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Detroit Tigers’ Minor League System Rated Worst, Proving the Steep Cost of Contention

January 29th, 2015 at 11:47 AM
By Max DeMara

It's difficult for a baseball team to compete at a high level while maintaining a well-stocked farm system. It's simply the cost of playing poker.

Therefore, it wasn't terribly shocking to see ESPN's Keith Law rate the Detroit Tigers' minor league system the worst in baseball on Wednesday. The prospect rankings, whether Law's or anyone else's, have long reflected the tough state of Detroit's bare-bones minor league system.

The Tigers haven't developed much big-name talent because they've been too busy trading it away for impact players.

But, that's the price to pay for maintaining a contending baseball team with star power. Certainly, fans would rather have a relevant squad during the regular season capable of winning than hear endless rants about how great scores and scores of minor leaguers will be.

Go back in time to 1996-2004. That eight year run was full of can't-miss Tigers' prospects that would have topped any scouting list. Had Law been in the ranking business then, he probably would have been lauding players like Kenny Baugh, Kyle Sleeth, Matt Anderson, Eric Munson and Scott Moore. Now, that list is a who's who of baseball's biggest busts.

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Detroit Tigers’ Best Bullpen Battle Will Come from a Varied Collection of Lefties

January 28th, 2015 at 11:03 AM
By Max DeMara

One of the things that's been lost in the shuffle this offseason is the fact that the Detroit Tigers have quietly put together a great competition for one of the most important spots in any bullpen.

That spot, of course, is the left-handed specialist.

Gone is the inconsistent Phil Coke, but returning to the fray are the opportunistic Ian Krol and Blaine Hardy, both of whom performed at a major league level at times in 2014 when they were badly needed. Also added to the mix is Tom Gorzelanny, who's been a consistent, serviceable performer throughout his well-traveled career.

Add to that minor-league options like Kyle Ryan and Joe Mantiply, and it's clear the Tigers are working from a position of strength. Whomever makes the roster will have likely earned the job thanks to plenty of personal toil in training camp.

On the outset, it appears as if the team will carry a pair of lefty pitchers into the season. Going into camp, that didn't look to be the case, but Detroit signed Gorzelanny a few weeks back to a one-year deal, and it's likely they want the stability of at least one proven lefty arm for the bullpen to rely on.

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Detroit Tigers Bring Back Al Albuquerque, Who is a Quiet Key to Team’s Bullpen

January 27th, 2015 at 11:05 AM
By Max DeMara

On Monday, the Detroit Tigers reached another one-year deal with relief pitcher Al Alburquerque, avoiding arbitration once again.

That news certainly won't generate headlines or register even a shock-wave through baseball, but for the Tigers, it is no less important. In an offseason full of change, Detroit couldn't afford to lose a consistent, cost-controlled performer like Alburquerque from its bullpen.

At times in 2014, Albuquerque was Detroit's only consistent performer in the late innings, and certainly the only pitcher who could be counted on to appear in multiple days and provide a similar result. For this, he casually earned the nickname "everyday Al" around the park.

Statistically, Alburquerque was that consistent. He posted an impressive 3-1 record with a 2.51 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched. It wasn't quite as notable as Alburquerque's breakout 6-1 season in 2011, but it was a major improvement over rough 2013 year following an injury-plagued 2012.

Quietly, Alburquerque might be one of the bigger keys to the bullpen having success in 2015. With plenty of question marks arising again, it will be important to have a routine competitor like Alburqueque to rely on late in games. He's proven effective through his first handful of seasons in the majors, and can be a reliable option the team trusts later in games.

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Credit Max Scherzer for Showing Touch of Class Amid Highly-Publicized Exit from Detroit Tigers

January 26th, 2015 at 10:34 AM
By Max DeMara

The more money gets involved, the more the sports world has turned into a nasty landscape. There's backstabbing, public dispute and always plenty of "he said, he said" going on.

In other words,oddly enough, fans of daytime soap operas might find a natural attraction given the current landscape.

But, like anything, there are also notable exceptions. Take Max Scherzer, the new Washington Nationals' staff ace. Scherzer, who recently inked a $210 million dollar deal to leave Detroit, took time out to thank the city, organization and its fans with a full page ad Sunday in the Detroit Free Press.

Such acts, though becoming more common and starting to feel contrite, are still certainly worthy of praise in many cases. During his time in Detroit, Scherzer was always one of the more magnanimous Tigers' players, always taking time out to deflect praise to teammates. Knowing this, it's easy to see how Scherzer's ad placement was a genuine act.

It's tough for Tigers' fans to remain mad at the pitcher. Think about it. If anyone could maximize financial profits in their career, wouldn't they fight hard for it? Respect comes from not only being the best, but getting recognized that way by people who matter. The Tigers tried hard to keep Scherzer early, but couldn't justify another massive contract when the rubber met the road.

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David Price Open to Talking Extension with Detroit Tigers, Plus Other Notes from the Winter Caravan

January 23rd, 2015 at 11:16 AM
By Max DeMara

As the Detroit Tigers began their winter trek around the state of Michigan to meet and greet fans Thursday, the most interesting bit of information was revealed by one of their current pitchers.

No, David Price doesn't dislike playing in Detroit, as many had suggested late last season. He simply found it different at the beginning, and has since started to adjust. He even said he is open to staying longer, perhaps ready to discuss a contract extension.

In spite of that, Price admitted a bit of curiosity with perhaps exploring the open market when the time is right past 2015. After watching former teammate Max Scherzer recently score a $210 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals, why wouldn't he be?

Folks shouldn't necessarily read too positively or negatively into that news. Late in the season, the vibe around the club was never such that Price was dissatisfied. Instead, the scenario seemed to evolve exactly like the one Price described Thursday.

It's tough to go from a familiar place to a completely new setting, and an adjustment period is certainly expected. It takes time to feel comfortable with new teammates, and one size certainly doesn't fit all in this department as it relates to individual personalities.

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