By Joe Underhill
It has been a relatively quiet off-season for the Detroit Tigers.
The biggest change for the team has been in the “behind the scenes” areas starting with the hiring of Scott Harris to be the new President of Baseball Operations. While many fans were hoping the Tigers would jump into the free-agent frenzy, they have been pretty conservative in both their signings and trades so far.
While many fans fear the lack of major signings signal another long rebuild, it is the belief of this writer that it actually signals a long overdue system evaluation. Harris and the Tigers are in the midst of reorganizing their player development and further developing their analytical department. Last off-season, owner Chris Ilitch answered the question of whether he would be willing to spend on free agents by signing Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez to large contracts.
With all this said, let’s take a look at the signings and trades that should impact the Tigers roster in 2023. Transactions sorted by date.
Justyn-Henry Malloy: Acquired from the Braves in the trade for Joe Jimenez, Malloy shows good plate discipline and will be coming to camp with a legitimate chance to make the opening day roster. He posted strong numbers across three levels in the minors and performed well in the AFL. Defense has been a challenge for Malloy at third, so his path to The Show is most likely in a corner outfield position.
Mason Englert: A strong second half to the 2021 season made Englert a target for the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft. Englert has been a starter for his minor-league career and will come to Spring Training competing for a spot in the back of the Tigers rotation because the Tigers need to keep him on the 26-man roster or offer him back to Texas. For 2023, there is a good chance Englert will work as a swing starter/long relief option for the Tigers.
Michael Lorenzen and Matthew Boyd: Both signed on the same day and fit the same role for the Tigers, albeit one from the right side and the other from the left. Both pitchers signed one-year deals and will work in the back of the Tigers rotation or in long relief (pending Spring Training competition). The Tigers have shown an ability to make the most out of pitchers and both Lorenzen and Boyd could be trade candidates if they have strong first halves to the year.
Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, Donny Sands: The Tigers received these three gents in exchange for closer Gregory Soto and utility man Kody Clemens. Vierling is predominantly an outfielder, but has seen playing time on the dirt as well. He has seen time in the Majors in 2021 and 2022 slashing .260/.309/.374. A right-handed hitter, Vierling will be expected to push for at least platoon status with the Tigers, especially considering the lefties currently in the Tigers outfield. Maton is more of a utility-player who hits from the left side. Maton still has a minor-league option and will most likely start the year in AAA, but he will be given a chance to impress in Spring Training. Donny Sands has been a highly-productive hitter at AAA and will come to spring training in competition with Jake Rogers to share catching duties with Eric Haase.
Cesar Hernandez: The Tigers just signed Hernandez to a minor league free-agent contract and he will come to camp with a chance to show that he is still capable of being a productive major-league player. The Tigers have a major hole at third base and a combination of Hernandez and Jonathan Schoop could combine to handle second and third base. Offensively, both Hernandez and Schoop are looking for bounce-back seasons at the plate. Both Hernandez and Schoop have been Gold Glove winners at second base, but it is unknown how the rule changes regarding the shift will impact their defense.
Overall, the Tigers’ off-season has been quiet, but that shouldn’t be confused with failure. Spring Training and 2023 will bring an opportunity for a significant number of prospects to prove they belong in The Show, and the free agents acquired will not stop the Tigers from playing the young players.
Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for www.tigstown.com. You can follow Joe on Twitter@TransplantedDet. or e.mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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