Tigers Eyeing Veteran Bat In Offseason -- But Not Yet Ready To 'Spend A Ton'

No one on the current roster has more than 15 home runs.

Jamie and Stoney
September 26, 2019 - 3:04 pm

© Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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The Tigers went bargain hunting last winter and came up empty. 

Their four veteran acquisitions, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Matt Moore and Tyson Ross, all missed significant time with injuries. It made for an especially long season, with the Tigers allowing the fourth most runs in baseball and scoring the fewest. 

They plan to bolster the offense in free agency, but don't expect them to make any splash signings. It's likely Al Avila and the front office will take a similar approach as last year. 

"We’ve had a lot of conversations and they're going to be searching," Ron Gardenhire told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. "There’s not going to be a lot of money spent as far as free agents go, but we’re going to try and look and find the right people to come in here and fill holes." 

The emphasis will be on finding a veteran bat for the middle of the order. 

"We’ve talked about a run producer, absolutely, somebody who can drive in runs at whatever position we feel necessary," said Gardenhire. "It’s not easy to do because they cost and, like I said, we’re not going to go out and spend a ton of money. But we’ve talked about all those things, about bringing in some people.

"We didn’t do very good bringing in the veterans this year, they got hurt and it just didn’t work out too well, so I think the organization understands we have to do a really good job here and find the right people." 

The Tigers have a clear need at first base heading into next season. Scanning the free agent market, a few names that might make sense are Mitch Moreland, David Freese, and Matt Adams, though the latter two have club options for 2020.

Moreland has 19 homers and an .849 OPS in 89 games with the Red Sox this season, Thames has 24 homers and an .856 OPS in 145 games with the Brewers; and Adams has 20 homers and a .750 OPS in 108 games with the Nationals. Detroit doesn't have a single hitter with more than 15 home runs or an OPS of at least .750. 

However they spend their money, the Tigers won't invest heavily in one player. Gardenhire said Tuesday they'd rather disperse their dollars across the roster. In time, perhaps by next offseason, the Tigers will be more aggressive in free agency, but first their current roster needs to catch up. 

The team will be young again in 2020, and the losing will likely continue. But with the likes of Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal all ready to make the jump to Triple-A, the core of Detroit's future rotation is knocking on the door. And with further development of the players already here, the Tigers should be a bit more competitive. 

"It’s going to be young again next year starting off, but we’re going to get better," Gardenhire said. "All these pitchers you’re taking about, they’re going to start off probably in Triple-A and eventually sometime next year maybe we’ll get a look at them. It’s going to be some fun times. It’s coming, it’s coming soon. We just have to hang with them and do the best we can until they all get here. But there’s a lot of talent. ... There’s going to be a lot of good players." 

It's partly for this reason that Gardenhire is ready to return for his third year as manager, with his contract set to expire after next season. The last two years have been hard on him -- he said this season has been the toughest of his 19-year career -- but there's hope moving forward. Moreover, Gardenhire was hired to steer the Tigers through the abyss of their rebuild, and he intends to fulfill that duty. 

"Al asked me to do a job here. It’s been tough, no doubt. This has been a hard one because we’re in so many games and then all of a sudden it just falls apart in one inning. But my staff and myself, we’ve all said, 'This is what it is. We just gotta keep grinding.' And I enjoy baseball, I love baseball and this is a great baseball city, so we’re going to do the best we can.

"I’m here to do a job, get this thing on the right track and go from there, and then somebody eventually will take over and they’re going to have a good baseball team here. You’re going to see a lot of good wins and a lot of good players. That’s the hope, that’s the hope for me and my coaching staff." 

Gardenhire also touched on Miguel Cabrera's plan to shed some weight this offseason to lessen the strain on his damaged right knee.

"It’s good that he recognizes it," Gardenhire said. "He wants to play, he loves playing baseball, and he’s getting older and you have to do those things. With a knee problem it’s going to be hard to do a really tough workout program to lose a lot of weight, so it’s all going to be in his diet and everything else, and he knows it. He’s the one that talked about it, he said this is what he’s gotta do. Good for him.

"He’s going to see some doctors over the offseason and talk to them about what he can do to make his knee better, if there’s anything he can do. But as you get older these things happen. I’m just happy that he’s thinking about it, talking about it and understands that he has to do something to be able to maintain for the next four years."