Detroit Tigers: The 2020 Offseason Grades are Out

Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch hits balls to the infield Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021 on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Fla.Spring Training
Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch hits balls to the infield Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021 on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Fla.Spring Training /

Our staff got together and put together the Detroit Tigers’ off-season grades as spring training gets underway.

The Detroit Tigers among both AL and NL Central teams were among one of the more active teams in terms of making personal moves. As a collective, the AL Central spent $180.25 million dollars.  The division that spent the least? The NL Central at $67.95 million.

The Tigers have an entirely brand new coaching staff led by AJ Hinch but what seems to be the collective conscious winner among our contributors as the biggest win of the offseason was the hiring of pitching coach Chris Fetter.

Overall, our grades seem to go all over the grading scale. Let’s take a look going from highest to lowest.

Detroit Tigers MCB staff grades:

Marty Tallman: Co-contributor

The Detroit Tigers earned a “B” grade for me this offseason and this mostly based on the signing of the best available head coach on the market, A.J. Hinch. Hinch is the perfect coach to head this rebuild. Now from a roster construction standpoint, it’s obvious the front office was determined not to sign any big free agents and it appears their goal is to tread water until at least 2022.

With that said, they did add some serviceable pieces. I do like the additions of Robbie Grossman, Wilson Ramos, and Julio Teheran plus the resigning of Jonathan Schoop. But ultimately, these players will not move the needle this year, so in many ways, we are just rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

Jacob Boes: Co-contributor

Offseason Grade: B-

I have seen others that wanted to give the club an A for their offseason efforts. I respect it and can certainly understand the rationale, but an A would have to be a flawless, jugular-shot that propelled the team into playoff contention. Those would be the trading for Miguel Cabrera-type offseasons. The San Diego Padres-type offseasons. That is not what happened.

On a macro-level, I disagreed with the approach. It is going to take some time to acquire the necessary talent to field a contender and starting that process now as their young pitching establishes themselves made a lot of sense to me. There simply isn’t enough talent available to fill each need within one offseason.

Having said that, they did make upgrades at several positions that pushed out players that likely didn’t deserve a spoon-fed regular role. Robbie Grossman, Wilson Ramos, and Nomar Mazara all present undeniable upgrades to what they had last season, especially offensively. I like the minor league deals with Nunez and Teheran as pieces likely to contribute with virtually no risk. Bringing back Schoop also made some sense given his familiarity with the Tigers and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh.

In the context of the hand that management was given, they did a fine job. I just wish they would have more seriously examined some high-end upgrades to jumpstart their contention window.
Chris Brown: Co-expert

I suppose I’ll give them a B-. They didn’t do the one thing I wanted — add a big, expensive free agent as a sign they’re ready to compete again — but I think they managed to fill all of their roster holes with competent players while not really blocking any of their young guys. I thought the biggest need was to find pitchers to cover innings as they jump from 60 to 162 games, and I think Ureña and Teheran are solid options there.

Schoop and Grossman and Ramos are all solid vets, and Mazara still has a tiny bit of upside. Overall it was a decent offseason for a team that clearly isn’t trying to compete, but also doesn’t want to be a complete embarrassment.

Michael Sicilia: Co-contributor

I give the Detroit Tigers offseason a C on the offensive side. They did what I expected with respectable 1-year deals, although they could have been a little more aggressive and targeted a little higher quality for just a few bucks more I’m not going to quibble.

Pitching it’s a D….hate the (Jose) Urena signing, like the (Julio) Teheran shot, but 1 more legit Innings eater with some upside was a must in my book and they failed to accomplish this, instead of relying on hopes and prayers.

