The Detroit Tigers season is in shambles. Stop me if you’ve hear that before. Due to injuries and inconsistency, the team has struggled. There’s truth to the statement that the Tigers never really got a chance to see what a fully healthy version of their roster could do.
After a myriad of player absences and bad breaks, the Tigers begin the week at 69-79. Only the Athletics own a worst record in the American League, while Detroit sits above six different National League teams in terms of owning the worst record in baseball.
The season isn’t what anyone (pundit, player, fan or coach) would have expected, but here we sit.
Despite the struggles, there are a few positives to be had. The Tigers now have the opportunity to let players like Steven Moya, Dixon Machado, Jefry Marte, Matt Boyd, Drew VerHagen and Bruce Rondon get their respective feet wet in the Majors, so all of them are more prepared for 2016 when Detroit will once again push for a World Series title.
What is likely more valuable is the Tigers ability to secure protected, first-round draft pick. This would allow Detroit shop freely in the free agent market without the fear of losing the team’s highest draft pick.
Al Avila’s squad needs to improve as quickly as possible, and the quickest way to do that is through free agency. A number of big-name, potential free agents could be fits in Detroit, like Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Jordan Zimmerman or Alex Gordon. Any would greatly improve the Tigers and better position them to chase a title in 2016.
While the Tigers need to win now, they also need to build for the future at the same time so another season like this one doesn’t happen. It’s a tough balancing act, but it’s completely doable—just look at the Cardinals.
Outside of Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, there isn’t much in terms of potentially elite starting pitching—something the Tigers are, quite frankly, used to. Boyd and Luis Cessa show promise as back-end of the rotation starters, but neither are closed being finished products. Joe Jimenez has the look of a potentially elite reliever, but he may be a few years away. Outside of those players, there isn’t too much at this point. Buck Farmer ranked as one of the team’s top prospects, but he’s yet to post a Major League win and owns an 8.49 ERA and a 6.79 FIP in 46.2 innings pitched.
Position player-wise, Moya is the crème of the crop. He may turn into the next Adam Dunn (albeit a somewhat faster one), or he could turn into the next Mark Reynolds, but in the outfield. Fellow outfielders Christian Stewart and Derek Hill show promise, but are both years away. JaCoby Jones is a high-risk, high-reward prospect, but even if he does live up to his excellent potential, he is a season (at best) from reaching the big leagues. The point here is that there isn’t a whole lot of certainty in the terms of what young talent Tigers have coming over the next few years.
By securing a protected first round pick (that comes in the top ten), Detroit can not only spend in free agency, but also secure a future star/impact player to carry the team into the future. Simply put, it’s a win-win.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.