Diving into the depths: Detroit Tigers

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
Detroit Tigers
Rotation
1. Justin Verlander
2. Rick Porcello
3. Max Scherzer
4. Jeremy Bonderman
5. Nate Robertson
6. Armando Galarraga
7. Dontrelle Willis
8. Zach Miner
9. Phil Coke
10. Eddie Bonine
11. Alfredo Figaro
12. Phil Dumatrait
13. Brooks Brown
14. Luis Marte
15. Casey Crosby
While there’s an ace at the top of the rotation and a new stud closer in the pen, the Tigers still have plenty of uncertainty when it comes to their pitching staff. Bonderman will enter camp as the clear favorite for the fourth spot in the rotation if he shows his arm is sound. Robertson and Galarraga would seem to be the chief competitors for the fifth spot, but the door will be open in case Willis surprises. Miner should be the fallback if everyone else struggles.
Bullpen
1. Jose Valverde
2. Joel Zumaya
3. Ryan Perry
4. Phil Coke
5. Bobby Seay
6. Fu-Te Ni
7. Zach Miner
8. Armando Galarraga
9. Nate Robertson
10. Brad Thomas
11. Dontrelle Willis
12. Eddie Bonine
13. Daniel Schlereth
14. Casey Fien
15. Robbie Weinhardt
16. Jay Sborz
17. Enrique Gonzalez
18. Phil Dumatrait
19. Zach Simons
20. Luis Marte
21. Josh Rainwater
The Tigers will have more pitchers than roster spots if everyone gets through camp healthy. That could result in a return to Triple-A for Galarraga and walking papers for Willis. There are an awful lot of health question marks here, though. If Zumaya breaks down or Perry pitches his way back to the minors, then Galarraga might get a look as a setup man. Schlereth and Weinhardt are two others who could climb the list in a hurry.


Catcher
1. Gerald Laird
2. Alex Avila
3. Robinzon Diaz
4. Mike Rabelo
First base
1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Jeff Larish
3. Ryan Strieby
4. Kory Casto
Second base
1. Scott Sizemore
2. Ramon Santiago
3. Ryan Raburn
Third base
1. Brandon Inge
2. Ramon Santiago
3. Ryan Raburn
4. Jeff Larish
5. Don Kelly
Shortstop
1. Adam Everett
2. Ramon Santiago
3. Brent Dlugach
The Tigers appear to be leaning towards keeping the 23-year-old Avila as a part-time catcher, but they do have the option of letting him play regularly in Triple-A and going with Diaz as the backup to Laird. It could well come down to how Laird performs offensively this spring.
Left field
1. Ryan Raburn
2. Carlos Guillen
3. Wilkin Ramirez
4. Clete Thomas
5. Don Kelly
Center field
1. Austin Jackson
2. Casper Wells
3. Clete Thomas
4. Ryan Raburn
Right field
1. Magglio Ordonez
2. Clete Thomas
3. Wilkin Ramirez
4. Ryan Raburn
5. Don Kelly
Designated hitter
1. Carlos Guillen
2. Magglio Ordonez
3. Jeff Larish
4. Ryan Strieby
I considered holding off on the Tigers until the very end just to see if the Johnny Damon deal would get done. Damon would top the depth chart in left field and push Raburn back into a utility role, which would seem to be for the best. Raburn hit like a regular last year, but the Tigers need another hitter they can rely on. With two rookies and the injury-prone Guillen in the lineup, Raburn would still be set to play a major role.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.