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Inbox: Tigers' manager search, plate strategy

@beckjason
October 18, 2020

The start of the World Series on Tuesday also means the start of the offseason is just around the corner. With that in mind, here’s the first Tigers Inbox since season’s end:

The start of the World Series on Tuesday also means the start of the offseason is just around the corner. With that in mind, here’s the first Tigers Inbox since season’s end:

With the two interviews of Marcus Thames this week, does this signal a change in hitting philosophy for the Tigers front office? And will this be a trend to continue with the other managerial interviews?
-- @Mike_Kailing

Regardless of who interviews and ultimately gets the job, I think the Tigers recognize a need for drastic improvement at the plate. Detroit had the American League’s highest strikeout rate for a second straight year, and had the lowest walk rate last year after finishing second-to-last in 2019. The Yankees, with whom Thames has served as hitting coach the last three years, are known for hitting a lot of home runs, but they’re also disciplined, leading the league in walk rate in two of the last three seasons while finishing better than average in strikeout rates. What Thames was able to help bring out of Gio Urshela and Luke Voit in particular is worth noting, because the Tigers need production from unexpected sources to get their offense turned around before Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene arrive.

Tigers interview Lombard, Thames (sources)

That said, the Tigers also know Thames is a high-character person who garners respect. They saw it when he was a Tigers player and forged a role on Detroit’s roster after joining the organization on a Minor League invite. And both sides also realize there are certain aspects to building an offense for Comerica Park that will be different than for Yankee Stadium.

What are the odds the Tigers spend money in free agency? If they do, is there a realistic chance to sign either George Springer or Marcell Ozuna?
-- @Schmitty1313

General manager Al Avila said earlier this month that it’s too early to map out a free-agent plan until they have a better idea about revenues for next season -- in other words, what the schedule looks like, will they be able to have fans in the stands at the start and will they be able to play a full season. Expect several teams to take that approach this offseason, which could make for an uncertain Hot Stove.

At this point, unless there’s a chance to snag a top player who lingers on the market, I don’t expect the Tigers to spend big. They’re not a player or two away from World Series contention. Their window isn’t here yet, and there’s a potentially stacked free-agent market next winter that could include many star shortstops as well as Justin Verlander. They could still be opportunistic this winter, but I think the last thing they want is another long-term contract that doesn’t work out and weighs them down in a year or two when they see their chance.

What’s the likelihood of re-signing Jonathan Schoop on a multi-year deal? And if they (understandably) don’t want to pay for J.T. Realmuto, doesn’t a James McCann reunion seem like a no-brainer?
-- @itztrickyricky

The chances of the Tigers re-signing Schoop depends in part on how other teams view him on the market. If there’s a chance for him to jump to a contender, I would expect he’d take it; he turned 29 on Friday, he’s coming off the second-best OPS+ of his career, and is still looking for his first World Series appearance. If that opportunity isn’t out there for him, a return to Detroit certainly would be reasonable; he seemed comfortable here and the Tigers liked his quiet leadership, especially with shortstop Willi Castro.

As for McCann, I certainly think there could be a spot for him. The Tigers auditioned a lot of young players down the stretch, but catching prospect Jake Rogers wasn’t one of them, so I’d expect Detroit to bring in a veteran to at least share the job. The organization thinks the world of McCann, and his offensive production with Chicago the last couple of years answered the biggest question about his game.

What’s Franklin Pérez's status? And what are the realistic expectations for him this coming year and next?
-- @mgh50

By all accounts, Pérez is healthy, which is obviously big for him and the Tigers. He can’t be part of the Florida instructional league because he’s on the 40-man roster, but that matters little. He has a chance to spend an offseason with a regular workout program instead of rehab for the first time in three years. If there’s a regular Minor League season, Pérez will pitch in a competitive environment for the first time since he made two starts for Class A Advanced Lakeland in 2019. For that reason, expect the Tigers to exercise some patience with him developmentally, allowing him to settle into a regular routine, probably back at Lakeland, before he moves up the organizational ladder.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.