DETROIT -- The Tigers have been trying to build a bullpen ever since their run of division titles earlier in the decade. They're facing a much bigger rebuilding project involving the whole roster now, but they might finally have a stockpile of young talent to build a good relief corps in time. They'll take their struggles again this year, but between the arms in Detroit and prospects on the way, this might finally be the group of pitchers to grow into roles.
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With six weeks remaining before the start of Spring Training, MLB.com is taking a look at the projected relief corps of all 30 teams. Here's how the Tigers might stack up:
BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Shane Greene, RHP (closer)
Alex Wilson, RHP
Daniel Stumpf, LHP
Drew VerHagen, RHP
Joe Jimenez, RHP
Blaine Hardy, LHP
Buck Farmer, RHP
For a month, Greene looked like one of the more impressive closers in the league after taking over the role following Justin Wilson's trade to the Cubs. A dearth of save opportunities left him rusty in September, but his ability to channel the adrenaline of a close game while also working multiple innings if needed makes him the kind of valued closer the Tigers could've used for years.
The Tigers have no proven relievers beyond Greene and setup man Wilson. Stumpf had a good stretch run last year as Detroit's primary lefty reliever, holding left-handed hitters to a .220 average, but he has to follow it up. Jimenez has been the closer of the future for a couple years, but he struggled mightily in his first extended run in Detroit. VerHagen and Farmer are converted starters who are out of Minor League options. The Tigers need a few of them to help bridge the gap between a young rotation and the late-innings duo of Wilson and Greene.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
The Tigers will probably add some candidates to this group by the time they open Spring Training next month, but the heated bullpen market priced them out of more proven arms and has pushed them toward bounceback candidates. On the other hand, Detroit has a group of prospects beyond Jimenez knocking on the door. Zac Reininger had a limited September audition last year, while Bryan Garcia finished games from Class A West Michigan to Triple-A Toledo and could become Detroit's next closer candidate with a strong camp.
Speaking of which, the Tigers may still trade Greene if they can find the right offer, though he's likely to be more valuable at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.