In other cities where clubs are building around young players, those situations have provided the impetus for long-term contracts that have ensured fans can follow those players’ progressions and watch them grow, hopefully into stars. Look no further than Cleveland, where Andrés Giménez just signed a seven-year extension before he was even eligible for arbitration.
Could that be a blueprint the Tigers look to follow? It’s a question we’ve asked before, but new president of baseball operations Scott Harris isn’t ruling it out, even if it doesn’t sound like anything is imminent.
“We want to build an organization that players want to play for, that players want to be here for a long time and be Tigers for a long time,” Harris said last week on the eve of Opening Day. “We have to do our part to create that organization, and we have to have players that are, you know, sort of deserving of the extensions. It’s a really tricky balance, but we’re always open to extending players that want to be in Detroit for a long time -- and we’re going to try to be aggressive with that when we identify worthy candidates moving forward.
“It’s definitely something that has crossed our minds, but there has been nothing actionable so far."
That openness logically follows his philosophy since his arrival regarding opening opportunities for young players to come up and prove themselves in the Major Leagues. This mindset seemingly prevailed with Ryan Kreidler and Kerry Carpenter earning Opening Day roster spots after late-season auditions last year, beating out players with more experience.
“We’re excited to see [Kreidler] get to work,” Harris said. “We think he has a chance to take that next step, and we’re going to certainly build the systems around him to help him.”
Part of building the system around players involves the expanded coaching staff, including three hitting coaches and three pitching coaches. Part, too, includes a renovated clubhouse that players and coaches will see in person for the first time at Thursday's home opener.
“We spent a lot of time and energy on elevating the player experience this offseason,” Harris said. “We’re fortunate to have an owner in Chris [Illitch] who is committed to investing in the players, the systems and the infrastructure that can help us get this right. He’s done a lot that you know about -- and a lot that you don’t know -- to improve how it looks and feels to be a Tiger.
“I’m really excited for the players to get back to Detroit and see all of this stuff firsthand. I’m also very excited to be responsive to further changes that they need to get the very best out of them. We want Detroit to be a place that players want to come play and that they want to stay in for a long time, and I’m really excited to unveil a lot of those new changes when we get back.”
Other highlights from Harris’ session at Tropicana Field with beat writers and broadcasters:
- The new outfield fences are getting their finishing touches but will be ready for the team's home opener. “There are a lot of hard hats running around in Detroit,” Harris said, “but we expect it all to be done.”
- The Tigers see untapped potential in recent trade acquisition and former Central Michigan player Zach McKinstry, who has had glimpses of success in the Majors but struggled to sustain it. “He has a strong track record of controlling the strike zone and he plays above-average defense at multiple spots around the diamond,” Harris said. “That performance hasn’t translated into the big leagues yet. However, if you look at his career at every stop of the Minor Leagues, he’s been challenged to perform -- and he has responded at every stop of the Minor Leagues. We’re going to give him that opportunity in the big leagues here. … We think we can build an environment that can maximize his chances of translating that performance to the big leagues here in Detroit, and we intend to do that.”