3 Concerns for the Tigers to address in 2020
By Jacob Boes
It takes a lot to be the worst team in baseball, but here’s three things we’d like to see go right for the Detroit Tigers in 2020.
The destruction is complete according to Al Avila, but it will take time for him to begin to build the MLB roster back into contention. In what will almost assuredly be the sixth straight season the Tigers will miss the postseason, there are still stories and players to pay mind to that will play a factor in how soon and how successful the next playoff team will be.
Although nearly half of the line up was signed on a one-year deal this off-season, there are still questions about the team that this season can help grant clarity to for the future:
1. The health of Miguel Cabrera
When Miguel Cabrera signed his massive extension with the Tigers, there were many who felt he could be a David Ortiz-like situation; a player who was forced into a DH role but was still very productive late in his career. David Ortiz, however, did not have a chronic knee injury as Cabrera was diagnosed with in 2019.
Cabrera is under contract through 2023 with mutual options in 2024 and 2025; so keeping him healthy is vital as the Tigers start to put other long-term assets around him. Cabrera has a full no-trade clause. Between his $30 million to $32 million in salary each year, his injury, and the fact he is entering his age-37 season, it is imperative the Tigers do everything in their power to keep him as productive as possible to avoid being faced with the decision to let go of a player who will have a statue in center field one day.
2. The development of Christin Stewart
I don’t think anyone can argue the clock is ticking on Christin Stewart. The left fielder posted below average defensive metrics in 2019, which was to be expected. What was not expected was a .233/.305/.422 line and a -.4 bWAR. Stewart’s offense carries his profile–If he can hit 25 HR and take his walks as he has in the minors, the Tigers can tolerate his below average defense. If not, they will need to look outside of the organization for a corner outfielder in 2021.
3. Quality innings from the whole pitching staff
Ron Gardenhire and his staff struggled mightily in 2019 to find quality innings both out of the starters and the bullpen. Spencer Turnbull spent two different stints on the injured list, Daniel Norris was on an innings limit, and Jordan Zimmermann’s injury history is longer than a CVS receipt.
Pitchers like Gregory Soto were forced into situations that did not suit their skill set due to the lack of arms available to get them through a game. This year, they shouldn’t be forced into mishandling their young guys. Some of their big pitching prospects will be ready by mid-season to help augment the staff in the wake of injuries or poor performance, ideally keeping their starters and relievers from swapping roles.
Of course, on a rebuilding team, there are miles of concerns, but these three areas will have an influence on the direction of the team for years to come. After spending seasons making an effort to lose; improvement needs to be the focus.