For the second straight offseason, the Detroit Tigers have a massive hole at third base. They chose not to address it last offseason after non-tendering Jeimer Candelario, opting to let a hodge-podge of AAAA players man the position.
The result was a 72 wRC+ and -1.0 fWAR from Tigers third baseman in 2023, third-worst in baseball. Any team that was serious about winning would address that, but the Tigers have shown no desire to do that.
In fact, Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press has said many times on the "Days of Roar" podcast that right now, the Tigers' plan for the 2024 season is to start Matt Vierling at third base. Talk about uninspiring.
As we determined last season, Vierling is not somebody you want in your everyday lineup. He slashed .261/.329/.388 with 10 home runs, a 99 wRC+, a .127 ISO and a 1.2 fWAR. He's a very average player.
Ideally, he would be someone who gets 300-350 at-bats off the bench, not somebody who gets 530 ABs as a starter. You especially don't want somebody with as little power as Vierling as your starting third baseman.
It's not so much the 10 homers, it's the .127 ISO that's concerning. That shows that he's not even hitting doubles on a consistent basis.
His hard-hit rate was also down 5% from 2022. His barrel rate was in the 13th percentile according to Baseball Savant. Sure, he doesn't swing and miss a whole lot, but he still chases a decent amount and only walks about an average amount.
He was also terrible with runners in scoring position, although that obviously wasn't an issue that was exclusive to him. He hit .211 with a .609 OPS with RISP in 2023. He's just not that great of a hitter.
Now, defensively, I think Vierling could hold his own at the hot corner. He started playing over there more and more after the All-Star break last season, and he did alright. He had an outs above average (OAA) of 1. This is where his athleticism comes into play.
It is also worth noting that Vierling would only likely be the third baseman for the 2024 season, and that's it. It sounds like Jace Jung may the third baseman of the future, and he could even be up in the big leagues sometime in 2024 if things go well.
But they can find a short term option if they wanted to. Go get Ha-Seong Kim from the Padres. They are hoping to get well under the luxury tax threshold, and while he's only making $7 million next year, that's $7 million that could be off the Padres payroll. Kim could not only play third base, but he could play second and shortstop every once and a while to give Javier Baez and Colt Keith a break.
Or, they could sign Justin Turner to a one-year deal in free agency. He's 39, but it's only for a year. It would be a heck of a lot better than having Vierling start.
The Detroit Tigers absolutely cannot have Matt Vierling start at third base in 2024. It's just not something a serious organization would do. If their serious about winning, they'll find an upgrade.
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