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Monday Tigers News: It’s not nothing

We have a handful of minor league signings, some pitching evaluations and another opinion on the A.J. Hinch signing

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The holidays have passed, and if you’re anything like me you find yourself sitting here in the early days of January wondering if the Tigers still exist. With little to nothing happening from a free agent or trade market standpoint, it’s easy to forget about this team right now.

I suppose my being a graduate of The Ohio State University and a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan has provided me some happy distraction as the former of those teams thumped Clemson and the latter made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years over the last few days. Maybe the Tigers will follow up with some of their own good new year sports news. Maybe.

A ripple appears

It would seem that the Tigers aren’t doing exactly nothing, just very close to it. It was reported on Monday morning that the team signed five players to minor league deals. The only one with any major league experience is Locke St. John — a player I must admit I would have otherwise mistaken for a town in northern Michigan. The other signings were infielder Isrrael de la Cruz, and right-handed pitchers A.J. Ladwig, Henry Martinez and Zac Shepherd.

The worst of the last

The folks over at MLB Trade Rumors took a look at the five worst rotations from last year and how they might be shaping up for the 2021 run. The Tigers were first on the list. Yay. Aside from Spencer Turnbull, they note that the rest was not so good. There’s a bit of talk of the youth movement stepping up for the upcoming season with Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, and Matt Manning as well as a brief nod to the signing of José Ureña while acknowledging that he hasn’t been anything to write home about since the 2017-18 season. Again, Yay.

Bad planning

Speaking of Ureña, Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press writes about the signing of the 29-year-old pitcher in the context of the overall organizational strategy of short term pitching signings to bolster the starting rotation. He describes Ureña as a “bounce-back candidate” at best and we get that line I think most of us are tired of hearing speculating on the possibility of a return at the trade deadline.

Ureña maintains that he is healthy, having dealt with COVID-19 and injuries over the past two seasons and that he can return to his 2017-18 form. The Tigers' recent attempts at this kind of thing have left a bad taste in the mouths of fans who have seen guys like Iván Nova, Matt Moore, and Tyson Ross fail gloriously in one-year deals; the last success story in this regard was Mike Fiers.

This is the best we can likely hope for, and since the team has made it clear that — at least for the immediate future — one-year deals on bargain bin candidates is the way they’re going to go, this is all we’re going to get.

The perfect scapegoat

Jules Posner at Forbes writes about a Tigers team that for one more season seems to be stuck in neutral in regards to their rebuild. The only real sign of forward movement is the signing of A.J. Hinch, and in that signing Posner sees a potential scapegoat for the failures that may be found in another potentially disastrous season. He compares this signing to the Giants bringing Gabe Kapler on board last year and how Hinch — like Kapler — might be looking at the last opportunity to manage a team here.

Kapler fell in line with the front office and their goals in San Francisco, and the belief here is that Hinch will need to do that too. The concern is that San Francisco’s front office is much better at this than Detroit’s, and when things go wrong, Hinch might be the one left holding the bag.

Old friend alert

The University of Michigan baseball team is expected to add former Tiger Brandon Inge to its coaching staff at some point this week. Inge — who spent the bulk of his 13-year major league career with the Tigers — will be coming on as a volunteer assistant and will presumably be helping to teach players how to play exceptional defense and jack baseballs.

Isaac looking pretty good

Here’s one guy I’m unabashedly excited about watching in 2021. Whatever position he ends up playing.

Around the horn

Masahiro Tanaka could be leaving Major League Baseball. The projected best player on each team in 2021 (it’s Casey Mize). Tomoyuki Sugano reportedly has both MLB and NPB offers. ‘A little hard to watch’: Would banning shifts make MLB more entertaining? The Red Sox will hire minor league coach Bianca Smith, making her the first Black woman to serve as a professional baseball coach. What will a Francisco Lindor trade look like? Expect these three elements in deflated market.