CATCHER: A position that needed to be discussed and addressed quickly, the Tigers did so earlier this week when they exercised their $13 million option on Ivan Rodriguez. The Tigers had to move quickly, either picking up the option or buying it out for $3 million.
The consensus was that Rodriguez was not worth $13 million and that money could likely be put to better use at another position. On the other hand, the Tigers didn't think they had a legit alternative within the organization, and there weren't going to be any realistic alternatives on the market. So, the Tigers had to overpay, on the other hand, their hands were somewhat tied.
STARTING PITCHER: Ideally, the Tigers would be able to resign a 33-year old Kenny Rogers for another year or two, and lock in 30 strong starts for the '08 season. But Kenny Rogers is no longer 33, he'll be 43 in November, and due to a blood clot and other complications, only made 11 starts for the Tigers in '07. But, much like catcher, there aren't a plethora of alternatives available on the open market.
If Kenny Rogers decides he wants to pitch for one more season, the Tigers will likely move forward and snag him up, ending the search for that starter. Names like Eric Milton or Kris Benson frighten teams due to injuries, Tom Glavine is battling age, and Bartolo Colon had a rough '07 and still will command a huge salary. Andy Pettitte will be out there, but again, a high price tag will likely be attached. And Carlos Silva will now be looking to get paid too. In other words, everyone on the market is a big gamble – best to stick with the Gambler.
LEFT FIELD: Is Marcus Thames the answer? What about Ryan Raburn? Could Timo Perez keep up his hot September? Or will Brent Clevlen re-emerge? All of these questions are going to be evaluated by the Tigers, but none are sure-fire bets.
The alternatives are slim – Bobby Abreu will most likely find himself on the market when the Yankees don't pick up his option, but he won't come cheap, and the rest of the best are all centerfielders, and guys like Andruw Jones or Torii Hunter likely aren't going to warm to the idea of moving. Of course, the Tigers always could look to platoon Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield – which would make for an interesting season to say the least. If the Tigers don't look to make a splash elsewhere, they could potentially throw money around here, but if not, a platoon seems most likely.
CLOSER: The Tigers have made it clear that they want Todd Jones to return in 2008 to start the season as the closer. That doesn't mean that he'd finish the season as the closer though, or if he'll even return given his market value right now. After two runs with the Tigers, Jones feels some level of loyalty to the team, but he could look to pitch closer to his family, or possibly just get a deal that is too good to pass up.
If Jones flees, the Tigers could throw some serious cash at Eric Gagne or former Tiger Francisco Cordero. Another possibility remains that the Tigers could pass on the free agent closers available, instead electing to add a third setup man like Scott Linebrink, LaTroy Hawkins or Eddie Guardado, and run a closer by committee as the team waits for Joel Zumaya to be ready to take the reigns.
SHORTSTOP: Easily the biggest position of concern heading into the offseason, because unlike left field, the Tigers don't really have any legit in-house options at this point. Omar Infante doesn't have the defense, Ramon Santiago doesn't have the stick, Mike Hollimon probably isn't ready (and might not be a big league shortstop anyway), and Tony Giarratano is an unknown.
David Eckstein is the only free agent that would be given a hard look, the rest of the group likely provides minimal upgrade over the guys the Tigers already have. Making a trade for Edgar Renteria is an option, but the Braves pricetag won't be cheap, and the Tigers might not be ready to empty the pitching prospect cupboard. Miguel Tejada might also be available, but he wouldn't come cheap either. At almost every position on the diamond the Tigers have options and backup plans – as of right now, what the Tigers are going to do at short is a mystery.