Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 11/1/11
DETROIT -- Tigers president Dave Dombrowski didn't make any startling announcements Tuesday in his year-end review with the local media. That, though, was to be expected. While Dombrowski has done more than his share of rebuilding projects in Detroit, this time he is working with a team that won 95 games, beat the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs and came within two extra-inning losses of going to the World Series. "Obviously, we're very happy with big parts of our team," he said. "You aren't going to improve on Miguel Cabrera at first base, we've got All-Stars at shortstop and catcher, we think we have our everyday outfield set and we've got a DH who hit .330. "Pitching, there's no one better than Justin Verlander, and we've also got Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, plus Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit. That's a lot to like." While not a surprise, Dombrowski did drop an unofficial curtain on the Tigers careers of two fan favorites -- Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen. Both are free agents, and Dombrowski and Leyland told both of them in September that they wouldn't be back in 2012. "You never know what ends up taking place, but I would say that it is highly unlikely that they are going to be back," he said. "Magglio has done a tremendous amount for this franchise, and Carlos has been an All-Star for us. A couple of key guys that were involved in helping get us back on the field, and you don't find better people or better professionals." Dombrowski also doesn't expect utility infielder Ramon Santiago to return. "We would love Ramon to come back, and we know he'wants to come back, but there's a very good chance that someone will offer him a full-time job, and we can't match that," he said. "We know he wants that opportunity, and no one would complain if he took it." With both Santiago and Guillen on the way out, second base is going to be near the top of Dombrowski's priority list. "Right now, all we've got there is Raburn, and Ryan isn't an everyday second baseman," he said. "He seems to be better off when he can move around the field. We do have other people internally -- Will Rhymes and Danny Worth can play there -- but that's a place where we might be able to get better." The right second baseman could also solve another problem -- Detroit's lack of a leadoff hitter. Austin Jackson is set to be the everyday centerfielder -- with Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch -- but he struggled badly at the top of the order this season. He hit just .249 with a .317 on-base percentage and struck out 181 times -- one short of Cecil Fielder's franchise record. "We need to get better offensive production out of Austin, and think hes capable of doing that". Dombrowski said "Will he be our leadoff hitter next season? We really cant answer that question. Its very simple for me to say that last year he didnt hit like a leadoff guy. But, Ill also say, in Jims defense, and thats my responsibility: Well, who do you hit leadoff with our ball club as it is set up? So, ideally, maybe you come up with a guy that is a better leadoff hitter." After second base, Dombrowski will turn his attention to third. Wilson Betemit will be a free agent, leaving Brandon Inge. Inge hit .197 with three homers last season, and was designated for assignment at one point before rebuilding his swing in Toledo. "Brandon did not have a good offensive season, but he was better when he came back, and he can hit left-handed pitching," Dombrowski said."So if we had a guy who can hit right-handed pitching, maybe that's a platoon, but I think we have to see it how it all fits together." If free agency or trades don't bring in a full-time third baseman or a platoon partner for Inge, the role could go back to Don Kelly. "We won with that combo, with Betemit there a bit, and Don took some strides forward to becoming a better major-league player," Dombrowski said. "You can never have too many good players, but you don't want all stars. You need some of those role players who get their uniforms dirty. Jim likes those players, and he's done a good job of fitting them in." The other big question is fifth starter, with Brad Penny not being offered a new contact. At the moment, the spot will go to the winner of a battle between prospects Jacob Turner, Adam Wilk, Andy Oliver and Drew Smyly, but that could change. "I'd like to see one of those five get the job, but we'll also have veteran backup in case they aren't ready," Dombrowski said. "Ideally, we'd find an All-Star who wants to fill the fifth-starter role for a year, but that's probably not going to happen." Dombrowski also said that the team expects to sign a veteran right-handed catcher to play 30-40 games in relief of Alex Avila, with Victor Martinez becoming a full-time DH and an emergency catcher. So there are things to be done, but it isn't going to be a repeat of last year, when the Tigers grabbed Martinez and Benoit at the opening of the free-agent period. Dombrowski will take his time and pick his spots. That's the luxury that comes with the franchise's first division title in 24 years.
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