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After falling to last in AL Central, Detroit Tigers face uncertain future with aging core


DETROIT — The run atop the AL Central was going to end at some point for the Detroit Tigers. This was an ugly way for it to happen.

There was no down-to-the-wire division race, no chase to the finish. Instead, the Tigers finished last with their worst record (74-87) since 2008.

Detroit was unable to overcome injuries to its core of Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez. And after four straight AL Central titles, the Tigers ended up sellers at the July 31 trade deadline, dealing David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria.

"When you trade those three guys at the deadline, you know, it's a little bit of a white flag," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I felt like if we had that group of people for the remainder of the season, then we would have had a shot."

The Tigers now have to hope those trades will help extend this team's window of opportunity to contend for a championship. When the 2008 club went 74-88, that turned out to be an aberration. But the 2016 Tigers will face plenty of challenges in a division dominated by Kansas City this year. The AL Central also includes Cleveland and Minnesota, which have enough young talent to stand firmly in the way of any Detroit resurgence.

The Tigers let general manager Dave Dombrowski go following the trade deadline, so Al Avila is now in that role. Detroit did announce that Ausmus will return as manager.

Some things learned during the 2015 season in Detroit:


PHOTO: Detroit Tigers left fielder Tyler Collins (18), misses a triple hit by Chicago White Sox's Trayce Thompson during the fourth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Detroit Tigers left fielder Tyler Collins (18), misses a triple hit by Chicago White Sox's Trayce Thompson during the fourth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Cabrera missed more than a month with a calf injury, but he's still one of baseball's best hitters. He won the American League batting title with a .338 average. J.D. Martinez gave the Tigers exactly what they needed in terms of middle-of-the-order production, hitting 38 home runs with 102 RBIs.


Losing Max Scherzer via free agency after the 2014 season was a big problem for Detroit's starting pitching, which took a step back even before Price was traded. Verlander made only 20 starts, and Anibal Sanchez went 10-10 with a 4.99 ERA. Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon did not do enough to solidify the back of the rotation.

"We weren't consistent as a starting staff," Verlander said. "You need to win some tight ones. You get your runs every now and again, but more consistent one through five goes a long way in this game."


One bright spot down the stretch was Verlander, who showed signs that even at age 32, he was still capable of dominant outings. He posted a 2.27 ERA over his final 14 starts.


Detroit acquired 22-year-old left-hander Daniel Norris in the deal for Price, and he went 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA for the Tigers.


Even if Norris holds down a rotation spot next year and Sanchez and Verlander are healthy, the Tigers could still use another front-line starting pitcher. The question is whether Detroit will spend big this offseason after already committing so much money to the Cabrera-Verlander-Martinez trio. The Tigers' bullpen has been consistently erratic over the past few seasons and can always use an upgrade.

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