It won’t be as bad as last season, but the Detroit Tigers are off to another rough start
On May 7, 2021, the Detroit Tigers dropped a contest with the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park by a final of 7-3, putting the club’s record at 9-24 on the season. It’s the record that most recite as it pertains to the 2021 club; considering they played so well following their early-season scuffles.
That conversation also played into the narrative surrounding the team this season. “If they can just avoid that early hole they dug themselves in, this team has a legitimate shot at the playoffs.”
It isn’t quite the 2021 crater, but the Tigers yet again find themselves trudging to start the season. Last year’s club wasn’t expected to make a run, but fans were hoping the new coaching staff would make a difference. That fairy tale for fans did come to pass, but it was too late to make noise outside of being a September spoiler.
The additions of Eduardo Rodriguez, Tucker Barnhart, Javy Baez, Austin Meadows, Michael Pineda, and Andrew Chafin, coupled with the promotion of top prospect Spencer Torkelson, has fans setting their sights higher for a tangible improvement and perhaps a playoff spot. But the Detroit Tigers own a 7-14 record as they head back to Comerica Park to face the Pirates on Tuesday, having dropped back-to-back series with the Twins and Dodgers on an ugly 1-5 road trip.
The scapegoat for their struggles is tough to pinpoint. They’ve had plenty of health issues, and some regression from last year was likely. The Tigers hit two home runs on Sunday, but they had just one homer in the five previous games — Baez’s heroic eighth-inning blast that was erased by their viral and infamous defensive blunder in Minneapolis. Speaking of defense, their seven errors on the road trip certainly didn’t help, either.
In theory, the Detroit Tigers could try and swing a trade to address their defense and power, perhaps in the same player even. There is a reason, however, why trades aren’t typically agreed upon this early in the season. The team ‘selling’ their MLB asset wants to stir up as much demand as possible — and while there will be teams that will surely add this summer, many teams need these games to self-evaluate the needs of their current team.
In addition, injuries inevitably happen and can cause teams that wouldn’t normally have a need to shift their attention. For these reasons, the selling club is smart to hold off save an overpay scenario, which would cause the ‘do something’ chants to shift to ‘what an awful trade!’
Another theory would be to address the issue internally by making a call-up. The Detroit Tigers have already been forced into this to some extent with the injuries to their pitching, but making a call-up in hopes for some newfound power is a risky proposition given Toledo’s roster.
Toledo’s best position prospects are Ryan Kreidler and Kody Clemens. Kreidler is currently on the injured list, and while Clemens has hit for some power with Toledo, his playing time would come at the expense of Jeimer Candelario or Jonathan Schoop.
Candelario and Schoop have certainly had their struggles, but the Tigers could very well need one or both later this season. Is Clemens so much better than both that the organization is willing to risk alienating some of their more important offensive pieces?
Most would be fine with Clemens in a bench role, but that doesn’t do much to solve the club’s power woes in the short term. Clemens also carries some platoon risk (.194/.219/.323 this year vs LHP), so his impact would be marginal in any case.
It’s painful being complacent, but the only realistic option is for the Detroit Tigers to rely on their existing depth to help them through injuries and hope that with continued repetition, the bats will perk up.
The front office assuredly relied on a 20-home run average from Candelario, Schoop, and Grossman and none are close to such a pace currently. A possible regression and deadened ball aside, it’s highly unlikely the power has been influenced to such a dramatic extent with all three.
Patience comes first for the Detroit Tigers. If they can manage the next couple of months, the organization will have more direction and more options in the event they decide to add. Not to mention that Riley Greene guy should help out, too.