Tigers Must Be Careful with Trades

In a spring full of optimism, rumors are coming out of Lakeland involving numerous trade possibilities for the Tigers. But buyer beware, the Tigers must be careful in their trade pursuits and give the incumbents a shot first.

The glut of average outfielders. A leadoff centerfielder with a poor on base percentage and defensive lapses. A closer turned setup man making closer's money that may or may not be happy in his new role. Needless to say, the Tigers still have question marks.

Many fans are clamoring for another trade or two that would potentially get this team even closer to contention. But the Tigers must be careful with any trade they make, potentially weakening one area too much.

The discussion must start with reliever Ugueth Urbina and the bullpen. The bullpen was a serious point of concern in '04, where the team blew 28 saves and lost a total of 34 leads in the 7th inning and beyond. Too often, manager Alan Trammell was forced to use unreliable relievers in pressure situations, or simply leave the starter in too long.

The organization made a point of solidifying the 'pen in the offseason, signing closer Troy Percival and acquiring Kyle Farnsworth via trade. But moving Urbina could once again put the bullpen in a questionable state, especially if none of the youngsters show real signs of growth.

Now, if Urbina requests a trade, then it becomes a different scenario. Urbina is still regarded as a solid closer, and if possible, should be granted the opportunity - Urbina should however be reminded that Percival has spent time on the Disabled List each of the last three years, and certainly isn't getting any younger, and should receive a fair share of opportunities.

Likewise, the Tigers should be cautious with regards to the outfield. Magglio Ordonez is obviously solid in right field. But after that, there's a glut of outfielders, all of whom could be traded, though at the moment there is not a great demand for any of them. Barring the sudden availability of a solid centerfielder that could also leadoff, the team would be better off letting the group battle it out and make a decision come April.

Dave Dombrowski worked hard to strengthen the club in the offseason, adding talent to the bullpen and a big bat in the middle of the order. There are still questions, but it's better left that the team figures it out on the field and act once you see what you have. Rather than dive once again into an already depleted farm system, let the ballplayers play, and when you really know what you have, then decide.

After all, spring training is finding out what you really have. Can Alex Sanchez really handle center? Will Fernando Rodney prove healthy and ready to fulfill the Tigers' hopes? Can Brandon Inge handle third base as an everyday player? Will the young rotation pitch like the veterans the Tigers need them to be? It's time to find out.

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