Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
This was a difficult off-season for the Tigers, as they lost a lot of offensive firepower via trades and free agency, a key member of the rotation, in addition to their closer. On top of that, they lost three key players to injury in spring training, and are attempting to replace those individuals with internal options and spare parts from other teams. On the other hand, the Tigers still have the best hitter in baseball, anchoring their lineup, along with two of the best starting pitchers in the game. In some cases, that's enough, and I think the 2014 version of the AL Central is one of those cases. The Tigers will have fewer wins than they did last year, finishing the year at 88-74, but that will be enough to win the AL Central, beating out the Royals by three games. From there, they'll win another divisional series, but lose to the Tampa Bay Rays in six games in the ALCS, coming up short of their World Series aspirations yet again.
Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting
The Tigers off-season was certainly one full of news and plenty of change for a club that was legitimately one of the top contenders for the World Series in 2013. With Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, and Joaquin Benoit gone, and the arrival of Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, and Rajai Davis, the makeup of the roster changed considerably. The club doesn't project to pile up as many runs as past years, but many believe they could be a more well-rounded team that can win in different ways. With pitching still holding top billing, the Tigers will consistently be in ball games, and they still have enough offense to win games. The bullpen has open questions -- as it always seems to, and the defense was made significantly worse with the loss of Jose Iglesias, and even to an extent with the loss of Andy Dirks. All told, this Tigers team is still a high-end ball club that should have enough of everything to take the Central Division crown, yet again. At the end of the season, I believe the Tigers will win the Central with an 89-73 record; leading the Indians and Royals by a handful of games, and ultimately coming up short of the big prize yet again -- falling in the ALCS.
James Chipman, Senior Lakeland Correspondent
The 2014 season will undoubtedly be an interesting year for Tigers fans. Gone is legendary skipper Jim Leyland. His successor, 44-year-old first time manager Brad Ausmus. The roster has seen a major overhaul. Regulars Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Omar Infante and Joaquin Benoit have all departed. The Tigers have also recently been ravaged by injuries. Slick fielding shortstop Jose Iglesias and flame throwing setup man Bruce Rondon are out for the season, additionally outfielder Andy Dirks is sidelined for a couple months. It's not all bad news for the Tigers though. Headlined by arguably the best starting pitcher trio in the game, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez will likely torment opposing batters and carry the Tigers' staff. The lineup also remains anchored by back-to-back AL MVP Miguel Cabrera. The newly acquired Ian Kinsler and veteran Víctor Martinez (who's in a walk year, playing for a contract) should both enjoy successful productive campaigns. Heck, even with the loss of Iglesias, the Tigers appear vastly improved in the field--thanks largely in part to dealing Fielder, shifting Cabrera to first and adding Kinsler. The team should be more fundamentally sound and better on the base paths. Furthermore, this will also be the first full-season for highly touted prospect and Rookie of the Year candidate Nick Castellanos.
With a payroll north of $160 million, expectations remain lofty in Motown. The injury bug has bitten. The bullpen is paper thin and sketchy. Several players including Scherzer, Hunter and possibly even Cabrera are due for at least a tick of regression too. Regardless, when it's all said and done, I still see the Tigers winning the division in a tight race, with an 89-73 record.
Nick Shlain, Staff Writer
While the Tigers won just 93 games in 2013, taking the Central division by just a game over the Indians, it's important to remember the club's Pythagorean record was 99-63. Despite the loss of Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Jhonny Peralta, and Omar Infante this offseason, the Tigers are coming down from a high point that's closer to 99 wins than merely 93 and the return of a healthy and dominant Justin Verlander should help offset some of that come down. I see the Tigers winning 92 games on their way to a fourth consecutive Central division crown under first year manager Brad Ausmus. In the playoffs, once again they will defeat the Oakland A's in five games in the division series and lose to the AL East representative in six games in the championship series.
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