That was until the team ran in to a brick wall, names the San Francisco Giants. The Tigers’ flaws were exposed, resulting in a nearly unwatchable four-game sweep at the hands of a team that does everything right that Leyland’s boys can not grasp.
Defense and bullpen. Defense and bullpen. Defense and bullpen.
So what did General Manager Dave Dombrowski do? Did he go out and sign depth at reliever? Was the acquisition of a shortstop with more range that a teaspoon at the top of his list? Or would it perhaps be the the need to fill the now vacant closer role that would have Dombrowski spending another large chunk of that seemingly unlimited pizza money?
None of the above would be the correct answer.
The Tigers instead spent a small fortune resigning a career sub-.500 pitcher in Anibal Sanchez ($75 million for five years), and bringing in Torii Hunter to sure up the corner outfield position.
Hunter will be an improvement over the fielding woes of Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch over the last two seasons, but his bat is now in its late 30s and he is long removed from the days he used to rob Tiger hitters of extra bases playing center field for the Minnesota Twins.
The Tigers still have a fatal flaw. The bullpen in Detroit is a complete mess. Joaquin Benoit is a three-run homer waiting to happen. Phil Coke is serviceable at best (although his 2019 postseason was tremendous). Jose Valverde is still unsigned leaving a gapping hole at the closer position. Valverde will not be back and rightfully should never put the old english D on again. Bryan Villarreal is looking like a modern day Joel Zumaya and there is no guarantee that Al Alburquerque will ever be able to make it through an entire MLB season.
Its not all doom and gloom for the Tigers. They still play in the AL Central, by far the worst division in baseball. They have possibly the best rotation and mine field of a lineup for opposing pitchers to deal with. Mike Ilitch seems to be willing to spend whatever it takes to win a title.
All that being said, if Detroit is going to celebrate the end of a near 30 years title drought it will be in spite of a once again weak bullpen and a Swiss-cheese defense.