Meet the Tigers' projected 2018 Opening Day roster

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Nick Castellanos

Go through the gallery above to see Tony Paul’s projected 2018 Opening Day roster for the Detroit Tigers. (Mobile users, if you are having trouble viewing the gallery, go HERE.)

Detroit -- It hasn't been pretty, the finish to this Tigers season -- as the losses have mounted, and the fans' interest has practically vanished.

But the closing weeks to a disaster of a season still have served a purpose, as Tigers brass has gotten a closer look at some of the potential faces of the future of the franchise.

Many figure to play a key role in the ballclub's daunting rebuild, while others, it's become clear, clearly do not (we're looking at you, Bruce Rondon).

All the moving parts -- scores of veterans departing, gobs of prospects arriving -- make taking a stab at the 2018 Opening Day roster a challenging task, but one that we're up to because, well, it's fun.

What we know for certain is this: The payroll is going to be down substantially from the start of 2017, when it approached $200 million. The best guess here is it could start around as low as $115 million for 2018, and that includes lots of dead money, including $8 million to the Astros to pay for Justin Verlander, $6 million (still) to the retired Prince Fielder, and $5 million to buy out Anibal Sanchez.

That $115-million number assumes the Tigers make serious efforts -- and are successful -- in dealing second baseman Ian Kinsler ($11 million) and shortstop Jose Iglesias (more than $5 million). That will be on general manager Al Avla's plate early and often this offseason, as both near free agency and don't seem to fit into the long-term plans for a team that doesn't figure to seriously contend again until 2020.

Some Tigers' fans suggest the ballclub should still be active in free-agency this winter, but that's not likely -- and makes no sense.

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It's time to get a look at the kids, and see which ones fit into the foreseeable forecast. When Avila and Co. have a good idea just which ones do -- the pitching prospects are coming, folks, and are impressive -- then, and only then, will they be serious free-agent players again, probably in two years.

As former Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently told The News, that's the Cubs model. Groom the kids, and then go shopping (Jon Lester, John Lackey, etc.) when it's finally time to win, as they did -- not sure you've heard! -- in 2016, and could very well again in 2017.

So any free-agent help is likely to be minor, like the Alex Avila signing last offseason -- a scenario that, sure, could repeat itself this offseason, although the veteran catcher is likely hell-bent on going to a winner this time.

With that in mind, here's our first crack at breaking down the possibilities.