Even with postseason success, Tigers have holes

With the St. Louis Cardinals’ improbable run to the World Series, the baseball season is officially over and Detroit Tigers fans can once again begin to consider the ‘what ifs’ and their potential for next year.

The Tigers were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual runner-up in the World Series, the Texas Rangers, and struggled during the playoffs with injuries and inconsistencies.

Newly acquired outfielder Delmon Young and designated hitter Victor Martinez each had oblique injuries, All-star catcher Alex Avila had knee problems, not to mention outfielder Brennan Boesch who was out before the playoffs with a thumb injury, and outfielder Magglio Ordonez re-injuring his ankle.

A bullpen that was so sound in the regular season dwindled down to just Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde and bats just couldn’t come through in big spots.

What if, right?

Now that the season is over, the Tigers and General Manager Dave Dombrowski, fresh off a new four-year deal, have some immediate decisions to make.

Veteran free agents Carlos Guillen, Ordonez and Brad Penny have more than likely played their last games with the Tigers, unless they take huge pay cuts, which would open up some cap space.

Young, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Twins, should be resigned and Valverde’s $9 million option has already been picked up.

That leaves utility man Ramon Santiago and relief pitcher Joel Zumaya.

Santiago is still producing and is solid defensively at second base when called upon, so for the right price, the Tigers should resign him.

Zumaya on the other hand had so much potential, but has been plagued by injuries and should not be resigned.

With the in-house players taken care of, the Tigers now need to bolster their line up with a back up catcher (so Avila’s knees aren’t destroyed by age 30), a relief pitcher to sure-up the bull pen, a starting pitcher to fill the five spot in the rotation and a second and third baseman.

The most obvious need is a catcher. Avila caught 18 consecutive games down the stretch in his first year of full duty catching and seemed exhausted by the end of the year.

If the Tigers don’t find a feasible back up, Avila could be hurting again.

As for the pitching staff, relief pitching is a big part of what killed the Tigers and got the Rangers to the World Series.

The Tigers need to add another dominant arm to the pen that can work some innings to get to Benoit and Valverde. Adding another arm to the rotation could be filled through free agency, but top prospect Jacob Tuner is also an option.

There aren’t many great second baseman in this year’s free agent class, so Santiago and Ryan Raburn could be paraded out up the middle.

At third, Brandon Inge might have one more year left in him, but the Tigers desperately need someone who can hit and field at the position.

If the Tigers add a few more pieces to the pitching staff and can get a decent third baseman, along with a back up for Avila, these ‘what ifs’ could turn into realities and we could be looking at the Tigers fifth World Series title.