Are the Tigers prepared to jump-start their rebuild by adding high-profile free agents this winter to augment a group of developing prospects?
I’m going to be honest. I’ve really enjoyed the Detroit Tigers fall from grace. Growing up and becoming a Chicago White Sox fan in the ’90s and coming of age in the early 2000s, I only knew the Motor City kitties as a doormat. From 1994 until 2006, they didn’t have a single winning season.
When they came to the American League Central for the 1998 season after the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ entry to the American League East, they quickly assumed their position as division bottom-dwellers. This all culminated in 2003 when they finished a paltry 43-119, one of the worst single-season performances in the history of the sport.
Then in 2006, when we were still basking in the glory of the White Sox championship the prior season, something changed. The Tigers all of a sudden got good, and they played a role in thwarting the Sox dreams of repeating. From 2010 until 2016, the Tigers were a perennial contender, winning four division titles and a pennant in 2012 (after which they were promptly swept by the San Francisco Giants). That 2012 division title still eats at me, as the Sox late September collapse killed part of my soul that I will never get back. Thus, seeing the Tigers descent into the baseball abyss has been glorious to watch.
Midway through the 2017 season, the Tigers had to come to the realization that their window of contention was over and it was time to retool. And boy did they go full bore in their efforts to rip things down to the studs.
They traded anything of value in sight, most notably franchise icon Justin Verlander. Detroit also found a way to tank enough to get themselves the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, which they promptly used on Auburn pitcher, Casey Mize. That would mark a string of three consecutive top-five picks, culminating with another No. 1 overall pick in 2020, which the team used to select slugger Spencer Torkelson out of Arizona State. For all the talk about the White Sox tanking efforts beginning in 2017, they were never able to pick higher than third in the draft. Meanwhile, their division rivals were able to land two No. 1 overall selections.
I’m not celebrating this; I’m simply stating factual information. The players Detroit selected with those picks promise to be the building blocks of the next successful Tigers’ core. Mize, 2019 first-round pick Riley Greene, and Torkelson all look to be fixtures in Motown with the latter two arriving in 2022, most likely.
As it stands right now, the Tigers have the No. 7 overall farm system, according to MLB. Their system is a little top-heavy with names such as Torkelson, Green, and 2021 first-round pick Jackson Jobe. However, the pedigree of these players cannot be denied and they should be making appearances in “The D” sooner rather than later.
The makeover hasn’t just come through the amateur draft and development system for Detroit, however. The Tigers were bold in their managerial search heading into the 2021 season, hiring the reinstated A.J. Hinch much to the dismay of a sizeable portion of the White Sox fan base. Hinch came into 2021 with a roster devoid of much impactful talent, but he was able to guide his team to a respectable 77-85 finish. The former World Series-winning manager was lauded for his ability to get the most out of his players in 2021 and playing an integral role in the development of youngsters such as Akil Badoo, Casey Mize, Jeimer Candelario, and Eric Haase.
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