What Dave Dombrowski did and didn’t tell us in his annual address on the Tigers

Dave Dombrowski had an uneven year as general manager of the Tigers.

Dave Dombrowski had an uneven year as general manager of the Tigers.

On Tuesday afternoon Dave Dombrowski popped his perfectly-coiffed hair out from where he’s been hiding since the Detroit Tigers were eliminated from the postseason.

He’s lucky it was a press conference with mostly friendly media and not a game of whack-a-mole with fans of his team.

The 2014 season brought a fourth straight division title, but that’s become more of a “ho-hum” in these parts. Tiger Nation wants a World Series title, and watching as the inferior Royals roll toward that possibility only rubs salt in their wounds.

Dombrowski said many things in his Tuesday’s conference but it was also interesting what he didn’t say. Here are the highlights.

What He Told Us

Scherzer’s a long shot
It’s pretty much a sure thing that Scherzer will exit via free agency. Dombrowski said, “It’s apparent his representative (Scott Boras) wanted him to test free agency.” The Tigers probably offered as much as they could to Max last spring and won’t be upping the offer now that they have David Price and others to look at for the longer term. As I stated in an earlier post, I expect Scherzer will land with the Red Sox, Cardinals, or Yankees in that order of probability. The Sox feel they are only a few pitchers away from digging their way back to the top of the AL East and they like Scherzer.   

Miggy has a bone spur
The first baseman indeed does have a bone spur in his right ankle, which makes it more amazing that he had the kind of September that he did when he looked like the Miggy of 2012-13.

The Tigers would like to resign Victor Martinez
VMart and the Tigers have been making googly eyes at each other all season. Victor is coming off his bests season and even though he’ll be 36 next season, he keeps himself in great shape and he’s as focused as any player in the game. He’s worth keeping, but the warm and fuzzy may not last into the winter meetings when other teams might offer Martinez longer deals for more money.

Iglesius will return and Rondon too
Jose Iglesius, the fleet-footed and dazzling defensive shortstop who we only got to enjoy for half of 2013, will be back in 2015 after missing an entire season with fractures in both of his legs. Likewise, reliever Bruce Rondon, who was supposed to be the closer of the future like two years ago, should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in the spring and ready to go.

What bullpen were you watching, Dave?
Dombrowski told the press that it isn’t fair to place the blame for the playoff failure on the bullpen. “We had good pitching, but not dominant like we had the year before.” Um, no Dave. Not so fast, I’m not letting you get away with that. The Detroit bullpen ranked near the bottom in all of baseball in ERA and in walks/hits per inning. If they weren’t blowing a lead they were creating a mess. If DD really believes the bullpen was “good” then we’re in for a long year again in 2015.  

What He Didn’t Tell Us

No word on free agents
Dapper Dave played it safe on the eight free agents who will hit the market this offseason. That’s pretty standard, as teams usually make no comment until after the World Series is completed. The eight Tigers who will be free agents are: Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Joba Chamberlain. Phil Coke, Don Kelly, Joakim Soria, and Jim Johnson.

Whether Miggy will undergo surgery
While the Tigers have acknowledged that Cabrera has a bone sour in his right ankle, they won’t say whether their star slugger will go under the knife. More than likely this means that the team, the doctors, and Cabrera have not gotten on the same page yet.

The Tigers are rigidly committed to defined roles for all pitchers
Dombrowski refused to admit that he regrets the trade of Doug Fister, stating “No, I don’t regret it. Starting pitching was not our weakness this year, especially early in the season.” No, starting pitching wasn’t a glaring problem in 2014 for the Tigers, but once Anibal Sanchez went down and with Justin Verlander suffering through a terribly mediocre season, Fister would have been nice ton have around. What Dave doesn’t want to admit (or maybe he’s just not creative enough to consider) is that  options are good to have. Verlander could have been sent to the pen to work out his problems, or Sanchez could have been sued there, or Fister for that matter. Maybe the Price trade isn’t made if Fister is still on the team, but if it had been (and I applaud the deal), imagine Scherzer, Price, Porcello, and Lobstein in the rotation in the last few months and either Verlander or Fister in the bullpen instead of the disaster that was Joe Nathan? The Tigers insist that pitchers must be used in defined roles, refusing to recognize that their strength (the rotation) could have been cannibalized to bolster their biggest weakness (the backend of the bullpen). Most likely this would have delivered great results. there’s no reason to believe that Fister or Verlander or a healthy Sanchez couldn’t be an ace closer. There’s far less pressure and wear and tear in that role and it wouldn’t have hampered the starting rotation much at all. But Dombrowski and Brad Ausmus share the same narrow view that every player on the roster should be a specialist and have a well-defined role. That’s why they are staring at a long offseason.

Whether the Tigers will continue to spend freely
There’s a belief among many that the Tigers have bought their way to the postseason the last four years. It isn’t true, not at all, but sane people still seem to think that way. Outside of Prince Fielder, the Detroit Tigers haven’t signed a big name expensive free agent in a while. They have paid their players very well, but they’ve given current stars great contracts based on past performance. That’s a big difference. Most of the important roster moves for the Tigers in recent seasons have come via trade (think Miggy, Scherzer, Ian Kinsler, Austin Jackson, Price, Sanchez, Omar Infante) or through clever low level signings (Torii Hunter, Rajai Davis, J.D. Martinez). The expensive signings under Dombrowski have not panned out that well (Gary Sheffield, Prince Fielder, Joe Nathan). The question remains — will Mr. Ilitch greenlight the sort of deals it might take to bolster the Tigers holes like center field, the bench, and bullpen? Dombrowski didn’t say.