Strengths: Starting pitching and the best hitter on the planet. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are as good a one two punch as any at the top of a rotation, assuming of course that Verlander’s early season struggles in 2013 were an aberration and not the norm. The underrated Doug Fister is also still there and shouldn’t be ignored. There still isn’t a better hitter than Miguel Cabrera, and there’s enough around him that scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem.
Weaknesses: The bullpen. Apart from Drew Smyly, this unit was calamitous. Personally, bullpens like this one are why the prices for relievers have gotten out of control. They see an otherwise excellently built team be done in time and time again by a terrible pen and go, “Oh my GOD, we better hurry and give Brandon League 24 million over 3 years!” Anyway, rumor has it the Tigers are trying to address their shortcomings here with Brian Wilson, who showed at the end of last year and the playoffs that he has something left in the tank.
Off-Season Needs: Apart from improved relief pitching, they should probably sort out what the infield is going to be now that the Fielder for Kinsler trade happened. I think moving Cabrera to first and leaving Kinsler at second, which is not an easy position to play, but also not nearly as physically demanding as the talking heads make it out to be, is the best strategy. Then they can resign the better-than-you-really-ever-thought-he-would-turn-out-admit-it, Omar Infante to play third, or even veteran, Juan Uribe.
2014 Outlook: Positive. The division is pretty winnable, though they shouldn’t overlook an improving Cleveland Indians squad. I’ve never been one to give a lot of credence to off-the-field “distractions” or nonsense along those lines, but if Dave Dombrowski does depart as rumored, that would mean a new manager AND a new GM in one off-season for a team that performed well. You expect turnover from crappy teams, but one wonders if that could have an effect on a good one. We’ll see.