It's almost time to celebrate the New Year. In less than 48 hours, we'll ring in 2024 with hopes of better things to come.
We hope the same thing for the Detroit Tigers. As soon as midnight hits on Jan. 1, it will be 10 years since the Tigers last made the playoffs. That's...very depressing.
But hopefully, that drought can end soon. The Tigers' roster still isn't great, but there's more depth than there has been in the past.
Today, we figured we'd pause and take a look at where things stand ahead of the new year. We last did this before the winter meetings, and things have changed a bit since then, so we figured this would be a good time to reset.
Here's a look at where the 26-man roster stands ahead of 2024.
Catcher: Jake Rogers, Carson Kelly
Nothing really changes here. Rogers will be starter, and barring something unforeseen, the backup job is Carson Kelly's to lose.
First base: Spencer Torkelson
Tork will be the first baseman barring an injury. It'll be interesting to see of he can take that next step in 2024.
Second base: Colt Keith
This is the first true question mark. All signs point to Colt Keith being on the Opening Day roster, likely as the second baseman.
The organization doesn't seem to believe in his arm strength anymore, which is why third base no longer appears to be an option. With currently no better options at second base — or third base, for that matter — Keith looks to be the frontrunner.
Third base: Matt Vierling
Speaking of third base, it looks to be Vierling's job to lose, much to my dismay. Vierling is fine as a utiility guy, but as we saw last year, he doesn't hit well enough to be an everyday player.
Unless they add another third baseman, which they really, really, should, prepare for more Matt Vierling.
Shortstop: Javier Baez
Like it or not, Javy is the shortstop for 2024 and beyond. Get used to it. It's not out of the realm of possbility that he turns it around, though it feels unlikely. But whining about Baez isn't going to make him go away.
Outfield: Mark Canha, Parker Meadows, Kerry Carpenter
For now, Canha will man left field while Riley Greene recovers from Tommy John surgery. Parker Meadows plays a mean center field, and I personally can't wait to watch him play a full season in 2024.
Kerry Carpenter will man right field. He still wasn't very good defensively, but he got better as the year went on. Hopefully he can keep improving.
Designated hitter: Riley Greene
Greene will be the DH for a good chunk of the season. Basically as soon as he can throw again, he'll be back in the outfield, allowing Canha, Carpenter, and others to split time at DH.
Utility: Andy Ibanez, Zack McKinstry, Akil Baddoo
Ibanez is a solid option as a bench bat. He doesn't have the arm to play third base, otherwise I'd put him as the starter at the hot corner.
Two changes here from last time are McKinstry and Baddoo. McKinstry can't hit a lick, but plays good defense and runs well. He probably gets the nod over someone like Justyn-Henry Malloy, who hit well at Triple-A last year but doesn't have a position.
I have Baddoo making the roster this time around because with Greene relegated to DH duty, the Tigers don't really have a dedicated fourth outfielder without him. The less I have to see Andy Ibanez in the outfield, the better.
Starting rotation: Tarik Skubal, Kenta Maeda, Casey Mize, Jack Flaherty, Reese Olson
The Tigers currently have a logjam at starting pitcher after the signing of Jack Flaherty, which really makes it seem like a trade is still very much in the cards. Skubal, Maeda, Mize, and Flaherty will be here as long as they are all healthy. But unless they go with a six-man rotation, that fifth spot is a huge question mark.
I went with Olson simply because I believe he's the best pitcher out of him, Matt Manning, and Sawyer Gipson-Long. Manning has two options left to burn, so letting him throw some innings down in Toledo for a bit wouldn't hurt him. He can work on his consistency down there as well.
There is a lot of injury concern with this rotation as well, so it's not at all inconceivable that all seven of these guys see time with the Tigers in 2024.
Bullpen: Jason Foley, Alex Lange, Will Vest, Shelby Miller, Andrew Chafin, Tyler Holton, Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo
This is where most questions have been answered. With the additions of Chafin, another lefty, and Miller, someone who could pitch in leverage, the Tigers bullpen looks to be in pretty good shape for 2024.
There are still some questions, such as who will be the closer and who will be the long man (I have Faedo), but the 'pen looks to be in a much better spot than it did in 2023.