With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com takes a look at a different aspect of this year's Tigers squad each day this week. Today's topic: The perfect season.DETROIT -- Tigers players spent most of the offseason waiting in dread to see which of their peers might be traded away. As they
With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com takes a look at a different aspect of this year's Tigers squad each day this week. Today's topic: The perfect season.
DETROIT -- Tigers players spent most of the offseason waiting in dread to see which of their peers might be traded away. As they gathered at Comerica Park last month for TigerFest and the Winter Caravan, their dream season would be to force general manager Al Avila to spend the non-waiver Trade Deadline doing the opposite.
"There's no reason why we can't contend this year," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I think a lot of guys are excited to prove that. I think a lot of guys are excited to make Al's job really, really tough at Trade Deadline time and kind of handcuff him, where maybe we can add some pieces at the Trade Deadline and put ourselves in a good position."
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A lot of Tigers fans would no doubt like to see the same thing. Avila wouldn't particularly mind it, either.
"If we're playing well, and we're in it, I think it behooves us to keep on going, and try to keep on winning, and get to the playoffs," Avila said. "If the team is struggling, obviously, and we're down in the standings, and we're seeing that, 'Hey, this is not working,' at that point, you obviously have to reverse gears and try to make some trades. …
"What we're hoping for is that our team stays healthy, and our guys get off to a good start, and we're right there at the Trade Deadline as a good team, looking to the playoffs, rather than selling off. Because it'd be great to make the playoffs and get to the World Series."
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It would be a major leap forward for a team that hasn't made the postseason since 2014, hasn't won a playoff game since 2013 and has the challenge of the reigning American League champions -- an Indians team that beat Detroit 14 times in 18 games last year -- in its division. Yet considering the talk in the final week of last season, it doesn't necessarily take a major leap of faith, even if it takes a lot of things going right.
As the Tigers headed into the final weekend of last season, the talk was about a potentially dangerous team and a difficult matchup for opponents if they could get into the playoffs. Detroit's inconsistent offense was finally coming together with help from Justin Upton's late tear, and a rotation of Justin Verlander and youngsters was delivering quality outings. The main question, as in past years, was the bullpen.
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Aside from Cameron Maybin, dealt to the Angels in November, that team is still together, with the benefit of health. With free agency looming for many, this year looms as likely the last shot for this team before the Tigers go younger.
If they can get into the postseason, even as a Wild Card, they would take their chances with the matchups. A lengthy playoff run, with a shot at a World Series at the end, would be an appropriate sendoff.
"The window of opportunity continues to get smaller, but I love our team," said J.D. Martinez, one such free agent at season's end. "With all the injuries that we had last year, we only missed the playoffs by one game. So you never know what's going to happen."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.