Now hear me out on this one...
I wholeheartedly agree that the upcoming free agent class of shortstops is a once in a generation chance to upgrade the Tigers and become a winning team today. As a matter of fact, I think it would be foolish for us not to jump on a contract for one of them immediately to lock up that position for the foreseeable future. If I were to do a ranked voting on them I'd probably go as such:
- Chris Taylor
- Literally Anyone Else
- Javier Baez
My justifications for the ranking varies. I think Semien is ideal for our team. He can play SS, flex over to 2B (where he probably belongs, to be honest), and his price tag would likely fall below any of the others on AAV, but anything under $27 Mil./Yr. seems like it would be worth it for a guy who is having arguably the best season out of any of them.
Trevor Story is a question mark, but his elite glove picks him up in my eyes. His home/away splits are trash, so he could very well be lost away from Coors, but I do like him as a double/triple machine with a great glove in the Old English D, despite the inevitable dip in pop.
Corey Seager and his injury history bothers me for someone who is going to probably be a $30 Mil./Yr + for a long time guy
Brings me to Carlos Correa... I 100% am convinced he will be the Tigers #1 target this offseason for multiple reasons. History with Hinch, having a very sturdy season on a postseason bound team, and he seemingly fits the rebuild timeline perfectly. My problem with this signing is the sheer cost and loss of flexibility it would afford us in the future. I've seen projections coming in the range of money similar to Lindor's contract of $340 Million over 10 years. Probably will be less than that, but YIKES! That's a hefty bar tab.
Now let's talk my favorite lower cost alternative, just staring at us from a notch down the depth charts on the Dodgers, who are surely getting priced out of holding onto him; especially with the year he's having on a 100-Win + team, Chris Taylor! He wants a multi-year deal, at his best he can give us over 3 WAR while playing every infield position except catching or 1B, and he'd likely sign for the tune of $14 Mil/Yr over say 4 years. That's a safe $56 million to spend in comparison to $340 Million! Worst case scenario, the 2021 All-Star continues to be the best super-utility player in the game and still works his way into our lineup for 500+ ABs at all three outfield positions and plays 3B/SS/2B too. Seems like a Hinch type of guy. Let's give him a starting SS job in Detroit and save some coin in the process!
Now Javier Baez... a .300 OBP, despite all the sexy numbers and a solid glove, I don't want to see in our park for what is predicted to be a huge contract over many years.
Signing #1: Chris Taylor (SS) 4 Yrs/$56 Million (Est. +3.5 WAR)
Now Let's talk safe signings, or at least low cost options that'll fit in places we need help. Eric Haase has been a breath of fresh air behind the dish, especially against Lefties, to the tune of split line of .277/.310/.898... But he's got his short comings against RHPs, despite equal power splits. I feel like he's earned starter privileges with his clutch hitting, so who do we platoon with him? Well, we certainly could use a low cost option who hits righties at a reasonable clip and can handle a pitching rotation as a backup. Enter Robinson Chirinos, who we can realistically sign for $1.2mil/Yr on a 1 year deal. Despite his limited playing time this year, he was still good for 107 OPS+ and rides a career avg of 100 OPS+, so welcome aboard!
Signing #2: Robinson Chirinos (C) 1 Yr/$1.2 Million (Est. +0.5 WAR)
So now that we aren't on the hook for big money with the holes in our infield, let's talk where we can spend our savings in a flatter, more sustainable, and less sexy way to keep on getting more wins.
Verlander has all but said he wants to come back and it would warm the cockles of my heart to see him finish out his career in Detroit, so let's give JV his swan song year or two. Who cares what it costs because his presence alone with Miggy will add enough WAR in the clubhouse it's a stat that doesn't even exist yet. We give him a guaranteed year with a second year mutual option. Best case scenario, he comes off TJ as the ace he's always been, finishes his career out like the 1st ballot Hall of Famer he is.
