Restoring the rosters: No. 22 – Detroit

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
22nd may not seem like much, but this is a big step forward from where the Tigers would have ranked a few years ago. Prior to 2005, the team had finished under .500 in 12 straight seasons. What little talent the team produced during that span mostly went to Texas in return for Juan Gonzalez in 1999.
Rotation
Justin Verlander
Jair Jurrjens
Rick Porcello
John Smoltz
Luke French
Bullpen
Francisco Cordero
Jason Frasor
Fernando Rodney
Joel Zumaya
Ryan Perry
Trever Miller
Jeff Weaver
With two top-of-the-rotation starters and three fine late-game relievers, the Tigers have more to offer in the pitching department than most of the other teams in the bottom half of the rankings. Depth is an issue, though. Porcello isn’t a legitimate No. 3 at this point, and I may be in the minority in that I’d still take Smoltz over Brian Moehler, Weaver and Andrew Miller. If Porcello develops as expected, Andrew Miller comes along and Zumaya gets healthy, this could be a legitimate top-five staff in a couple of years.
Lineup
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Omar Infante
1B Frank Catalanotto
3B Brandon Inge
RF Matt Joyce
LF Cody Ross
DH Jeff Larish
SS Ramon Santiago
C Alex Avila
Bench
OF Cameron Maybin
INF-OF Ryan Raburn
INF Anderson Hernandez
C Dusty Ryan
It’s not a lineup that’s going to scare anyone, but at least the Tigers can boast legitimate options at every position, which is an improvement over most of the teams below them. Infante, Ross, Santiago and Raburn are all underappreciated players, and Joyce and Larish still figure to produce if given the opportunity. The Tigers even have some useful players who didn’t make the team, like Clete Thomas, Jack Hannahan and Gabe Kapler.
As is, the pieces fit quite well. Lefties and righties can be alternated throughout the lineup against right-handed starters. Versus lefties, Maybin can replace Joyce, Raburn can start over Catalanotto or Larish and Ryan can alternate with Avila. Maybe no one on the team besides Granderson will boast much more than an 800 OPS, but there are no real liabilities.
Summary
The Tigers drafted about as poorly as any team in the 1990s, but things have turned around since Dave Dombrowski took over in 2002, and while no one has ever accused the Tigers farm system of being deep, it’s churned out some excellent players lately. Most of the key players above are still capable of getting better, and if I redo these rankings in a couple of years, I’ll fully expect the Tigers to crack the top 15.

Sonny Gray was denied insurance coverage for the World Baseball Classic

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Pitcher Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during photo day at HoHoKam Stadium on February 22, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.

According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.

Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.

While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.

Report: Josh Hamilton likely to undergo another knee surgery

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers in the dugout before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 24, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
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Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.

More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.

Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.