Get ready to hear the number “one” for the Detroit Tigers come free agency.
The free-agent signing period is almost upon us. I am as ready as anybody for the 2021 Detroit Tigers to return this once-proud organization to competitive baseball. However, I am not going big this offseason if I am Chris Ilitch and Al Avila.
The fan wrath is predictable. Chris Ilitch is cheap. He only cares about parking lots and hockey. Sell the team. Avila is terrible all the time. Fire him (Disclaimer: I do support regime change). I don’t care. It’s still time to play small ball.
There is still nothing that resembles a core for 2021 at the major league level to be solidifying around. This is the biggest factor for me. Do winning teams go crazy and buy around guys like Jeimer Candelario and Willi Castro? Throw in that we aren’t even sure which positions the hopeful core of Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson are going to play yet let alone the arrival time and it is all the more reason to wait a little longer.
The other factors:
Take a look at the MLB free agents class as written by Paul Casella and Manny Randhawa. I’m not going to go through every single player but almost every “big” guy at the positions of greatest weakness for the Tigers (OF, C, middle infield, 1B, Pitching) is either on the wrong side of 30 or deficient in a way like Marcel Ozuna is defensively.
I’m not locking into multi-year deals with a team not yet truly competitive for at least 2021 and likely not 2022. Do you really want a 34-year-old Springer at the possible start of a 2023 window opening? Or 33-year-old Marcus Semien who has some warning signs flashing now? I like the potential off-season class more next year but that’s a discussion for another day.
Sure there are a few players for a multi-year deal (Profar, Stroman etc…)that a solid case can be made for but remember it takes two to tango and the likelihood of either of these guys wanting to come to this situation right now without a severe overpay is unlikely. These two and a couple of others you could toss into this grouping should have plenty of multi-team interest due to age and perceived relative affordability.
Another large factor is the CBA. We don’t know what the rules of the game are going to be going forward. Keeping maximum flexibility and building out when we see who will be available with potential new free agency and service time rules seems prudent.
Lastly the money. Yes, it always comes back to the money. With the loss of revenue from 2020, the uncertainty at this point of how much stadium revenue will be generated in 2021, and the days of Mike Ilitch long gone, getting it right and not wasting resources is more important than ever. Making another Jordan Zimmermann mistake could be catastrophic.
A replication of the way the Detroit Tigers approached 2020 is exactly the way to go. Hope the injury bug doesn’t bite the signings again and over 70 wins could occur for the first time since 2016. It would still progress. If I was going to do a multi-year deal it’s for a starting pitcher for a much needed higher caliber signing than another Ivan Nova type.
It’s not exciting or what anybody really wants to hear but it’s the way to go. There are a lot of innings to fill for 2021. What will the Tigers do? It’s anybody guesses at this point and will make them an interesting follow as the days grow shorter and we retreat to our homes for another long, cold winter.