Tigers expect growing pains under new leadership

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Al Avila is gone. That’s about the only good news for the Detroit Tigers.
The former general manager, who oversaw baseball operations for eight seasons, was fired in August but his mismanagement of the team will likely be felt for years to come.
His cumulative 478-650 record translates to a .424 percentage and includes three consecutive seasons when the team averaged 103 losses. In five of Avila’s eight seasons, he oversaw a team that lost more than 60 percent of its games, finishing last in the AL Central five times.
Replacing Avila is Scott Harris, who served as the GM of the San Francisco Giants for the past three seasons. Prior to that, Harris worked for the Chicago Cubs from 2012-19.
Two high draft picks — CF Riley Greene and 1B Spencer Torkelson — are entering their sophomore seasons. Shortstop Javier Baez, who was inexplicably signed to a six-year, $140 million before last season, swung at a higher percentage of pitches outside the strike zone (48.7%) than any other major league batter last season, and had the highest called strike plus whiff rate in the majors (32.2%).
Eric Haase, who is coming off a season that saw him hit .254 with an OPS of .748 and 14 home runs in just 110 games, will split time with Jake Rogers at catcher when he’s not playing left field. Rogers did not play last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The other two outfield spots are occupied by LF Austin Meadows, who recently went on the IL, and RF Matt Vierling, who was acquired in a trade during the offseason.
The final two infield positions have four players vying for playing time — Nick Maton, Zach McKinstry, Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Kreidler.
Legendary hitter Miguel Cabrera is well past his prime and is one of the worst designated hitters in all of baseball.
Kerry Carpenter has seen some time at DH and in the outfield.
One of the problems with Avila was the fact that he consistently used the top draft picks on pitchers and ignored position players. But there are some young pitchers on the team with promise — Spencer Turnbull, Matt Manning, Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, the latter two of which are currently on the IL. Skubal likely won’t be back until the summer and Mize will return during the latter part of the season or in 2024.
Turnbull and Manning are currently in the rotation, as is Eduardo Rodriguez, who went 5-5 with a 4.05 ERA last season in 17 starts; Joey Wentz, who went 2-2 with a 3.03 ERA last season in seven starts, and Matthew Boyd, a veteran with a career record of 39-63 and an ERA of 4.89.
Michael Lorenzen, who has spent virtually his entire eight-year career as a reliever, went 8-6 with a 4.24 ERA in 18 starts for the L.A. Angels last season. When he returns from injury, Wentz will likely be sent to the minors or moved to the bullpen.
The bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. Some combination of Alex Lange, Jason Foley and Jose Cisnero will be the closer, and the other arms will consist of Trey Wingenter, Garrett Hill, Tyler Alexander, Chasen Shreve, Mason Englert and Freddy Pacheco.
Harris traded away the Tigers’ best bullpen arms, Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez, during the offseason and let Andrew Chafin leave.
It’s not unreasonable to think the losing has taken its toll on manager A.J. Hinch, who won a world championship leading the Houston Astros in 2017. This is his third year in Detroit, so we’ll see if he can stomach another lackluster season.


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