LAKELAND, Fla. – Uncertainty abounds for the 2017 Detroit Tigers.
After a stagnant offseason that saw the club make few headlines with trades or free agent signings, the Motor City-based team returns with nearly the same roster it had a year ago.
In the outfield, though, a gaping hole has opened. The Tigers traded center fielder Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Dodgers and did little to replace the star.
Like Maybin, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is no longer with the club after leaving with free agency. In his place is a familiar face as six-year Tiger veteran Alex Avila rejoins the team after a one-year stint with the Chicago White Sox.
The Tigers face an uphill battle this year as both they and the pennant-winning Cleveland Indians play in the central division of the American League. According to Tom Zahari of the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers do not want to rebuild their roster. With a largely unchanged team and a roster anchored by aging stars such as Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, several players will need to perform better in 2017.
As the Tigers begin their campaign to improve on last year’s 86-75 mark, all eyes will be on two players: Victor Martinez and Michael Fulmer. According to the team, Martinez, a 38-year-old designated hitter underwent minor hernia surgery in October, repairing an injury that had bothered him all last season. Team officials say he is ready to go for this season.
Fulmer, on the other hand, performed well in 2016. The 23-year-old starting pitcher posted a record of 11-9 last season, picking up the American League Rookie of the Year Award in the process. The club will look for him to pick up where he left off last September.
Pitchers and catchers report to the team’s spring training headquarters at Joker Marchant Stadium on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.