Wiping sweat from my brow on a summer-like fall day in Michigan to comb through the mailbag as the last week of the Tigers' season begins:
Which of the young guns will join the rotation first, and when? -- Major Miggy, @majormiggy
The Tigers are preaching patience with their talented starting pitching prospects, and for good reason: There's little reason to rush them to the big leagues. But the Tigers have also shown recently that they want their top prospects to be challenged, which is why they promoted Beau Burrows to Double-A Erie in midseason at age 20, and why they pushed Bryan Garcia from Class A West Michigan in April all the way to Triple-A Toledo by August. Detroit has also pushed young starters to the Majors in the past, notably Rick Porcello in 2009 and Jeremy Bonderman in '03.
Burrows has the best chance to make it to the Majors first. He'll likely open the 2018 season back at Erie or at Toledo, where he should get ample time to learn how to attack veteran Minor League hitters. But at the rate Burrows has made strides, it's not crazy to think he could make his big league debut by the end of 2018. Franklin Perez, the club's top prospect from the Justin Verlander trade, might not be far behind, having ended last season at the Double-A level in the Astros' system. But he's 15 months younger, and he has fewer starts at Double-A.
Will the Tigers sign stopgap free agents or completely start plugging youngsters into open positions?
-- Jaime Villarreal, @jfvillarreal
Expect the Tigers to look for low-cost signings at some spots. They'll need an innings-eater to fill a rotation spot. Detroit might use another outfielder to help fill the gap until Christin Stewart or Mike Gerber are ready, depending on Alex Presley's future. The Tigers could probably use a veteran reliever. They could sign another middle infielder in case they trade Ian Kinsler in the offseason, which is why they signed Omar Infante last offseason. Ideally, Detroit could sign a free agent or two on the rebound with the hope of flipping them for prospects at next July's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Tigers also need to make sure there's a good presence in what will be a young clubhouse.
Why did it take so long to diagnose Miguel Cabrera with herniated discs? -- Brett Timmer, @BTimmer34
Historically, if Cabrera can play through an injury, he'll do it, and he'll get an exam if he can't play. According to manager Brad Ausmus, Cabrera was going to have an MRI on his back at home in Miami after the season. This isn't a shock: We didn't learn he was playing with a groin tear in 2013 until he had surgery after the season, and we didn't know about the broken foot he played through in '14 until he had ankle surgery when the season ended. We might look at this season differently because the Tigers aren't in contention, but that doesn't mean Cabrera does.
Am I the only one that thinks Anibal Sanchez option might not be a horrible idea for next year? Not thinking other options will be cheaper.
-- Michael Siffer, @SifferMichael
The Tigers are expected to decline Sanchez's $16 million option for next year. That would not preclude them from trying to re-sign Sanchez at a lower salary if they believe he can provide them innings, though he would be a free agent and could sign anywhere he wants.
Will Andrew Romine get to play all nine positions in one game?
-- Brandon J. Noppe, @Noppe2010
If the Twins have clinched a Wild Card spot by Sunday, Ausmus has hinted that we might see Romine play every position. Now that Ausmus' fate has been decided, those chances look stronger. Ausmus clearly has thought about how he would do it, down to where Romine would probably start the game and how other players would shift around to make room. Stay tuned.
Which players are most likely to be playing elsewhere because they are out of Minor League options?
-- Dan Hogan, @DanHogan95
The most likely is Bruce Rondon, who's out of options and will be arbitration-eligible for a second time. His omission from September callups was glaring. Beyond that, the Tigers have to figure out if Tyler Collins has a role in Detroit. Lefty reliever Blaine Hardy will also be out of options.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.