Dombrowski: Tigers have a lot more unknowns
Dave Dombrowski had his annual TigerFest session with fans this morning. His overall theme to the 40-minute session: It’s still a contending team, but with a lot more that they have to figure out to get there.
“The one big difference for our club this year compared to other years is that there are a lot more unknowns,” Dombrowski said.
“It’s just a less certain club. When I say less certain, there are more unknowns. They don’t know how Iglesias is going to be at shortstop. Now all of a sudden, people are writing about Miguel Cabrera, they’re not sure about Miguel Cabrera. They haven’t seen Cespedes play. They haven’t seen Gose play center field. They’ve never seen Simon pitch. They don’t know Shane Greene. They’re not sure about Verlander and Sanchez because they didn’t have those years. They haven’t even seen David Price pitch all the time. They haven’t seen Soria. They don’t know how Rondon is going to be. People say these are all question marks. There’s a difference. They’re not really question marks to us. It’s not like they can’t play. It’s just that they’re unknowns. I think with that, people are not quite sure how to take that. But I think in our situation, I feel very comfortable with our ball club. I really like our club. I think we have a chance to be very good.”
The bullpen might be the biggest of the questions, and it was the first question he got when the session transitioned to fan questions. Dombrowski offered some insight on his philosophy on assembling a bullpen.
“Bullpens are the most inconsistent parts from year to year on clubs,” Dombrowski said. “There’s a lot of year-in and year-out uncertainty. What you try to do is build yourself a bullpen from the back end forward, try to get a closer to step into the job, and then you can build around him.”
On Joe Nathan, Dombrowski said, “Last year at this time, I thought he was a shutdown closer, even though he didn’t have overpowering stuff. He had done it the year before with a 91-92 mph fastball and a good slider and mixed his pitches. He didn’t have a real good start to the season.”
Soria, he said, is a”very, very good pitcher.”
They have relief options among their young starters with Kyle Ryan, Kyle Lobstein and Drew VerHagen, depending on the depth of their need.
More from Dombrowski’s session:
- He reiterated that they were not in talks with Scott Boras on Max Scherzer, in large part because they knew what it would take to sign him. “They called us about Max’s situation as time went on,” Dombrowski said. “He made it clear, and it probably started around the winter meetings, that he would be open-minded to playing here again. But we never had any negotiations at that point, because we thought we had made a strong effort to try to sign him and it was clear he was looking for the numbers he received now, maybe even a little bit more. And just in passing conversations that was given to us and we just didn’t feel comfortable going, so never got in any additional negotiations.”
- More to the point, Dombrowski added, “If there was a mystery club involved, and I’m not sure if there was or if there was not, it was not us.”
- On Miguel Cabrera, Dombrowski wouldn’t say for sure he should be ready for the start of the season, but that it’ll be close. “If he’s not ready for Opening Day, it’s going to be very, very close,” he said. “And we’ll find out more Feb. 15 (after his follow-up exam). I think at that point, for a short time period we have Victor Martinez, who can play first base at that point. Alex Avila could play over there for a little bit. We could DH some of the other people we have in the organization at this time, so we’ll tackle that as it comes but we still hope he’ll be ready for Opening Day.”
- On Don Kelly: “We tried to re-sign Don Kelly. … But he also thought his opportunity to make the Major League club was better with Miami.”
- On potentially replacing Kelly, Dombrowski noted Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine as candidates. Both are out of minor-league options, which Dombrowski admitted has an impact. Both will take fly balls in the outfield during Spring Training.
- On a question regarding restocking the farm system, Al Avila noted that they’ll have two first-round draft picks coming up — their traditional pick, plus the compensation pick they receive for losing Max Scherzer. That reinforced the expectation that they will not pursue James Shields, who would cost them their traditional pick to sign.