Detroit Tigers: Will Mize, Manning and Skubal punch the clock in The Show?
Whenever a struggling MLB club, like the Detroit Tigers, have a few beacons of hope in their minor league system the chatter about prospective debuts and the service time clock is a necessary and inevitable discussion.
For Detroit Tigers General Manager Al Avila in this COVID-19 delay, the “promotion issue” for his young stars is being magnified by the ongoing mess that is the murky state of matters between MLB owners and the MLBPA. How long will this season be and when will it start? Will there be a season at all? It would be awesome to “pull an Angel Hernandez” and listen in to Avila’s discussion on various scenarios centered around the issue.
Detroit has three burgeoning young aces in their organization who might be ready to contribute at the big league level in 2020.
Former first round selections Casey Mize and Matt Manning have looked the part of pitchers who could compete for innings in Detroit and fulfill their draft day promise.
Southpaw Tarik Skubal busted out across multiple levels last season with eye-popping K-rates and scintillating radar gun numbers. For now, he appears to be onboard a freight train bound for the majors with only a short stopover in Toledo remaining.
The Tigers have some other solid-looking young pitchers who might be ready for a taste of MLB action like Alex Faedo and Beau Burrows…but it’s “The Nuclear Triad” of Mize, Manning, and Skubal who need to be nurtured most as prize assets. It’s where the issues of service time really become a factor.
The Detroit Tigers’ Handling Service Time
Quite often service time isn’t really that big of an issue with lots of pitchers. You’re best off using them while they’re healthy because, let’s be honest, “pitchers break”. Their fragility is a great reason to use them up and spit them out.
However, Detroit has built much of their hopes of pulling off a successful rebuild of their big league club on the shoulders of Mize, Manning, and now Skubal. If any or all of them fulfill the initial promise we see now and evolve into an ace or aces, it would be great to tack on that 7th season of team control before free agency if the service time is manipulated properly. Especially if a contending club this season isn’t being deprived of their talent.
It must be said “service time manipulation” has become a bit of a dirty phrase around certain parts of the baseball commenting world. Many believe the team should get its best players on a roster the very second it can be justified. This is to help the team now, entertain the fans, and to not play cheap money games with players who should be in the majors and toiling away in Triple-A awaiting a calendar to flip.
But the system in place now as described fully by Christina Kahrl at ESPN is the only game in town for now. The Tigers need to make a decision best suited to optimize the team’s future or to optimize the player’s future. Often those two points don’t intersect immediately at the start of a player’s career. The bet here is the team’s needs will win out.
The situation is further muddied by not only figuring out how the 2020 season will look but also knowing a new collective bargaining agreement is slated to begin in 2021 if one can be reached. The system of team control and qualifying for free agency might look significantly different at that time rendering worry over the issue now rather moot.
In the end, it just might come down to the number of games played this season and the likelihood of the Tigers making any kind of Cinderella run to a playoff berth.
It would seem the Tigers best shot at entering the post-season in ‘20 would be if negotiations stall, MLB decides to unilaterally impose the 48 or 50 game season, and the MLBPA decides to play it.
A short season gives a bad team a fighting chance to launch a surprise run before the crushing weight of the long MLB season can overwhelm them in the dog days of summer. If Detroit decided to use their young arms to bolster the pitching staff behind Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris they could pitch well enough to support their questionable looking offense for 50 games. Enough to contend? Probably not…but not impossible.
On Monday however, MLB did offer the players a 76 game season. If the two sides ever settle between 76 and, say, 90 games the Tigers post-season chances dwindle precipitously. At this point it would seem much more likely the Tigers would allow the Triad to pitch scrimmages in Lakeland and then take part in the extended Fall leagues being bandied about as a solution to get their innings in for the year.
The Tigers have been a very mediocre to outright awful major league team since their last playoff berth in 2014. Many fans are restless, even the ones who accepted the rebuilding as necessary. The COVID-19 delay hasn’t helped anyone’s patience either. People want them to win.
However…that patience needs to be tested again. Mize, Manning and Skubal provide hope. Young Riley Greene does as well. The Tigers will also add a premium talent on Wednesday night with the first overall pick. Rounding up these assets has been done via the endurance of withstanding some wretched baseball to gain draft day poll position. Don’t abandon the plan yet for hurried promotions in a weirdly truncated season. It seems necessary to keep things reigned in for now and target 2021 as the year the Tigers hope to unleash the talented hounds upon the AL Central.
The Nuclear Triad will debut then while the Tigers fight it out one more year with Jordan Zimmermann and Miguel Cabrera, MLB stars of the decade past.