Tigers should be concerned about rotation

Right now, the Detroit Tigers are selling Justin Verlander's sore triceps as a minor injury, with the likelihood that he will miss just one start and pitch the sixth game of the season on April 12.

Still, it's the first time Verlander has landed on the DL in his career and, combined with his bad 2014, is just another red flag for a pitcher who has had three straight seasons of decline after his 2011 MVP/Cy Young season.

Just two years ago, the Tigers had one of the best rotations of the past few decades. But that group has been torn apart by trade, free agency and Verlander's decline. Is it still one of the best groups in the American League? I'm not so sure. A quick look:

1. David Price: He came over last season, but essentially takes Max Scherzer's place as the team's ace. It will be interesting to see how he does with a full season in Detroit: He gets away from some of the smaller parks of the AL East, but Tampa was actually a pretty good pitchers' park (Price's career ERA at Tropicana Field is 2.85 compared to 3.21 overall). Comerica has the reputation as a pitchers' park, but it's not. It slightly suppresses home runs, but overall it's a good run-scoring environment. Anyway, Baseball-Reference estimated Scherzer's value at 6.0 WAR last year, Price at 4.6. Best-case scenario is probably that Price matches Scherzer's value.

2. Anibal Sanchez: The 2013 AL ERA champ is terrific -- when healthy. He's averaged just 154 innings the past two seasons.

3. Verlander: His innings have declined from 251 to 238 to 218 to 206. His ERA has risen from 2.40 to 2.64 to 3.46 to 4.54. His average fastball velocity has dropped from 94.8 mph to 94.2 to 93.3 to 92.3. Even if you discount last year somewhat because of the core surgery he had after the 2013 season, I don't see any reason to assume he'll be the pitcher he was in 2011 or 2012. Better than 2014? Sure, that's possible. Cy Young contender? Unlikely.

4. Alfredo Simon: I'm not a big fan of this acquisition. Basically, Simon and Yoenis Cespedes replace Rick Porcello and Torii Hunter. The best part about that swap is getting Hunter's terrible defense out of the outfield. Porcello and Hunter were worth 4.4 WAR last year; FanGraphs projects Simon and Cespedes at 3.9 WAR, most of that coming from Cespedes. Simon made the All-Star team with a strong first half with the Reds fueled by a lucky batting average on balls in play; that normalized in the second half and his ERA rose to 4.52. Now he moves to the American League. It could work out or the Tigers could be looking to replace him in July.

5. Shane Greene: I actually like Greene. He essentially replaces the Drew Smyly/Price slot in the rotation that had a 3.94 ERA in 2014. Greene is certainly capable of that, but he's also in his first full season and remains a bit of a wild card.

Big picture: The Detroit rotation had a 4.01 ERA last year -- 11th in the AL -- and I don't see how it's going to be much better unless Verlander bounces back in a big way. This injury makes that a little less likely to happen. To be fair, FanGraphs is a little more optimistic, projecting Detroit as the fourth-best rotation in the AL at 11.0 WAR -- but that's a far cry from the 23.1 FanGraphs WAR of 2013. That team won 93 games and scored 796 runs. Last year's team won 90 games and scored 757 runs. Even with improved defense from Cespedes and a healthy Jose Iglesias at shortstop, I'm not sure this is a 90-win team in 2015.