Skip to main content

Detroit Tigers 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera

Four months into a brutal 2017 season, on their way to 98 losses and a third straight year missing the playoffs, the Tigers finally took the drastic steps they probably should have taken far earlier. Starting in July, they traded outfielders J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, lefty reliever Justin Wilson and, finally, ace Justin Verlander, signaling the start of a long-needed rebuild to begin getting out from under the excesses of the previous era. By winter, veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler had joined the exodus out of Detroit, and there were signals the team might not be done downsizing.

Clearly, the days of big stars and $200 million payrolls are gone for now. As a result, 2018 will likely be another painful season for the Tigers and new manager Ron Gardenhire, but at least it won’t be painful and expensive.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the TIGERS

“They’re going to be terrible. It’s taken them a long time to change course, and it’s going to be a long and painful rebuild. They’ll get a chance to see what they have in guys like Dixon Machado and Jeimer Candelario, but I don’t see a lot of future All-Stars here. Maybe they can find a few league-average players and spin them off to keep building depth. The big question is whether they trade Miguel Cabrera. He’s signed through 2023, and he really declined last year, but if he rebounds and they pay off a lot of the deal, they could conceivably get a big haul for themselves and put an inner-circle Hall of Famer back in the spotlight on a contender. Michael Fulmer will attract the most interest, because he’s so young, and if he pitches well, they should move him, too, to get a massive return. I’m intrigued to see what Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd could do with 30 starts; there’s some upside there. But Jordan Zimmermann looks like he’s done.”

Image placeholder title

Beyond the Box Score

Want more? Our new baseball magazine delivers full MLB team previews, fantasy insight, schedules, and predictions. Click to order your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

Image placeholder title

Miggy’s decade

This winter marked the 10-year anniversary of the pivotal Dec. 4, 2007, trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit — a move that transformed the franchise into a perennial contender that won four straight AL Central titles from 2011-14. The trade, pulled off by then-GM Dave Dombrowski, sent Tigers prospects Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin plus catcher Mike Rabelo and three others to the Marlins for Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis. Though Miller turned into an ace reliever and Maybin has had a solid career, Cabrera’s continued trajectory toward the Hall of Fame has made the deal a solid win for the Tigers in the decade that has passed.

Lock him up

The Tigers’ management approached right fielder Nick Castellanos about a long-term contract extension late in the 2017 season — a sign that, even amid the cost-cutting and contract-shedding associated with a rebuilding effort, they were willing to lock up long-term building blocks. Though the talks ultimately fell short, they could be revisited at some point during 2018.

Tax cut

The Tigers were one of five teams in baseball to pay a luxury tax in 2017, in which they had a payroll of roughly $190 million. The trades they made last summer and over the winter have reduced their 2018 payroll by some $50 million, and they will be well under the luxury-tax threshold this year.

Salary dump

The Ian Kinsler trade advanced the goals of getting younger and leaner, but the Tigers essentially had no leverage, since Kinsler had a no-trade clause and used it to maneuver a deal to the Angels that brought the Tigers little value in the way of prospects — 18-year-old righthander Wilkel Hernanez and 23-year-old outfielder Troy Montgomery. The Angels did, however, take on all of Kinsler’s $11 million salary in 2018.

Family matters

When GM Al Avila included backup catcher Alex Avila in the Justin Wilson trade with the Cubs in July, it marked the first time in at least 50 years, per MLB Network research, that a GM traded away his own son. The younger Avila said he was fine with the trade, but that his mother was upset. 

Projected Lineup

LF    Mikie Mahtook (R)
3B    Jeimer Candelario (S)
1B    Miguel Cabrera (R)
DH    Victor Martinez (S)
RF    Nick Castellanos (R)
C    James McCann (R)
CF    Leonys Martin (L)
2B    Dixon Machado (R)
SS     Jose Iglesias (R)
C       John Hicks (R)
INF    Ronny Rodriguez (R)
OF    Victor Reyes (S)
INF    Kody Eaves (L)
RHP    Michael Fulmer
LHP    Matt Boyd
RHP    Jordan Zimmermann
RHP    Mike Fiers
LHP    Daniel Norris
RHP    Shane Greene
LHP    Daniel Stumpf
RHP    Alex Wilson
LHP    Blaine Hardy
RHP    Drew VerHagen
RHP    Joe Jimenez
RHP    Buck Farmer