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The MVP and pray for a good turn

John Stroba-Writer

It is that time of the year for everyone to be opening presents and enjoying what they do get even if this year it is not as much as previous years. More than a few Detroit fans are hoping that there might be a starting pitcher or two under the Christmas tree, even it takes a month for that present to arrive. The Tigers do have a limited budget it appears and it is quite possible that a starter or two is not going to be signed this offseason, because what money they do have needs to be put into the bullpen. However, there is a lengthy list of potential candidates beyond the top 3 (Verlander, Porcello and Scherzer). In this article, it will look at the starting rotation as things stand right now and could stand down the road.

Eddie Bonine: Next. Bonine just is not good enough to be a consideration unless there are massive injuries and the Tigers have to throw someone out there.

Alfredo Figaro: Detroit really needed a body done the stretch and with a rash of injuries they did call up Figaro who was having a very solid minor league season. Figaro did about as well as anyone could expect from a normal AA prospect. He did have some nice moments and you could see the potential there, but he was just a bit too inconsistent. If he can become more consistent, then he might be a factor when the Tigers need to call up a starter. Likely will start in Toledo to begin the year. Someone to keep an eye on though.

Phil Coke: Coke did come over in the Granderson deal. He was a starter that struggled in AA until moving to the bullpen and then he really took off. Still, the Tigers want to look at him as a starter possibly in spring training. Leyland does really want a lefty in the rotation everything being equal. Coke with a good spring training could really mean the end of the Nate Robertson.

Justin Verlander: Verlander is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. He is now the face of the franchise with the Tigers dealing away Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. Verlander is going to be the Tigers ace next year without question, and among Tigers fandom there is an undercurent of worry almost certain that Verlander is not going to want to sign an extension with Detroit. That is if Detroit can afford to extend him in the first place. Following that current, it assumes that the Tigers are going to become like what they were prior to 2006 a franchise that just does not matter.

It is true that Verlander does have Scott Boras as his agent, and it is true that Boras does do a good job getting his clients big contracts and ones that do raise eyebrows around the league. This year so far that would include Pudge Rodriguez (6 million/2 years to be a backup catcher in Washington). While Detroit is not thought of as a major market, they are a team that is willing to spend and the Tigers do have some Boras clients (Mags Ordonez, Gerald Laird, Max Scherzer and Jacob Turner) plus they have paid top dollar for Boras clients in FA as well (Kenny Rogers, Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez). In addition, the Tigers are going to have a lot of money freed up next offseason in order to talk to Verlander about an extension. And Illitch does show a willingness to spend to keep his star players. Now, I suppose it is possible (though not very likely) that the Tigers could be a 60-70 win team and not close to contention and that could influence Verlander to not sign an extension.

Realistically, though Verlander should be a top 5 AL starter next year and the Tigers will sign him to a very big long term extension (something like 80 million/5 years).

Rick Porcello: Porcello likely moves to the #2 SP slot in the rotation with Edwin Jackson twirling in a desert location next year. Detroit is going to be very careful with this special arm, but it is hard to imagine that the same restrictions will be in place as last season. While his low K/9 rate last year does raise some concerns it is important to consider that Porcello is only 20 years old in his rookie season. It is very rare that 20 year old pitchers make a big league rotation, let alone hold down a spot and be very solid during division chase. He does have all the makings of being a very good starting pitcher down the line. Still, he is a very young pitcher and young pitchers have a tendency of getting hurt. That is the same risk that every pitcher does have at Porcello's age (entering his age 21 season), but very few have the kind of upside that he demonstrates.

Max Scherzer: Scherzer did have a very solid rookie season for Arizona putting up a solid enough ERA (4.12) in a very offensive ballpark. Moving from Arizona to a more run nuetral park in Detroit should negate at least part of the fact, that the AL is tougher leaguer than the NL in recent years. Scherzer does have some positives such as striking out more than a batter an inning and pretty good control. For the Tigers to contend he is going to have to stay healthy and be able to get around 180 innings at least.

Jermey Bonderman: Have to give Bondermand some credit for even making it back from a potential life threatening surgery that did remove a rib from him. He never did get the MPH on his fastball that he had before the surgery. A tough guy that wants the ball every time it is his turn. Right now Bonderman is being pencilled in as the Tigers #4 SP. If he could come back and just be a league average pitcher soaking up a lot of innings that would be a huge boost to the Tigers chances of winning the division this year. It would not be a surprise though if Bonderman could not do that, and he does have learn a 3rd pitch to reach the next level. He might be the major X factor in the rotation this year.

Armando Galarraga: After a very solid rookie season, some in Tiger fandom thought that AG could take another step forward in his development despite having several indicators (strikeout rate, BABIP to name a couple) that do leap out upon a closer inspection. Now, it looks like his 2008 season is his career year. The fact that Bonderman (with his injury and stuff concerns) is being thought of as the #4 SP is very telling of how far down AG's stock is. The biggest downfall AG did have is being very homer happy (24 in 143.2 ip last year) plus his control was not very good. He will go into spring training fighting for a rotation spot, and will need people ahead of him (Bonderman, Robertson and Coke) to struggle in Spring Training to claim a rotation spot.

Dontrelle Willis: There is not another player in all of MLB, that I am pulling for to find his way back to at least being a decent pitcher. Willis does bring a lot of excitement and is fun to watch when he is on. No one could have enough foresight to see what would happen to him when he was dealt to Detroit. That being said it would be very surprising to see him make any sort of menaingful contribution to the Tigers this year. What a great story if he could do it though.

Nate Robertson: While Dontrelle's fall from grace is dramatic, Robertson is a guy that is consistently bad for the last couple of years. If it is not for the $10 million left on his contract, he would have been looooonnnnggg gggooooonneeee several months ago. Spring Training is going to be absolutely huge for Robertson, he is going to have to show something that deserves to come north. Otherwise, he is a candidate to get lopped off much like Gary Sheffield was last year. Robertson is also going to have to make it as a starter with plenty of lefty options it is hard to see Nate making it to the pen.

Zach Miner: Miner is an example of being just good enough to be on a MLB pitching staff. He is not a particulary good starter (4.80 ERA/1.44 WHIP) or that impressive as a RP (3.60/1.47), but he is one of those guys that is consistently worth a spot on a staff because he can soak up some innings. He will be in the mix, but the Tigers will probably want him to be in the bullpen unless injuries happen to the starting staff.

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