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Offseason checklist: Tigers' needs and moves

@beckjason
November 3, 2019

The Tigers lost 114 games in 2019, most in the Majors and the second-most in franchise history. They remain committed to their rebuilding process, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have immediate needs to fill. MLB.com is keeping track of every move the Tigers make this offseason as they prepare

The Tigers lost 114 games in 2019, most in the Majors and the second-most in franchise history. They remain committed to their rebuilding process, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have immediate needs to fill.

MLB.com is keeping track of every move the Tigers make this offseason as they prepare for 2020. Check back here for updates as the offseason continues.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Offense
The Tigers had the American League’s lowest OPS and scored 33 fewer runs than any other Major League team, a wide gap even for a team that played just 161 games. While their youth movement is built around pitching, the impact hitters they’ve drafted in recent years are at least a few years away. Detroit desperately needs a veteran run producer to help the entire club. The easiest fits are at first base or a corner outfield spot. Justin Smoak is among the free-agent sluggers that have been discussed.

Starting pitching
Matthew Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann, Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris form the foundation of Detroit’s rotation until top prospects Matt Manning and Casey Mize arrive late in ‘20 or ‘21. Still, the Tigers want depth after injuries to Zimmermann and free-agent signings Tyson Ross and Matt Moore left them short-handed for much of last season’s first half. They would love to replicate the success they found a couple of years ago with Mike Fiers, whom they signed off a non-tender and traded to Oakland for prospects.

Relief depth
Other than closer Joe Jiménez and versatile setup man Buck Farmer, Detroit’s bullpen roles are wide open, especially from the left side after Blaine Hardy and Daniel Stumpf were cut. Young arms like Bryan Garcia, Gregory Soto and John Schreiber are expected to get their shot, but general manager Al Avila will look for more experienced arms to stabilize the group.

Catcher
With John Hicks gone, the Tigers’ catching corps consists of top prospect Jake Rogers and second-year man Grayson Greiner. They have a combined 127 Major League games between them. A veteran backstop, at least for depth, would be a great help, especially a left-handed hitter. A reunion with Alex Avila has been speculated.

Middle infield
The Tigers hope Willi Castro is their shortstop for years to come, but they aren’t sure if he’s ready for a full-time role, or if he can stick at the position. That uncertainty could put Detroit back on the shortstop market, where Avila found Jordy Mercer on a one-year contract last offseason. Expect many familiar names from a year ago to be likely candidates.

MOVES MADE

Oct. 23: Nick Ramirez, Zac Reininger, Eduardo Jimenez, Dustin Peterson outrighted to Triple-A Toledo
All four players spent time with the Tigers this past season, led by Ramirez, who blossomed from a mop-up reliever when called up in May to a versatile lefty arm by season’s end. But with the Tigers needing to protect a bunch of prospects from December’s Rule 5 Draft, they decided to drop the 30-year-old. All four players became Minor League free agents after the World Series, and Detroit could pursue a reunion with Ramirez on a Minor League contract.

Oct. 24: Blaine Hardy, Daniel Stumpf, Victor Alcántara and John Hicks become free agents after being outrighted
The Tigers’ decision to part ways with the arbitration-eligible Hardy had been expected after an injury-plagued season that ended early with a flexor tendon strain in his left forearm. Hicks was also arbitration-eligible after posting a .620 OPS and 109 strikeouts in 333 plate appearances in a catcher/first baseman utility role. Stumpf’s struggles combined with the upcoming three-batter minimum rule change for relievers curtailed his future.

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