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.
Justin Verlander
Jair Jurrjens
Rick Porcello
John Smoltz
Luke French
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.
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
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.
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.

The Cubs acquire Rex Brothers from the Rockies

Rex Brothers Rockies

The number of people who, if you held a gun to their head, would say that “Rex Brothers” was a game show host and/or local TV news personality from the late 1970s or early 80s is not insignificant. But if you’re a Rockies fan or if spend all day thinking about baseball you know that he’s a reliever who has played in Colorado for the past five years. Now you know him as a reliever for the Cubs:

Brothers — a former Best Shape of His Life All-Star — was pretty good until he hit a brick wall in 2014 and spent most of 2015 in Triple-A. He had something of a bounceback after being called up when rosters expanded in September, but that’s not the sort of thing to excite anyone. He could be useful for the Cubs or just spring training cannon fodder and organizational depth.

Cabrera just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago and pitched a grand total of 14 games in the Dominican Summer League. He’s young and was a $250,000 signee from the Dominican as a 16-year-old so, by definition, he’s a project. Worth giving up Rex Brothers for him if you’re the Rockies, worth risking for some depth in the pen if you’re the Cubs.

Diamondbacks hire Dave Magadan as hitting coach

Dave Magadan Rangers
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Steve Gilbert of reports that the Diamondbacks’ new hitting coach is Dave Magadan, who “parted ways” with the Rangers last month after three years filling the same role in Texas.

Magadan also previously was the Red Sox’s hitting coach and his teams have generally done pretty well, including the Rangers scoring the third-most runs in the league this year.

He’ll have plenty of talent to work with in Arizona, as the Diamondbacks scored the second-most runs in the league led by Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta. Turner Ward, who had been Arizona’s hitting coach, chose to leave the team two weeks ago.

A’s reacquire Jed Lowrie in trade with Astros

Jed Lowrie

Jed Lowrie, who was traded from the Astros to the A’s in 2013 and then re-signed with the Astros as a free agent last offseason, has now been traded back to the A’s.

Lowrie got a three-year, $23 million deal from the Astros with the idea that he’d play shortstop in the first season and then move to another position whenever stud prospect Carlos Correa arrived. Instead he got hurt right away, Correa became an immediate star, and the Astros weren’t so keen on paying him $15 million over the next two seasons.

He could resume playing shortstop for the A’s, who watched rookie Marcus Semien make an absurd number of errors there this year. Lowrie hit .271 with a .738 OPS in two seasons in Oakland, which is similar to his career totals and makes him a solidly above-average offensive shortstop. There’s a decent chance the A’s will have a Lowrie-Lawrie double-play duo in 2016.

In return the Astros get minor leaguer Brendan McCurry, a 24-year-old right-hander who split 2015 between high Single-A and Double-A with a 1.86 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 63 relief innings. He was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2014 and doesn’t have exceptional raw stuff, but McCurry’s numbers are incredible so far.

White Sox sign catcher Alex Avila to a one-year deal

Detroit Tigers' Alex Avila, right, is congratulated by third base coach Dave Clark after his solo home run in the third inning in the second game of a baseball doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

There have been a lot of articles published in the past few days about how to navigate awkward Thanksgiving conversations with your relatives. Heck, we even wrote one.

But there’s always room for more! Such as “How to talk to your father at Thanksgiving dinner about the fact that he let you walk away from the only team you’ve ever known to sign with a division rival.” Which is what Alex Avila will likely be talking about with his father, Tigers GM Al Avila:

The older Avila can’t even say he did it because he’s opposed to nepotism. After all, he just hired his other son — who has had his law degree for just over a year — as the Tigers assistant legal counsel for baseball operations. Though I’m sure that wasn’t nepotism. He probably just aced the interview and impressed everyone more than the other candidates did.

OK, those are jokes. In all seriousness, this is a good move for Alex and Al and, probably, the White Sox. With the emergence of James McCann, there really is not space for Alex Avila in Detroit in anything other than a backup capacity. In Chicago, he’ll get more playing time. At least if he can (a) stay healthy; and (b) not hit .191/.339/.287 again like he did in 2015.