Signing #3: Justin Verlander (SP) 1 Yr/$20 Million, Mutual Option on 2nd Year/$20 Million + Ford gives him whatever kind of prototype car he wants (Est. +5.0 WAR)
Now let's talk another solid starter to round things out and as much as I'd like to add in a big time lefty arm like Robbie Ray or Carlos Rodon, both of whom are killing it in 2021. I'd rather look to value again, especially a guy who seems to have found the best version of himself on a good team. Anthony DeSclafani, who is having an amazing year in San Fran, who after signing a one year, $6 million dollar contract with them has earned himself a multi-year deal after putting up 3.5 WAR and a 3.26 ERA, 1.10 WHIP over 162 innings to far in the regular season. That's a modern workhorse and I'd argue would fill in as the #2 or #3 starter on our team. Subsequently anchoring the rotation or young arms, swing men like Wily Peralta, and a returning vet like Verlander. Give him 4 years with an option for a 5th, $11 mill a year
Signing #4: Anthony Desclafani (SP) 4 Yrs/$44 Million, 5th year team option. (Est +2.5 WAR)
I also say we renew Wily Peralta since he's been solid, use him to eat innings and swing long relief outings for us
Renewal #1: Wily Peralta (SP/RP) 2 Yrs/$5 Million (Est. -0.5 WAR, losing starts drops him down)
Now let's talk bullpen pieces. For the first time in a long time, the Tigers already have a good amount of in house arms who are performing like a legitimate bullpen! We have even more arms in the farm system who can easily slot in, e.g.- Faedo, Wentz, Foley, etc... So not much need to step it up here, but we are light on a really solid left handed reliever. I feel like Fulmer should be our closer in his last Arb year and Soto should be our lefty setup man, possibly even work them as a closer platoon like we've pretty much been doing already. But what about a high leverage LHP? Krol and Holland have been kind of duds, no offense to them, so who can we sign to keep shutting the door a bit after the 6th inning? Enter Aaron Loup, who was good with the Rays but has become amazing out of the pen for the Mets, hanging a 2.8 WAR and a 0.95 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 56 innings of relief work. This is another reasonable signing!
Signing #5: Aaron Loup (RP) 3 Yrs/$10 Million (Est. +1.0 WAR)
Now where does this leave our lineup/rotation/bullpen/roster/prospects???
Well, the way I see our lineup shaking out next year depends entirely on Torkelson/Greene call-ups. There is no way they don't get the camp invite, but I bet because of service time manipulations (which... GASP!!! Are pretty much public knowledge because of some greedy bastards.), they don't make the opening day roster, so this is my predictions about a month into the 2022 season of what the order may look like:
- Grossman (LF)
- Schoop (2B)
- Greene (CF)
- Tork (1B)
- Miggy (DH)
- Candy (3B)
- Baddoo (RF)
- Taylor (SS)
- Haase/Chirinos (C)
Of course with Hinch the order of bats in the lineup will be all over the place with who leads off, who bats clean-up, is Miggy going to decline more?, and who hits where against LHP/RHP splits on Tuesdays in alternate jerseys when it's overcast and the moon is in Cancer and Jupiter is Aquarius. Just trust the process a bit.
- Swingman: Big Wily Peralta
I feel like Mize, Skubal, Manning all take BIG steps forward next season too and Alexander becomes a solid starter.
Closer: Fulmer Setup: Soto
Rest of the Pen: Loup, Funk, Lange, Cisnero, Jimenez, then whoever else steps up.
Bench is a wildcard: Castros? Victor Reyes? Daz? Niko? But I have a feeling the best bet would be Isaac Parades to take over a big role and eventually hold down the keystone for a while.
So we add total payroll to our under $50 Million already committed (Sportrac estimated without arb raises we're at ~ $44.5 Mill) of another ~$52.2 Million, meaning our payroll is still under $100/mill for the year. What do we do with the savings??? Well we certainly don't buy a bunch of Hot N' Readys and have a party at our place... We follow suit with the White Sox and extend our young players for the foreseeable future and through their arb years to make sure we get Greene, Tork, Mize, Skubal, Manning, whomever else steps up in our system (looking at you Ryan Kriedler and Dillon Dingler!) for a sustained strengthening of our squad, then when Miggy's albatross contract comes off the books, we can really splash sign and build a dynasty with perennial spending flexibility.
So my estimates above = +12 WAR, with us sitting at 75 wins as of today in 2021... Add in some improvements from our youth movement pitchers and potential impact bats coming up means we could realistically have a 90 win team without breaking the bank or a sweat this offseason... There are a million different X-factors that could change this entirely, but the future is looking bright!
Anyway you look at it though, it's going to be a fun offseason and before you blast me in the comments, I REALLY DO HOPE THEY SIGN ONE OF THE BIG SHORTSTOPS!!! THEN WE WIN 95 GAMES, THE WORLD SERIES, THE FLINT MICHIGAN MEGABOWL, THE LOWER OAKLAND ROLLER DERBY FINALS; and of course the new era of Detroit Tigers baseball hearkens in a new era of prosperity around the globe, ends the pandemic, causes world peace, other worldly civilizations hear the call of a humankind's appreciation for what was done this year and makes contact, all the alien beings are beautiful women with equal appreciation of counting stats and cold beers, AND THEN they bring back all your favorite discontinued snacks like Smurf-Berry Crunch and Hi-C Ecto Cooler! Or maybe they regress and only win like 70 games or something, who knows... It's a game that is fun to watch. Eat Em Up Tigers!