Free agent names such as Hiroki Kuroda, Roy Oswalt, and Edwin Jackson are still in play. Tigers fans know what Jackson brings to the table. He was an All Star with Detroit in 2009, winning 13 games and throwing over 200 innings. Jackson is a horse and a good bet to throw 200 innings again in 2012. He is also known for his high pitch counts. The perplexing thing about Jackson is that for a player that is only 27 possessing his type of talent, he has already pitched for six different big league teams.
Kuroda also threw over 200 innings last year with the Dodgers and won 13 games with a 3.07 ERA. He doesn't walk many and his lifetime ERA in four seasons with the Dodgers is 3.45. Kuroda made $12 million last year with LA.
Oswalt is 34 years old and is coming off a five-year, $71 million deal. He reportedly is looking for a one year deal to prove that he is healthy so that he can try free agency again next year. Oswalt missed six weeks with back problems last season and made only 23 starts, posting a 3.69 ERA. He won 2o games twice with the Astros and was a top of the rotation guy.
Down on the farm, the contenders appear to be Jacob Turner, Andy Oliver, Adam Wilk, Duane Below and Drew Smyly. Dave Dombrowski's preference though would be to sign a veteran guy to a one year deal. All of the names mentioned above have pitched in the big leagues with the exception of Smyly.
Turner and Oliver remain at the higher end of the prospect list, but an impressive spring could provide an opportunity for one of the other three. Eventually, the plan is for Turner not only to be a part of the starting rotation, but to be a top end guy. Every single scout that I have talked to predicts big things for Turner. Remember though, he was drafted out of high school and won't turn 21 until next May.
Smyly was reportedly one of the prospects the A's wanted included in a deal for Gio Gonzalez. The left-hander won 11 games with a 2.06 ERA in his minor league time split with AA Erie and Class A Lakeland last season.
Regardless of what happens in the fifth spot, the Tigers feel very comfortable with their top four of Verlander, Fister, Scherzer and Porcello. If that quartet pitches as expected, the fifth spot may only require an arm that can chew up his share of innings.