What the Tigers Should Do
by Greg Sullivan
The Tigers are closer to being a contender
than most people think. But there's a difference
between being close to contending and actually
being a contender, and in a division that
includes the White Sox and Indians, the Tigers
have some work to do before they can make the
The first step that the Tigers have to take is
one that they almost certainly won't take, but
they need to get Juan Gonzalez out of town. He
doesn't want to be there, he's got a creaky back,
and Comerica Park wasn't exactly built with him
in mind. GM Randy Smith just needs to bite the
bullet on this one, accept the fact that he made
a bad trade to get Gonzalez in the first place,
and tell him to take a hike.
Getting Gonzalez out of Detroit helps the
Tigers in three ways. First, it saves a lot of
money that can be used to fill other needs
through free agency. Second, it gets the
statistically-obsessed Gonzalez out of the
clubhouse and away from this fairly young and
impressionable lineup desperately seeking a
leader. Finally, it allows the Tigers to focus on
building a team that can work in Comerica Park -
one based on pitching, speed, and defense.
They need look no further than the 2000
Seattle Mariners to see how they should build
their team. The Mariners, who moved into a big,
new park and lost lost Ken Griffey, Jr. to a
pre-season trade, proceeded to come within two
wins of the World Series due largely in part to a
strong, deep pitching staff, a strong bullpen,
and a speedy lineup that could hit for average.
That being said, the Tigers shouldn't go after
any of the big four free agents. As they saw last
year with Gonzalez, the quick fix often doesn't
work, and they need to plug holes more than they
need to add a superstar. Second tier free agent
pitchers such as lefty Denny Neagle and/or
Michigan native Pat Hentgen would be a good place
for the Tigers to start, since they might lose
Hideo Nomo and had a suspect rotation for most of
last season anyway.
After shoring up the rotation, the Tigers need
to fine tune a batting order that was too
dependent on power last season. Tony Clark should
be dealt for whatever bullpen help he can fetch.
The two free agents the Tigers should pursue on
offense are David Segui and Tony Gwynn. Both
Gwynn and Segui would be well-suited for Comerica
as hitters, where they could use the whole field.
Segui is a better fielder than Clark and Gwynn,
when healthy, is a better hitter than just about
anyone and would make an ideal DH.
As far as their own free agents, Hal Morris
and Willie Blair can leave town with Gonzo, but
the club should keep Gregg Jeffries or Rich
Becker as a reserve outfielder or DH if Gwynn
That takes care of most of the Tigers'
short-term problems, but one more player,
preferably an outfielder who could lead off,
would complete the mix. The solution is simple -
sign Rickey Henderson.
When you finish laughing at the thought that anyone
would sign Rickey at this point, you can hear the
real solution - trade for Johnny Damon. Sure, the
Tigers would have to beat out just about every
other team in baseball to get him, but they could
offer a package of pitching that includes Todd
Jones, as the Royals need a closer and Jones'
value has never been higher, and Brian Moehler,
while most teams are still bidding against each
other for the big name free agents.
As for the closer's role after that, they can
sign someone like Tom Gordon for the time being,
until the flame-throwing Matt Anderson is ready
to take over the job full-time.
Sign Gonzo and move in the fences.
2001 Suggested 25-man roster:
LF - Johnny Damon
CF - Juan Encarnacion
RF - Bobby Higginson
3B - Dean Palmer
1B - David Segui
DH - Tony Gwynn
2B - Damion Easley
C - Brad Ausmus
SS - Deivi Cruz
C - Javier Cardona
IN - Robert Fick
IN - Shane Halter
OF - Rich Becker
OF - Wendell Magee