Can the Detroit Tigers be competitive next season?

Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Can a new GM find a way to make this Detroit Tigers team competitive without another rebuild?

The Detroit Tigers splurged in free agency for the first time in five years last offseason, signing starting starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and shortstop Javier Baez to long term deals. They also traded for catcher Tucker Barnhart, then signed reliever Andrew Chafin and traded for outfielder Austin Meadows after the lockout ended. They seemed like they were finally ready to compete after years of rebuilding.

Fast forward to late August 2022, and the Detroit Tigers are 49-78—dead last in the AL Central at 19 games back. It’s been another lost season—one that cost former GM Al Avila his job.

Since his firing, fans have feared that a rebuild of the rebuild is in order. Some have speculated that this team is a lost cause, with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. But is that actually the case? Are there any salvageable pieces here?

Many of the changes required for the team to be competitive in the short term start up top. Getting the new GM hire right is paramount for both the short and long term success of this franchise, which is why it should come from outside the organization.

The new GM needs to bring in their own player development staff to fix this woeful Tigers offense. In no way, shape or form are most of these hitters as bad as their 2022 numbers indicate. Austin Meadows can hit for power. Javier Baez is not a ground ball hitter. Jonathan Schoop is not a singles merchant. Some of that falls on hitting coach Scoot Coolbaugh, but the Detroit Tigers desperately need some bright, analytical-minded individuals in their player development department.

There are pieces on the big league roster that should make them a competitive team with better coaching and development. Riley Greene is starting to turn things around after going through a slump. He’s obviously a huge building block for the future. Spencer Torkelson will probably undergo a swing change in the offseason. Once that (hopefully) clicks, he’s another big piece.

But what about somebody like Akil Baddoo? He looked like he figured something out in Triple-A, but since his call-up he hasn’t looked any different than before he was sent down. He’s got a .578 OPS with 15 hits—all singles—in the second half of the season. He never hits the ball hard anymore. He just looks overmatched out there.

That being said, a much-needed roster purge is still likely in order this offseason. Four-A players like Willi Castro, Zack Short, Daz Cameron, and others will all be sent packing. Part of the process of becoming a competitive team is getting rid of players that don’t help you win.

The pitching, despite its success under pitching coach Chris Fetter and new director of pitching Gabe Ribas, probably has more questions than answers heading into next year, such as: can the bullpen keep up this solid pace?

On paper, yes, it should. It’ll have largely the same pieces as this year. Chafin could still opt-out, but word is he likes it in Detroit because it’s close to his Ohio home. But it’s worth noting that relievers are highly volatile from year to year. Not everybody is as consistent as Chafin has been throughout his career. There’s no guarantee the bullpen will be as good as it was this season.

There’s even more questions to be asked with the starting rotation. With Casey Mize out for all of 2023, and Tarik Skubal out for at least a significant portion of the season, that’s two big spots that the Tigers will need to fill. How the new GM decides to fill those spots will be interesting to see.

Then you have Spencer Turnbull coming back from Tommy John surgery. Who knows, he may be as good as he was before the surgery. But even if he is, he’ll probably be on some sort of innings limit.

Overall, this team has many question marks—more than they did coming into this season. Not to sound like a broken record, but it is imperative that the Detroit Tigers get this GM hire right. How the GM decides to go about constructing the roster and re-constructing the front office will determine if the Tigers compete next year or not.

Next. Dear Miguel Cabrera, please retire from the Detroit Tigers. dark