Detroit Tigers need a clear direction from new GM

Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch looks on against the Minnesota Twins on May 23, 2022. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch looks on against the Minnesota Twins on May 23, 2022. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Centered around starting pitching, former general manager Al Avila’s rebuilding plans flopped. His replacement must set a new course.

Detroit Tigers' pitcher Casey Mize, #12
Starting pitcher Casey Mize’s successful return from Tommy John surgery could help the Detroit Tigers with having a pitching surplus, and thus more trade capital. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

If you were a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you knew the adventure didn’t really begin until Captain Jean-Luc Picard told the crew member sitting at the helm to “engage.” And that’s where the Detroit Tigers are right now, waiting for a new general manager to boldly take the organization forward.

Question is, what are the coordinates to the promised land of a World Series championship and how do the Tigers get there? It’s up to the new GM to plot a course, warp factor 10.

Since 2001, the Detroit Tigers have lost 90 or more games in five seasons. In 2002, 2003 and 2019, they lost 100 or more and are on track to lose 100 this season. It all adds up to too much losing over too long a timeframe.

So, you can pretty much take tanking to start another rebuild off the board. At this point, the fans deserve better and, quite frankly, it’s hard to believe A.J. Hinch — the biggest power-broker within the organization if you listen to various Tigers’ podcasts — would be okay with throwing in the towel the next few seasons. Say what you will about Chris Ilitch, but I believe he’s smart enough to hang onto Hinch.

Here are a couple ideas on different rebuilding strategies:

Detroit Tigers Option 1: Free Agent Bonanza

As is well documented, the Detroit Tigers needs this offseason are many. With Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize out most or all of next season, a starting pitcher has to be a priority. Assuming Spencer Turnbull is healthy, the Tigers can also rely on Matt Manning and Eduardo Rodriguez. Another veteran, someone not on their last leg, is needed to add stability.

Catcher, third base and at least one outfield spot are other priorities. It might also be wise to add a first baseman if Spencer Torkelson needs more time in Toledo.

If Ilitch decides to spend, most of these slots can be filled. Start with someone like lefty starting pitcher Sean Manaea. He hasn’t been good for the Padres this year but has a solid body of work and could be had for less than $15 million per season.

As we at MCB said recently, Wilmer Flores makes some sense for third base. He’d also be an option for time at first base if Torkelson falters.

If these selections sound a bit underwhelming, there’s a reason. Spend the big money on a shortstop. Don’t let the fact that Avila whiffed on the Baez contract deter you, Mr. New GM. Make a splash and go for Trea Turner, Carlos Correa or Xander Bogaerts. Anyone of these gentlemen can bat third next season for the Detroit Tigers and inject desperately needed life and enthusiasm for a floundering franchise.

All of these contracts would probably add around $60 million to the payroll, but so what? Ilitch gets half of it back in 2024 when Miguel Cabrera’s contract is finally over. The fans get a more competitive team.

Detroit Tigers Option 2: Limited Free Agents, Prudent Trade Mix

Given Ilitch’s conservative approach thus far, this is probably the most realistic approach. That’s not to say it can’t work, because it can. But something needs to be said.

This strategy only works if the Detroit Tigers start consistently producing good Major Leaguers from their farm system. Absent this, no rebuilding strategy is going to work long term. The next 20 years of Tigers baseball will look at lot like the last 20 — a brief oasis of winning surrounded by deserts of high octane losing.

That said, the Tigers can make marginal upgrades by signing some of the guys mentioned and letting the bigger fish go to the Dodgers, Padres, Yankees and the Mets.

The immediate problem with this approach is, there’s not much to trade. Skubal was the best option they had to get a good bat.  Manning, Jackson Jobe and Wilmer Flores could each or in combination haul in help but not the young, difference-making bat they need.

If all goes well in 2023, if Skubal, Mize, and Turnbull return and are successful, if a few Tigers’ farmhands shoot up the prospect ranking boards, better trades will be available in the offseason before 2024.

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