Scott Harris doubled down on Tigers' offseason approach as fans' anger grows

Detroit Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris watches live batting practice during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
Detroit Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris watches live batting practice during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Very little for the Detroit Tigers has worked out how fans were expecting at the beginning of the season. Scott Harris and Tigers management reiterated multiple times through the offseason that the team wasn't interested in buying big free agents, rather developing young, homegrown talent. To their credit, they did the work to supplement that strategy, signing two veteran bats in Mark Canha and Gio Urshela and pitching help in Jack Flaherty, Kenta Maeda, and Andrew Chafin.

Fans eventually bought in, given the early season hype for Riley Greene and Tarik Skubal especially. It helped that the Tigers had the longest undefeated streak of anyone in the league at the beginning of the season (thanks, in part, to a couple of rain delays), and despite Harris' own caution about getting too excited about the young hitters, fans have been ready to see a winning Tigers team for going on a decade now.

However, through their win against the Phillies on Tuesday, the Tigers are 37-42. Two of their most highly touted young players (Parker Meadows and Spencer Torkelson) are back in Triple-A. Kerry Carpenter is out with injury. Colt Keith is improving but has provoked the ire of fans for his slow start to the season. Only Greene, the best left fielder in the AL by most metrics, is proving that he could be a real, lasting star for this team.

Despite all of these disappointments, Harris is doubling down on his approach. It's not often that a front office openly admits to making a mistake, but how long will he be able to maintain this party line while the team slides before fans are completely fed up?

Scott Harris isn't backing down from Tigers' offseason approach despite disappointing first half to the season

During an interview with 97.1 The Ticket, Harris inferred that adding big stars during the offseason would've been taking a "shortcut," and said that, "They not only wouldn’t have strengthened areas of our team, they may have under-performed and blocked a young player who deserves an opportunity to demonstrate that they can be a mainstay at that position."

This has been a familiar line of argument for Harris and the front office. While it's fine to deal in hypotheticals during the offseason, it's another thing entirely when the Tigers are almost 80 games in and their young players are and have been demonstrably struggling, and the team is back to what seemed like their perennial place in the division until last season — fourth place.

It all feels like a very protracted way to make excuses for Chris Ilitch, one of the wealthiest owners in baseball who clearly refuses to seriously invest in this team. That's not the front office's fault, but it makes their excuses for not being aggressive on buying look even thinner.

The thing is: free agents would've strengthened areas of this Tigers team. Detroit currently ranks 22nd in baseball by FanGraphs' offensive metrics. They're 25th in home runs, 23rd in batting average, and 24th in OPS. It's hard to understand how adding big bats, even if they were a little expensive, could've hurt this team any more.

As the season has worn on, fans continue to lose patience with the team, and for good reason. We've been stuck in a fatalistic loop season after season under this ownership, and even though Harris is only in his second years as president of baseball operations, he continues to make himself an enemy of the fanbase too.