How might Harris add more pitching at Winter Meetings?

December 1st, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

While discussing the signing from earlier this week, president of baseball operations Scott Harris made it clear that the Tigers aren’t done making moves, not by a long shot.

“We’re going to keep looking to add pitching,” Harris said on Tuesday. “You’ll never hear me say that we have enough pitching. I don’t even believe that’s possible to have enough pitching. So we’re going to continue to try to add pitching for the rest of the winter.”

If that “never-enough-pitching” part sounds familiar, it’s because Harris’ predecessors, Al Avila and Dave Dombrowski, said much the same thing during their time in charge. Now we’ll see if Harris can continue their tradition of getting work done in Nashville, Tenn.

The last time the Winter Meetings were in the Music City in 2015, Avila signed free-agent right-handers Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe, then traded for left-hander Justin Wilson. Before that, Dombrowski rocked the 2007 Winter Meetings in Nashville by trading for likely future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. Harris probably won’t swing for a blockbuster like that, but he has the chance to make some significant adds.

Here's a quick look at what’s ahead for the Tigers as they head to the Gaylord Opryland Resort: 

Key events 
Sunday: Hall of Fame Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot results released (former Tigers manager Jim Leyland is among the candidates). Announcement will be broadcast on MLB Network

Tuesday: Manager A.J. Hinch talks with the media.

Tuesday: MLB Draft lottery (Tigers have a 1.6 percent chance of winning the top overall pick, 10th-highest among 17 eligible teams). 

Wednesday: Rule 5 Draft begins at 2 p.m. ET. Where the Tigers pick depends on how many teams have open spots on their 40-man rosters. 

Club needs 
Yes, the Tigers signed Maeda, but they could use one more starter to bolster a rotation that is not only young, but features several pitchers who could have innings restrictions. If Maeda slots into Eduardo Rodriguez’s old role, think of another starter filling the Michael Lorenzen spot. The bullpen needs another lefty reliever alongside Tyler Holton after Tyler Alexander went to the Rays after being claimed on waivers. Detroit could also use one more right-handed hitter alongside to balance what is still a left-handed heavy lineup.

Potential trade candidates 
The Tigers have relief depth from which to deal between closer , setup man and versatile right-hander . Detroit could also try to deal from its Minor League pitching depth, as it did in sending Blake Holub to Milwaukee for Canha. On the position player side, Akil Baddoo could be the odd man out in Detroit’s outfield, though his speed and athleticism could make him a valuable situational contributor.

Prospect to know
’s (the Tigers No. 2 prospect) expected arrival plays a major role in how Harris tweaks Detroit’s lineup. What would otherwise be a void to fill at second or third base is now an opening for the Tigers to introduce arguably their most exciting offensive prospect since Spencer Torkelson, Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter debuted two years ago. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projection system pegs Keith for 19 home runs, 75 RBIs and a 105 OPS+ if he gets a full season, lofty expectations for a 22-year-old infielder who split this past season between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. Detroit would be hard-pressed to find that kind of production outside the top tier of the free-agent market.

Rule 5 Draft
The Tigers have found sneaky talent here over the years, and with two open spots on the 40-man roster, they’re in a good position to try to repeat it. Last year’s pick, Mason Englert, filled a valuable bullpen role for the first half of the season. Given the Tigers’ love for multi-inning relief work and recent roster moves, don’t be surprised if they go that route again.

Burning question
Can the Tigers hit enough to contend? This is Detroit’s best lineup since 2017, but it’s built more on balance. There’s no prime-level Cabrera here, but there are plenty of promising young hitters with impact and discipline. Canha fits right into this, and another impact right-handed bat with similar discipline could help this squad reach another level and support a gifted pitching staff.