The Detroit Tigers are entering a new stage in their rebuild, which has already spanned an impressively painful seven seasons. The team announced they had parted ways with former General Manager Al Avila on August 10th and around a month later on September 19th named Giants president of baseball operations Scott Harris their new general manager.
The Tigers have already made numerous coaching changes following a disappointing 66-96 season which saw them post nearly the worst offense in the MLB, with a constant rotation at starting pitcher. The team’s bullpen ranked fifth based on ERA and there is still a ton of room to grow there, so for once it doesn’t seem like the team’s bullpen will be their biggest area of weakness long term.
Hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh was let go after the Tigers averaged a .231/.286/.346 line in 2022 ranking dead last in home runs, runs, slugging percentage and WRC+. They ranked 29th in walk percentage and fourth worst in strikeout percentage. Sensational rookie talents Riley Green and Spencer Torkelson had up and down seasons but mainly flat, which needs to be a big focus going forward for them. Baez led the team with a 2.6 WAR which is impressive considering he also was the MLB lead in errors with 21. His .238/.278/.393 line was one of the worst of his career, only putting up 17 home runs, 67 RBIs, and 27 doubles; stats many Tigers fans weren’t expecting to see.
Infielder Jonathan Schoop posted a .202/.239/.322 line with only 11 home runs, 38 RBIs, and 23 doubles a year after putting up a .278/.320/.455 line with 22 home runs, 85 RBIs and 30 doubles in nearly 130 more at bats. He’s entering the final year of his contract scheduled to make 8.5M so something needs to change there. Third baseman, Jeimer Candelario seemed to breakout in 2021 posting .271/.351/.443 line with 16 home runs, 67 RBIs, and an MLB leading 42 doubles, this year he fell flat with a .217/.272/.351 line, 13 home runs, 50 RBIs and only 19 doubles in about 100 less plate appearances.
RP Joe Jimenez – 2.6M, offer arbitration
3B Jeimer Candelario – 7M, decline
RP Jose Cisnero – 2.2M. offer arbitration
OF Victor Reyes – 2.2M, decline
OF Austin Meadows – 4M, offer arbitration
UTL Harold Castro – 2.6M, offer arbitration
CP Gregory Soto – 3.1M, offer arbitration
SP Tyler Alexander – 1.6M, offer arbitration
UTL Willi Castro – 1.7M, decline
RP Rony Garcia – 1.1M, decline
RP Kyle Funkhouser – 800K, offer arbitration
Detroit will have roughly 112M in available payroll for this coming season and have an additional 30M coming off the books after this season when Miquel Cabrera inevitably retires. Starting with Candelario, and it’s a rough one, he’s shown the ability to be a talented player but paying seven million for a third baseman who showed to start a regression in 2022 with his lack of power and contact plus a diminishing defensive ability isn’t in the best interest of the Tigers long term. With young prospects being ready either this season or in the coming two, they’ll need to try and add a potential replacement but avoid a massive salary for a fringe heavy player. Reyes is another left handed outfielder who had a decent offensive season but his lack of defense isn’t going to hold up. The Tigers are deep in the outfield when it comes to left handed hitting with Austin Meadows, Akil Baddoo, Riley Greene in the majors and Parker Meadows showing his talent in the minors. Willi Castro and Rony Garcia had their roles but won’t be needed anymore.
Jimenez had a fantastic season out of the bullpen with a 3.49 ERA in 56.2 innings, allowing 4 home runs and 13 walks with 77 strikeouts, he’s far worth the 2.6 million. Cisnero was also strong with 25 innings posting 23 strikeouts, 19 walks and a 1.08 ERA. Meadows was injured for basically the entire season but he’s shown a ton of potential and star power, totally ignoring him would be an awful move for Detroit. Castro, Funkhouser, and Alexander serve depth roles which is all the Tigers will need. Gregory Soto struggled this season but also excelled, the Tigers will need to evaluate his best fit. He struggles as a closer but could be an excellent power arm. 3M for another reliever isn’t awful and it’ll give the team one more season to fully determine his value.
Updated Payroll Remaining: 96.1M
Pending Free Agents:
C Tucker Barnhart – projected 5.2M, let walk
P Drew Carlton – projected 720k, let walk
P Daniel Norris – projected 750k, let walk
RP Andrew Chafin – 7M player option, opts out
Barnhart was acquired from the Reds for Nick Quintana and wasn’t great, his framing ranked in the bottom half of the league and he posted a .221/.287/.267 line with only one home run, 16 RBIs, and 10 doubles. Norris and Carlton are just mid level pitching depth options and the Tigers have plenty of that in their farm system or acquired in free agency for cheaper routes. Chafin at 32 years old was a good reliever for the Tigers posting a 2.83 ERA in 57.1 innings with 67 strikeouts and only 19 walks plus a 1.17 WHIP. He has the ability to be a strong backdoor arm for Detroit and they’d like to have him back but 7 million is a lot for a reliever, regardless it’s Chafin’s choice and I assume he can earn more elsewhere.
