It would be a big enough question mark for the team to lose just Leyland, but the American League Central Division champion Tigers have several major question marks headed into the offseason, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
First, as Sherman aptly points out, it is by no means time to Panic in the Motor City.
The Tigers still move forward in fine shape, with arguably the best hitter (Cabrera) and starter (Verlander) of this era, backed by a strong supporting cast, a top general manager (Dave Dombrowski) and a go-for-it owner (Mike Ilitch).
The biggest decision? Decide whether or not to trade the man who will likely take home the AL Cy Young Award after the postseason concludes: right-hander Max Scherzer.
Despite the multiple reports stating that the team is exploring trading Scherzer, Sherman says that Dombrowski told him, “Anyone who says that has been discussed on a serious level is wrong.”
Scherzer is still under team control in 2014, which – should the team actually decide to deal him – increases his value exponentially, given the full season of team control.
However, as Sherman states, the Tigers have three contracts of more than $20 million annually in Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander – with Cabrera’s coming off after the 2015 season.
The other glaring question is whether or not the team will bring back former shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who was a key bat in the lineup throughout the postseason, after his 50-game suspension this season for PED usage.
Detroit acquired shortstop Jose Iglesias at the midseason mark, and his defensive skills make him the logical choice heading into 2014. He could join with second baseman Hernan Perez to help the team save money in the infield and make a run at signing Scherzer to a long-term deal.
As for Sherman, he sees the team making several moves heading into next season:
Still, my gut says Detroit will keep Scherzer in a rotation with Verlander, Anibal Scherzer and Doug Fister as the strength of the team. Instead, to better afford Scherzer’s roughly $15 million salary for 2013, the Tigers will try to trade Rick Porcello (two years from free agency) and not give the $14.1 million tender to free-agent Jhonny Peralta.
With a new skipper and the potential for major turnover on the roster, the Tigers will look to replicate their success of recent years and finally capture that elusive World Series championship.