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Rival Roundup, Vol. 20: The Detroit Tigers Recap

Rival Recap is back — with a vengeance.

MLB: Winter Meetings Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The season is almost here, and before long, I will personally expect you to remember who’s on each team and how they got there. I don’t want none of that “whoa, I forgot Carlos Santana was on the Royals” nonsense. Do your homework. There will be a quiz. And I expect greatness. From all of you.

For the next four weeks, I’ll be recapping the offseason transactions of each of our four major rivals, in reverse order of their final position in the 2020 standings. We’ll identify some of the biggest facelifts, alongside the most glaring absences. Each week, we’ll take the pulse of the comments section, and figure out who we should be most concerned about.

This week, it’s the fifth-place Detroit Tigers — a team that stands to be successful again quite soon. But as Ice Cube might ask — are they there yet?

Offseason Departures

  • With any rebuilding team, there’s bound to be a bit of a winter carousel. A combination of bloated contracts and veteran stopgaps come off the books each year, and this season was no exception. Perhaps most notably was Jordan Zimmermann’s albatross finally expiring after putting up a 5.63 ERA over his five years in Motown, clearing some $25MM off the record.
  • Fellow seasoned arm of ten-plus years, Ivan Nova, became a free agent as well. So too went backstop Austin Romine, bench bat Brandon Dixon; green reliever Nick Ramirez elected free agency rather than a minors assignment.

The New Additions

  • You’d think Terry Ryan was running the Tigers with how readily they reached out to former Twins this offseason. Second sacker Jonathan Schoop dipped briefly into the free agent pool, but ultimately re-upped with Detroit on another one-year deal.
  • A month earlier, Detroit handed out a two-year commitment to Robbie Grossman, in an evident attempt to work on their historically poor plate discipline.
  • Who’s next? Why, it’s Minnesota catching legend Wilson Ramos, who’s coming back to the division for the first time in eleven years.
  • On the Rule 5 front, Detroit grabbed 22-year-old Akil Baddoo with a gutsy bet on the young outfielder plucked straight from our own High-A team.
  • On the pitching front, it was mostly minor-league contracts; Julio Teheran and Wily Peralta latched on with spring invites, as did Derek Holland, Erasmo Ramirez, and Ian Krol. The only pitching guarantee was granted to Jose Urena.
  • Among other minors pacts with utility fellas, 26-year-old outfielder Nomar Mazara has made his way into the organization and could get yet another chance to turn his youthful tools into meaningful production.

The Impact

  • Here’s a glance at the Tigers’ projected lineup and starting rotation, courtesy of RosterResource.
Detroit Tigers - 2021 Lineup
LF Robbie Grossman
2B Jonathan Schoop
DH Miguel Cabrera
3B Jeimer Candelario
C Wilson Ramos
RF Nomar Mazara
1B Renato Nunez
CF JaCoby Jones
SS Willi Castro
  • That lineup stands to feature four starting players who were acquired as free agents this very offseason — as well as a free agent from last year (Schoop) and four others acquired by trade. Needless to say, when Spencer Torkleson arrives, he stands to be one of the only homegrown position players on the roster.
  • The big question is how much of this lineup is major-league caliber. Grossman, Schoop, and the trudging shell of Miguel Cabrera form a passable top three — but do the other six pose much of a threat? Detroit is banking on guys like Nomar Mazara (the lineup’s only projected lefty) to put their whole game together, as well as getting quality seasons out of vets like Wilson Ramos.
  • There’s also only an injury or two separating this lineup from a starting nine featuring the likes of Harold Castro and Grayson Greiner, neither of whom should be counted upon to put up much in the way of wins above replacement.
Detroit Tigers - 2021 Rotation
LHP Matthew Boyd
RHP Spencer Turnbull
RHP Michael Fulmer
RHP Jose Urena
RHP Julio Teheran
  • The Tigers caught quite a tough break when long-rumored trade candidate Matthew Boyd delivered one of the worst seasons of his career in 2020, leading the league in homers and earned runs allowed and delivering -0.6 bWAR. A return to relatively average performance would be an upgrade.
  • The young starters haven’t quite reached center stage yet, with none of these five arms below the age of 28. But with arms like Alex Faedo and Joey Wentz missing the season with surgeries — not to mention pitchers across baseball dealing with irregular workloads — 40-man figures like Mize, Manning, Tarik Skubal, and Beau Burrows could start eating a lot more innings in 2021. An early start on major-league development could prove a huge boon if the team can build around a young but experienced core by, say, 2023.

Your Thoughts

As they are right now, the Tigers leave a bit to be desired from a few different angles. They don’t seem to have 162-game depth about the roster, nor do they have one standout star at any position to help anchor the team.

On the other hand, Al Avila and his front office are positioning Detroit for success in the near future. They installed A.J. Hinch to manage the club, a skipper who technically has championship pedigree and experience guiding a once-exciting young core through a few different postseasons.

And they have some of the most anticipated prospects around the league, with Casey Mize, Spencer Torkelson, Matt Manning, and other top-100 names scratching the surface of the roster — most on track to debut within the next season or two.

I’ll leave the rest to you. Have a look at the following polls and give us your thoughts in the comments. Just how much of a rival will the Detroit Tigers be in 2021?


Should we be worried about the Detroit Tigers?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    (12 votes)
  • 85%
    (69 votes)
81 votes total Vote Now


Where will the Detroit Tigers finish in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    (2 votes)
  • 13%
    (10 votes)
  • 30%
    (23 votes)
  • 49%
    (37 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now