Updated Payroll Remaining: 96.1M
The Tigers could consider trading Javier Baez if a team is willing to take on his contract but Johnathan Schoop is the priority to trade, while he’s definitely not going to net you anywhere near a large return due to his lack of hitting but coming off a season which saw him lead the MLB in outs above average and runs saved there are teams willing to look at shipping a mid level prospect for a high end defensive infielder. Shipping him off will also save the team 7.5M from their payroll
Updated Payroll Remaining: 103.6M
The Tigers are going to have a lot of needs to fill in the next couple seasons under Scott Harris and I don’t expect him to go fully in on spending this off-season as the team looks to shed contracts, develop their young talent and really put a cohesive young team together. That said they’ll have to likely focus on adding a catcher, middle infielder, third baseman, outfielder, and some pitching this off-season.
C Omar Narvaez: 1 year, 3.2M
- The Tigers will likely rely on Eric Haase to handle all of their starting catching roles after a continued strong season in 2022 following his 2021 breakout campaign. Narvaez isn’t going to mash the baseball only putting a career .258/.343/.386 line with 51 home runs, 191 RBIs and 76 doubles but he’s strong defensively and can fill in with Jake Rodgers potentially when Haase needs rest.
OF Will Meyers: 2 years, 21M
- Meyers might be exactly what the Tigers need for the corner of their outfields, he’s nearly 32 years old so a two year deal makes sense and he’s also a plus defender with good power and contact blend as well. His right handed approach might crush it in Comerica, which is hard to do. Meyers was good posting a .261/.315/.398 line with seven home runs, 41 RBIs and 15 doubles in only 77 games but the Padres are tight for cash and his 20M option just seems the easiest to get out of.
SP Ross Stripling: 1 year, 10M
- The Tigers need to fill the void left by Casey Mize and Stripling should do the job. He posted a 10-4 record with a 3.01 ERA in 134.4 innings last year with 111 strikeouts. It was the best season of his career, which has been a good one to say the least. 10 million for a rental is a ton but he’s worth it for the Tigers rotation.
INF Brandon Drury: 2 years, 12M
- Drury is a savvy veteran infielder who can play all four spots and corner outfielder if needed. The Tigers will be looking to replace Candelario with solid production while letting future third baseman Izaac Pacheco develop. Drury plays great defense and is a slightly above average hitter. Coming off a season where he slashed .263/.320/.492 with 28 HR, 78 RBIs, and 31 doubles in 138 games he’s going to cash in. Detroit is the perfect landing spot.
INF Dansby Swanson: 4 years, 104M
- I keep telling myself not to project the Tigers signing a big money player but with Scott Harris’s aggressive nature and the Tigers simple lack of hitting, Dansby Swanson makes a ton of sense. He’s going to be expensive and Detroit can easily afford it. He’s a streaky player which slightly brings his value down but coming off a .277/.329/.447 season with 32 doubles, 25 home runs and 96 RBIs plus 18 stolen bases in 162 games he fits this Tigers infield. They have Baez who can rotate out to second base and Detroit can figure out what to do once Jace Jung comes up in a couple seasons but right now Torkelson, Swanson, Baez, Drury form a strong infield defensively and at the plate that they lack.
RP Jose Alvarez: 1 year, 3M
- Alvarez is coming off a rough year with the Giants posting a 5.28 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 2-1 record in only 15 innings. However over his career he’s a consistent 3.4 ERA guy who can put up 50 plus strikeouts as a power arm out of the back end of the bullpen. He’s a former Tiger and has a connection with Scott Harris. It all works out for a return to the Tigers.
C: Eric Haase, RHH
1B: Spencer Torkelson, RHH
2B: Javier Baez, RHH
3B: Brandon Drury, RHH
SS: Dansby Swanson, RHH
LF: Austin Meadows, LHH
CF: Riley Greene, LHH
RF: Will Meyers, RHH
DH: Miguel Cabrera, RHH
OF/DH: Kerry Carpenter, LHH
OF: Akil Baddoo, LHH
INF: Ryan Kreidler, RHH
INF: Andre Lipcius, RHH (rookie, Tigers 22nd ranked prospect)
C: Omar Navarez, LHH
SP: Spencer Turnbull, RHP
SP: Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
SP: Ross Stripling, RHP
SP: Beau Brieske, RHP
SP: Joey Wentz, LHP
Tarik Skubal is expected to return around June after undergoing elbow surgery last September. Once he returns he’ll likely slot into the Tigers 2nd or 3rd starting pitcher spot. Casey Mize is out for the season with Tommy John surgery.
RP: Jason Foley, RHP
RP: Will Vest, RHP
RP: Angel De Jesus, RHP
RP: Gregory Soto, LHP
RP: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP
RP: Jose Alvarez, LHP
RP: Jose Cisnero, RHP
CP: Joe Jimenez, RHP