There are still four months and some change left to the next Opening Day, but what is there to do in the offseason other than dream about the next time you can watch baseball? The Tigers are 15-8 in home openers at Comerica Park, a dominant .652 win percentage that the team will hope to increase next year. It's been a relatively quiet offseason so far for Detroit, so there aren't too many new factors to consider when dreaming up lineups and roster construction in the hopes that the Tigers will take the AL Central for the first time since 2014.
3 Detroit Tigers who shouldn't be guaranteed an Opening Day roster spot next year
There are some players who have their positions locked up on Opening Day — Spencer Torkelson at first; Riley Greene and Mark Canha in the outfield; regrettably, Javier Baez at shortstop — but there are also a few positions that still might have some competition, for better or worse. Here are three Tigers who shouldn't be on the Opening Day roster.
If you've ever heard the specialist vs. generalist argument, you'll know that it usually splits people down the middle. There are pros and cons to both. The same can be said about the utility man, the generalist of baseball. The Tigers have a few of them — Zach McKinstry, Andy Ibáñez, Matt Vierling — and, as with any generalist, performance tends to be a mixed bag. Ibáñez spent most of his time at second base in 2023 and made a good case for an everyday spot there in 2024; Vierling moved across the outfield and made over 30 starts at third base, where he's expected to start most games next year if the Tigers don't find a replacement.
Then, there's Zach McKinstry, who at some point occupied every spot on the field in 2023 other than pitcher, catcher, and first and second base. He didn't do a bad job at any of them but, and this can be the catch with generalists and utility men, he didn't necessarily do a great job either. His performance at each spot (and in the batters box; he hit .231/.302/.351) wasn't better than the performances of the players who are more likely to get Opening Day starts, including Ibáñez and Vierling, as well as Riley Greene and new acquisition Mark Canha in the outfield.
Utility men can be great for depth and pinch situations, and clearly the Tigers needed McKinstry's services a lot this season. It's entirely possible that he'll still get a lot of playing time as the Tigers shuffle things around and (hopefully) trade and sign new players. However, when constructing an Opening Day roster that will set a tone for the team, Detroit should put its best foot forward, and unfortunately it shouldn't include McKinstry.