer take on a bad contact (Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfrey).

Bob Wojnowski

The Tigers had too many holes and injuries to make the playoffs, but they have too much big-money talent to tear anything apart. That’s what make them such a puzzle, and this offseason such a challenge for GM Al Avila. It also makes it difficult to properly evaluate Brad Ausmus.

There’s not much flexibility with the huge payroll. A key fix is the same fix seemingly every year — the bullpen. Avila needs to pick up the club option on Francisco Rodriguez, hope Bruce Rondon takes another big step, and then hunt for more arms.

The starting rotation is more or less set, like it or not. Justin Verlander is an unquestioned ace again, and you’d think Jordan Zimmermann would rebound. Then you have the three kids — Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. Can Avila splurge on another veteran? I doubt it.

The biggest change — physically and philosophically — must take place in the lineup. For a team that mashes as well as any, it scores way below what it should. Speed and defense are problems. Without many options on the free-agent market, Avila has to consider a major trade

He could shop Justin Upton (good luck with that contract) and maybe J.D. Martinez. Ian Kinsler would draw interest but he’s one of the team’s most valuable players. The Tigers still have a roster capable of contending, but it needs judicious retooling and re-arming.

John Niyo

The core of this roster looks good — better than anyone would’ve guessed a year ago, actually — even if the eight-figure contracts don’t to everyone in the Ilitch family not named Mike.

But assuming Brad Ausmus is back — and I’m not even sure he’s interested in having his option picked up in lieu of an extension — there’s not a lot of moving pieces. And that’s part of the same, old problem for the Tigers, as the defense and baserunning remained an albatross again in 2016. (Only the A’s among AL teams was worse in either facet of the game.)

There’s no easy fix there, assuming the payroll can’t keep climbing. But a healthy Cameron Maybin would help — pick up his option — and some creativity from GM Al Avila is required. The Tigers lineup needs some more speed and a left-handed bat, and if it requires packaging a young talent along with a bad contract — or even dealing J.D. Martinez, who’s due a huge contract soon — to get it, it’ll be worth it.