Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 11/1/13
The expectations were World Series or bust with the Tigers, so falling short in the ALCS (albeit to the eventual champion Red Sox) has to be viewed as a disappointment. However, virtually the entire team that won 93 games, an AL Central title and got within one game of a second consecutive World Series is set to return. With some key additions to bolster season-long concerns in the bullpen and outfield, the Tigers should be among the American League's top clubs once again in 2014. But with Jim Leyland's retirement, a new manager will take on the responsibility of leading the Tigers toward fulfilling those expectations.  Needs Anyone who watched the Tigers during the postseason knows that their bullpen is a big problem. It was the major difference between them and the Red Sox in the ALCS. The offseason provides general manager Dave Dombrowski the opportunity to overhaul his relief corps if he so chooses. Upgrading the talent there will surely be a major priority. The question is whether Detroit will throw big money at a free agent closer, as they have in the past, or give Bruce Rondon another chance to win the job and build the setup crew behind him.  Another position the Tigers could at upgrading through free agency is left field. Available players would allow Detroit to add a major impact player, but the greater need for its lineup is a leadoff hitter who can make contact and get on base.  Possible Options If the Tigers want to find a closer through free agency, names like Joe Nathan and Grant Balfour would fill that need nicely. Detroit could also bring back Joaquin Benoit, either as the closer or his previous role as setup man. If Benoit is the closer, the Tigers could then pursue middle relievers like Jesse Crain or Joe Smith for the eighth inning. Detroit may also look at adding a left-handed reliever if Phil Coke is non-tendered. Names like J.P. Howell, Scott Downs and Javier Lopez would bring an upgrade.  The Tigers could fill their left field opening with a splashy signing like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, but may not want to spend the necessary money. The same could apply to Curtis Granderson and Carlos Beltran. A short-term fix like Marlon Byrd could be the answer, especially with top prospect Nick Castellanos waiting in the minors.  Trade Options Tigers fans would love to begin this discussion with Prince Fielder after a postseason in which he had no home runs or RBI. But with seven years and $160 million remaining on his contract, he's not going anywhere.  Could the Tigers trade likely AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer? That will be the trade question that hangs over the team through the offseason. Scherzer will be in his final year of arbitration eligibility and is due a significant raise after his 2013 season. The bigger concern is that the Tigers won't be able to re-sign him after 2014 and may prefer to get something in return, as well as create some payroll flexibility. Yet it's difficult to imagine this team making another run at a World Series without Scherzer in its rotation. The more likely starting pitcher to be traded is Rick Porcello. At 24, he already has five major league seasons on his resume and is under club control through 2016. The Tigers have Drew Smyly on hand to take his spot in the rotation. This year was arguably Porcello's best, especially from a strikeout standpoint. He averaged 7.2 Ks per nine innings, the highest rate of his career. Additionally, his rates of hits and walks allowed both decreased.  Though Castellanos is seemingly a big part of the future, he could also be available for the right deal. The Tigers' window toward a championship is closing, and the urgency to win while this current team is still together may motivate Dombrowski to trade his best prospect. He's had no problem doing so before. It would probably have to be a heck of a deal, though.  Trade Targets If Omar Infante leaves as a free agent, Detroit's best options to replace him at second base are likely on the trade market. The Angels' Howie Kendrick would probably be the best fit, providing similar offensive production to Infante, But with Kendrick due nearly $20 million over the next two years, the Tigers may decide they can re-sign Infante at a similar price. A less expensive possibility could be Daniel Murphy from the Mets, who still has two years of arbitration eligibility.  If the market for free agent closers is too rich for the Tigers' liking, yet the team still wants to add a ninth-inning stopper, perhaps Dombrowski can find his guy through a trade. There were rumors before last season of a possible deal involving Porcello to the Orioles for Jim Johnson. Perhaps that could be revisited. The Blue Jays' Sergio Santos is someone that might be worth looking into. The Nationals' Drew Storen could also be worth taking a chance on, betting that he'd benefit from the ol' change of scenery. 

This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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