No team has been more successful than the Detroit Tigers over the past four baseball regular seasons, but the Tigers haven't been able to win a World Series. Is 2015 the year? Detroit is +1200 on MLB futures odds.
No World Series Title Since 1984
The Tigers are owned by Mike Ilitch, who made his fortune as the founder of the Little Caesars Pizza franchise. The guy is a huge sports fan and also owns the very successful Detroit Red Wings. Ilitch is never afraid to spend money. He's 85 years old and badly wants to bring a World Series back to Motown. Thanks to Ilitch's wallet, the Tigers have had one of the highest payrolls in the majors for several years and they have won at least 88 games and the American League Central in each of the past four. However, just one team reached the World Series. That was the 2012 club, which was a heavy favorite at sportsbooks against the San Francisco Giants but was swept.
This past season, the Tigers finished 90-72 in Brad Ausmus' first year as manager. Detroit won the division by a game over Kansas City and was a favorite on MLB odds not just on the series line in the AL Division Series against Baltimore but every game. Alas, the Orioles swept despite the fact Detroit started Cy Young winners Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price in those three games.
As was the problem in losing the 2013 ALDS to Boston, the bullpen imploded against the Birds. Scherzer exited with one out in the bottom of the eighth with a guy on second and the Tigers down just 4-3 in Game 1. Baltimore would score eight runs off relievers Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria and Phil Coke to win 12-3.
In Game 2, the Tigers took a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning at Camden Yards. Once again, Chamberlain and Soria were gas cans on a blazing fire as the Orioles scored four runs on the way to a 7-6 win. The bullpen wasn't to blame in Baltimore Game 2-1 win to clinch. Price went eight strong innings, but the Tigers managed just four hits.
Detroit is going to have a huge payroll again, almost surely exceeding last year's Opening Day mark of $163 million, which was No. 4 in the majors. The Tigers are looking at a guaranteed range of $150 million for contracts already on the books and expected to be renewed ahead of next season. Justin Verlander will earn $28.5 million, Miguel Cabrera $22.5 million and Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez around $16 million each. Price and fellow starting pitcher Rick Porcello are going to get huge raises in arbitration. Teams must pay a luxury tax with a payroll north of $189 million.
The Tigers should again have a very good rotation even though Scherzer, the 2013 Cy Young winner, surely won't be part of it. He turned down a six-year, $144 million extension before last season, a pretty big gamble. It paid off. Scherzer set career highs in starts (33), innings (220.1) and strikeouts (252) while going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA. He's going to get perhaps $200 million from someone -- the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs to name three suitors. Detroit can't afford to pay him that with so much tied up in Verlander, Price, Sanchez and Scherzer. Price, incidentally, will be a free agent after 2015 and he's going to test the market. Some inexpensive youngster like Robbie Ray or Kyle Lobstein likely will be the No. 5 starter.
Expect some bullpen moves. The team already invoked a team option on Soria, who was great last season with Texas but struggled after a trade to Detroit. Closer Joe Nathan was pretty awful much of the year but he's going to return because no one wants his $10 million contract.
The offense has two key pieces to deal with as free agents: designated hitter Victor Martinez and outfielder Torii Hunter. Martinez is going to get paid by someone after having perhaps his best season, batting .335 with 32 homers and 103 RBIs. He has said he would like to return, but the Chicago White Sox are known to covet him. Martinez will be 36 in December and really can't play anywhere but DH so that rules out National League teams. Hunter, 39, probably won't return. He hit .286 with 17 homers and 83 RBIs. So the Tigers will have to address the outfield, especially after trading center fielder Austin Jackson in the Price three-way deal with Tampa Bay and Seattle. Obviously DH will be a need if Martinez leaves.
On the bright side, the Tigers will get back shortstop Jose Iglesias. The defensive dynamo missed all of last season with stress fractures in his shins. He was acquired in the 2013 Jake Peavy/Avisail Garcia deal with the Red Sox and White Sox.
The Tigers open the 2015 season on April 6 at home against Minnesota. Detroit is +550 on Sportsbook.ag's MLB odds to win the AL pennant, behind only the Los Angeles Angels (+450).
MLB free pick: This team's championship window might have closed. Detroit will be favored at sportsbooks to win the AL Central again and probably will. However, guys like Cabrera and Verlander regressed last season. There appear to be two potential gaping holes in the outfield. The Tigers aren't a smart bet for your MLB picks, at least as things stand right now, to win the pennant or World Series.