DETROIT — Dave Dombrowski believes Detroit's window to win a World Series is still very much open.
The Tigers' general manager offered few specifics about any immediate moves during Tuesday's news conference, but outlined a couple areas he'd like to improve during the offseason. One of them is the bullpen — an obvious trouble spot throughout 2014. Dombrowski would also like an upgrade in center field.
The Tigers won their fourth-straight AL Central title this year but were swept in the division series by Baltimore. With stars Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez set to become free agents — and with Kansas City and Cleveland mounting more of a challenge within the division — Detroit's future suddenly looks a bit more uncertain.
"We have a good team and we have a good foundation coming back for sure," Dombrowski said. "We're going to have a very hefty payroll. We know that we have good core players."
Manager Brad Ausmus will be back for a second season, but Dombrowski did not say whether the team would pick up reliever Joakim Soria's option for 2015. He also wouldn't say whether the team planned to make any qualifying offers to pending free agents like Scherzer and Martinez, saying it wasn't appropriate to make announcements like that while the postseason was still in progress.
It may be harder than usual for Dombrowski to anticipate what this offseason will look like, since a lot presumably depends on whether the team loses Scherzer and Martinez. Detroit already made one major move this year that could help mitigate Scherzer's potential departure, acquiring left-hander David Price at the trade deadline. Even if Scherzer leaves, Detroit will have Price, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello in the starting rotation.
"That's a pretty good place to start with those four," Dombrowski said, adding that Miguel Cabrera will still be in the middle of the lineup.
But the Tigers had to give up center fielder Austin Jackson to acquire Price, leaving the team to try Rajai Davis, Ezequiel Carrera and Don Kelly at center. Dombrowski says he'd be interested in a lefty-hitting center fielder who could platoon with Davis — or someone who might be able to play center full time. Elsewhere in the outfield, Torii Hunter is another pending free agent, and faces an uncertain future.
The bullpen may also be targeted for an overhaul. Dombrowski said Joe Nathan, who posted a 4.81 ERA and blew seven saves this year, will probably still be the closer heading into the 2015. "But then he has to perform up to the capabilities of doing that," Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski said reliever Joba Chamberlain was dealing with a family issue this season; his mother has been sick. Soria, meanwhile, went down with an oblique strain in August. But the Tigers were hopeful those three were finally pitching well heading into the postseason, but that was not the case.
Dombrowski did indicate the team still thinks highly of Soria, who has a $7 million team option.
"If we pick up his option, he'd be a very important member of our bullpen," Dombrowski said. "I think in his case, and in David Price's case, when we acquired them we not only looked at 2014 but 2015."
Cabrera dealt with ankle problems this year, and though Dombrowski did not rule out surgery, he said any sort of procedure would be minor.
"There's a spur in there, and people that have looked at him so far tell me that if it has to be removed, it's a relatively easy — for them — procedure," Dombrowski said. "But I don't want to draw any conclusions yet, because he's not done with that whole process."
Catcher Alex Avila has had to deal with concussion problems, though assistant general manager Al Avila, Alex's father, said Tuesday that tests show Alex is "healthy" and "ready to go."
"He should have no issues moving forward," Al Avila said, "as far as life-threatening things or career-ending things — at this point the doctors have given him no indication that that's the case."
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