DETROIT -- For the first time since 2005, the Tigers head to Spring Training having to put together a rotation without Justin Verlander. While the former American League Cy Young Award winner and AL MVP Award winner fronts the rotation in Houston, the next generation of promising young Tigers starters
DETROIT -- For the first time since 2005, the Tigers head to Spring Training having to put together a rotation without Justin Verlander. While the former American League Cy Young Award winner and AL MVP Award winner fronts the rotation in Houston, the next generation of promising young Tigers starters isn't expected to begin reaching Detroit until '19. The resulting rotation is a mix of relative youngsters and a couple of veterans, all of them with something to prove. The Tigers, in turn, need quality innings from them to keep their young bullpen afloat.
MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Tigers might stack up:
ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Michael Fulmer, RHP
Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
Mike Fiers, RHP
Matthew Boyd, LHP
Daniel Norris, LHP
There are worse fates for a rebuilding team than pitching Michael Fulmer on Opening Day. His 3.67 FIP last year was better than the 3.76 he posted in his 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Award campaign, despite battling numbness in his elbow. If the 24-year-old recovers as expected from the surgery that moved his nerve to address the issue, the Tigers have an ace they can put up against most anybody in the league, something they didn't have the last time they undertook such an extensive rebuild in 2003.
There are plenty of questions to debate, but the most pertinent are with Boyd and Norris. Two and a half years have passed since the Tigers acquired them from Toronto in the David Price trade. Both have had stretches where they've looked like Major League starters, but neither has been able to hold down a spot for a full season. They're still in their mid-20s, but with a new generation of young starters on the way, the time for Boyd and Norris to stake their spots is now.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Though trade buzz around Fulmer seemed to quiet after the Winter Meetings, general manager Al Avila is still open to a deal if another team overwhelms them with an offer, a possibility that lingers as contenders continue to cool on the free-agent market. On the flip side, the Tigers are still open to adding another lower-end starter from that market along the lines of Fiers, a low-risk, high-upside rebound candidate. Chris Tillman is among the names mentioned.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.