Joe Heinstikill: Co-contributor

C+ – I think the best way to describe the Tiger’s off-season is to say, I just wanted more. I understood this was unlikely to be the year Detroit invested heavily in free agency. But, with the significant money that has come off the books (Detroit is currently 24th overall in payroll per Sportrac) and the league-wide money concerns generated by the pandemic, it felt like the opportunity was there to spend strategically. It is difficult to say if any specific free agent would have been interested in coming to Detroit especially since they are unlikely to be competitive. However, several free agents fit the mold of undervalued during the current economic situation and were players that could still be productive when the Tigers hope to be good again. The names have been discussed all off-season but Taijuan Walker, Kolten Wong, Joc Pederson, and Tommy La Stella were some that fit that description (I also suppose Jackie Bradley does as well and he is still unsigned).

It wasn’t all negative though. The additions this off-season should give Tigers fans a better product on the field at the start of the season. Wilson Ramos is a massive upgrade offensively at catcher (I will avoid typing something snarky here about past production), Grossman is potentially undervalued, and they did add some power that was desperately lacking in Mazara, Schoop, and Nunez. Some rotation depth was added (I would have liked a bit more, however) in Urena and pitchers on minor league deals (Teheran and Holland) which should help manage the innings of the young starters.

In all the off-season basically met my expectations for what I thought the Tigers would do however I feel like they missed an opportunity to spend and accelerate the rebuild. It would have been nice for the organization to show the fans they were ready (and willing) to invest and break out of the current cycle of losing (at least to some extent).

Jon Welter: Co-contributor

My grade was a “C”. It was no secret the Tigers were going to be quiet on the free-agent market this offseason. But, even grading on a curve, Detroit’s offseason was boringly average. There were many players that signed minor league contracts with other teams that could have been starters for the 2021 Tigers that I’m disappointed they didn’t sign.

It could be in hopes of spending next offseason on one of the high-profile shortstops set to hit the market but a couple of one-year deals would have done a lot to make this team more interesting. Though the Tigers could turn this offseason grade into an A if they secure a couple of long-term extensions with their top prospects.

Jon Erkkila: Co-Contributor

Detroit Tigers Off-Season Grade “D” Any off-season where there was more or less a declaration of not competing for premium players is a failure. There was nothing wrong with the players they secured to put a bit of lipstick on the proverbial pig for one season. But the complete failure to compete to find a foundational piece for the future contender they hope to build puts them below a passing grade.

Kurt Mensching: FanSided Sports Director

Grade: D. The Tigers seem to think they’ll be able to do everything at once like they can decide to contend and just snap their fingers. They can’t. I think they failed to lay any groundwork for the future this offseason and it’s going to hurt them. They really need to start thinking about those positions they don’t have big-time prospects for and find a plan to deal with it. They’re especially weak up the middle. That’s the most important place to be strong. It’s going to haunt them.


My grade for the off-season is a C+. As much as people do not like AJ Hinch for what happen in Houston, he is the right man for the job and the Tigers got the best candidate who was in the market. They got it right in hiring Chris Fetter, who the pitchers have been raving about already and resigning Schoop.

I was rather surprised at who they signed to their first multiyear deal in Grossman but it gives the Tigers an everyday outfielder who can walk and drive the ball with power.  Taking a flyer on Derek Holland and Julio Teheran were good ideas and Urena, if he is healthy, could be a good addition as a swingman out of the bullpen or as a starter.

They made an effort but my nitpicks were pitching related.

  • They would of spent a bit more for a proven veteran starter that could go out there and throw over 150 innings.
  • Another veteran for the bullpen.

I will give them kudos for hiring their social media person back after MLB cut his position. With hiring freezes across the board, the Tigers stepped up and gave him his position back so that was a good way to end the offseason.

Next. Top Three Storylines for Spring Training. dark

They played the waiting game to spend to upgrade the team but to be fair, a lot of moves came within the last few weeks.  It could be worse, look at the Pittsburgh Pirates. They traded away a vast majority of their pitching and reduced their payroll even more. Or the Rockies, who had to give the Cardinals $50 million to take Nolan Arenando off their hands.   Let’s hope that Detroit keeps to its promise and spends next year.