The Tigers broke the bank in multiple ways by signing free agent OF Justin Upton to a 6 year, $132.75 million deal.
In addition to the money they now owe Upton, they will also have to pay a luxury tax for their high payroll, something owner Mike Illitch acknowledged earlier this year, that he would be willing to do so if it meant helping him bring a World Series title to the franchise, something he has been chasing for decades now.
With this recent signing and the singing of Jordan Zimmerman in the starting rotation & Mark Lowe for bullpen help plus, the trades for Francisco Rodriguez & Justin Wilson to add successful, veteran arms to the back end of the bullpen have given this team a very different look from the disappointing 2015.
The starting rotation looks set with Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmerman, Anibal Sanchez, Mike Pelfry & Daniel Norris penciled in as the starters for opening day & with Francisco Rodriguez as the closer & Justin Wilson and possibly Alex Wilson as the set up men, the bullpen looks to be much more finalized that most years.
However, the line up Brad Ausmus sets for opening day is still a question. The positions look set, but the order they will hit is up in the air. A few options Ausmus has could result in a more analytical approach to the line up, batting Miguel Cabrera 2nd due to his high OBP & that he’s the team’s best hitter, he would see more at bats over the season, just by moving up 1 spot:
- J. Marinez
- V. Martinez
What this line up does is force an opponent to deal with the best hitters the team has right away (instead of just speed guys) then, when the line up turns over, if the bottom of the order gets on base, a pitcher now has to deal with the teams best hitters with speed threats on base.
A jump to move the teams best hitter up a spot after not fully embracing the advanced analytics department in the past is somewhat unlikely for Ausmus, however. A line up that is much more likely to be used (based on his history) would be this:
- V. Martinez
Upton does strike out quite a bit, but also gets on base via the walk much more than other possibilities (Castellanos). Ultimately, Ausmus will most likely use one of Upton/Cabrera/Victor Martinez in the 2 spot in the order, to avoid having an impact bat like they each have from dropping all the way down to 6.
I have seen suggestions that Gose/Maybin could lead off & have Kinsler bat 2nd. If so, Ausmus would be pushing someone they just made a big splash by signing down to 6th or a hitter that could hit 40+ HRs this year in JD Martinez to 6th. This is something that the new Advanced Analytics department the Tigers have will convince Al Avila & Brad Ausmus is a very bad idea.
The Upton signing was a great move & this team is definitely in a position to win the AL Central again, after a year off. Not to mention, the farm system is improving & they have potential players that could move up & help out the big club in case of an injury, something they have been lacking in recent years.