Detroit Tigers Mailbag: The rebuild, needs, and the offseason

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 26: Javier Baez #23 of the New York Mets reacts toward the fans after hitting a single in the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 26, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 26: Javier Baez #23 of the New York Mets reacts toward the fans after hitting a single in the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 26, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /
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We took your questions on anything Detroit Tigers heading into the MLB work stoppage

Now and then we enjoy getting the pulse of the Detroit Tigers fanbase. Questions allow thought exercises that maybe we haven’t explored ourselves; and with a work-stoppage all-but-certain, what better time to see how fans are feeling?

There are a couple of needs that I believe are being underscored. First is a bullpen arm. Avila was quoted in the offseason stating they like their bullpen–heck, I do too. But they need arms beyond that four-headed monster of Funkhouser, Cisnero, Fulmer, and Soto; especially if Tyler Alexander or Michael Fulmer find themselves back in the rotation.

There have been some rumblings about this need recently and the Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen reported ($) there have been recent discussions with free-agent reliever Andrew Chafin. Chafin, 31, split time between the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland A’s in 2021; supplying a 1.83 ERA and 2.9 bWAR while averaging less than a baserunner per inning.

Additionally, the organization’s feelings toward players like Zack Short and Harold Castro remain unclear. The Detroit Tigers will need someone to play second base when Jonathan Schoop is at first base and Miguel Cabrera is at DH, which I expect will be the case about 60 percent of the games next season.

If the team is uncomfortable with the idea of Short or Castro splitting 90-100 games at second base next year, they’ll need to address it this offseason. Ideally, someone who can also play multiple positions to better justify any expenditure.

When we talk about upside, it’s usually regarding a young prospect that shows flashes of some loud tools. I’d say that foursome might have a little development left in them, but pure upside might be a stretch.

Semantics, in any case. Although this isn’t a question, I’d like the opportunity to discuss each and provide an educated guess on who might make the most impact. Isaac Paredes has yet to show he can make consistent quality contact at the highest levels. Ironically, many thought the defense would be the problem rather than the stick. To me, he’s been above-average at third base when he’s there and been fine at second as well. In the present, I like Paredes as depth. In terms of a defined MLB role, I’d like him to force the issue first.

The book is somewhat out on Joe Jimenez–when he’s on, he’s a valuable middle relief piece. His inconsistencies with his stuff and results make it so that he cannot be relied on in those high-leverage situations, though. Relievers are volatile in general, but Joe’s stuff can vary quite a bit even from appearance to appearance. It’s fine for bulk work, but I wouldn’t count on him for much more at this point.

Cameron and Hill are each in the same-shaped bucket. I was pleasantly surprised with Derek Hill in 2021 and he would be my pick out of the bunch for the biggest impact–it is unusual for a player to cut strikeouts and raise walk rate at the major league level but that is exactly what he did. I’d like to see more, but am hesitant to pencil him in every day just yet.

I was perhaps one of the last holdouts for Daz Cameron; fair to say 2022 will be make-or-break for him at age 25. Daz is a streaky player; and unfortunately, he’s never had a long enough opportunity to catch his stride in the big leagues. He did slash .296/.365/.500 for Toledo before his call-up but only supplied .194/.278/.359 for the Tigers in 35 games last season. His strikeouts remain a problem in the big leagues. If he can solve that, it’ll go a long way toward realizing a meaningful MLB role.

I would be surprised if the Detroit Tigers went to a six-man rotation. The Detroit Tigers limited Skubal and Mize last season due to the pandemic, but I expect they’ll be a full go in 2022. At the same time, the days of getting through a season with five or six starters are long over. They will need depth to sustain a 162-game schedule, so six or seven starters shouldn’t be out of the question, even if one of them is Wily Peralta 2.0.

I’ve also heard some rumblings from fans about possibly flipping a starter if they sign another one in free agency for some more help on offense. I don’t love such a plan, personally. Depth is more valuable.

The lockout is all-but-certain at this point, with a few major issues on the table for discussion both from the owners’ side as well as the player’s union. These are the issues I expect will be addressed as part of the collective bargaining negotiations:

  • Universal DH – The 2020 season was an opportunity to give this a test (although the whole American League is a test by itself) and it’s logical to assume the DH will be allowed universally in 2022.
  • Service time manipulation – MLB should want the best possible product on the field at all times. Leaving players in the minors for a short time so that their team can gain an additional year of control is just plain wrong both for fans and for the player and needs to be addressed
  • Team control/arbitration – The owners recently proposed an age-based control system where a player wouldn’t hit free agency until after their 29.5-age season. While I do think it effectively does address service time, I’d generally prefer players to hit free agency earlier, considering the game is continuing to get younger.
  • Payroll – I don’t see a salary cap coming, but a salary floor is certainly possible. A floor would help player salary in principal and would also hopefully create more parity in the league.
  • Tanking – Players and MLB at large want to avoid teams trying to lose on purpose. A payroll floor may help to alleviate this to an extent, but the Astros and Cubs are proof that tanking can pay off. The problem: it creates a less competitive overall product in the short term. Look for tanking to be addressed in the next CBA

light. Related Story. Javier Baez is heading to Detroit

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