Scott Harris Must Navigate Detroit Tigers Rebuild 2.0

The Detroit Tigers need a big improvement from Riley Greene at the plate in 2023. He hit just five home runs in nearly 400 at bats.
The Detroit Tigers need a big improvement from Riley Greene at the plate in 2023. He hit just five home runs in nearly 400 at bats. / Mark Cunningham/GettyImages

Depleted roster, average farm system leaves new president of baseball operations with ugly task of a second consecutive rebuild

Detroit Tigers' new leader Scott Harris is a brave man.

Detroit’s President of Baseball Operations left a good San Francisco Giants organization for what amounts to the Siberia of Major League Baseball.

Don’t get me wrong. Tigers’ fans are some of the best anywhere and have always supported the franchise, perhaps to a fault. But the previous regime, led by Al Avila, left a hot mess of a roster and an average farm system at best.

To his credit, Harris has already jettisoned a good amount of dead weight from the roster – Harold Castro, Willi Castro, Victor Reyes, and Jeimer Candelario, among others. That was the easy part. Now with the Winter Meetings just a few days away, Harris begins the construction process both for the short and long terms.

It’s important to make the distinction between immediate and long-term needs. Ideally, Harris could accomplish both goals with every acquisition, but it’s not realistic. The sheer volume of the Tigers’ needs dictates some moves will be made to plug short term holes.

Take third base, for example. Colt Keith, who is likely the Tigers best positional prospect, needs at least one more season in the minors before competing for an everyday job in Detroit. Harris has few internal options to fill the void left by Candelario’s departure, so look for him to sign a very short-term free agent such as Evan Longoria, Justin Turner or Jace Peterson.

The situation at second base is just as desperate. Sure, Harris could hope for a bounce back season from Jonathan Schoop, a gold glover in the field with actual pop in the bat on the rare occasions he makes contact. Ryan Kriedler could be used on a part-time basis, or maybe second base is one of the positions targets with a trade.

As it stands, the Tigers have Eric Haase at catcher. Jake Rogers is returning from Tommy John surgery and will likely need time in Toledo to round into playing shape. Dillon Dingler isn’t ready. Free agent Wilson Contreras would help immensely but Detroit would surely have to overpay to get him.

Absent an Akil Baddoo revival, a starting outfielder must be acquired. The free agent pool is a little deeper here, but most of those available are on the other side of 30 years old.

I haven’t talked much about trades because the Tigers have ammunition for exactly one trade of significance. Detroit will have to package at least one bullpen arm, probably Joe Jimenez or Gregory Soto, and two of its best prospects to get a good young positional Major Leaguer in return. Take your pick at which position to target.

Some of these deficiencies could be lessened if Spencer Torkelson turns into a legitimate power hitter in 2023. A vast improvement by Riley Greene at the plate would be a godsend, too.

The Tigers’ pitching situation is marginally better. For years, Avila hung his hat on young starting pitching prospects Spencer Turnbull, Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, and Matt Manning. All four have had major arm problems. Detroit will be doing well if two of them return and develop into dependable starters.

Prospects Jackson Jobe, Wilmer Flores, and Ty Madden are all legit but one of them would likely be included in any major trade. For now, the Tigers rotation will count on Eduardo Rodriguez, Manning, Beau Brieske, Tyler Alexander and perhaps Turnbull and Joey Wentz. Look for Harris to add another starter at the Winter Meetings.

Essentially, Harris inherited a total rebuild. After six solid seasons of misery, it’s the last thing any Tigers’ fan wants to hear. But hiding from reality isn’t going to solve anything.

Harris seems to understand where the franchise is at, and if there is any silver lining in the current train wreck, that’s it. The question is, can he make the right moves? Can he turn the farm system into a consistent pipeline of talent?

We will know more a week from now. Stay tuned.

dark. Next. Detroit Tigers: AL Central offseason roundup: November