The Detroit Tigers were historically horrible in the 2019 season. Their 114 loss campaign was another notch in their rebuilding efforts and was their version of rock bottom. A million things went wrong for the Tigers in 2019. Detroit’s ace, Michael Fulmer, missed the season due to Tommy John surgery. Injuries to key offseason acquisitions Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, Tyson Ross, and Matt Moore left the team scrambling for replacements. Under performances from promising youngsters such as outfielder, Christin Stewart didn’t help to alleviate the pain either.
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has recently gone on record to say that the teardown process of the rebuild is complete. “Our mindset is to move forward and build it back up,” Avila told the media at the 2019 Winter Meetings. And while the building process hasn’t been as vigorous as one may have hoped, the Tigers are moving differently this offseason. The Tigers have strayed away from signing borderline MLB players or full-blown AAAA guys to shape the roster. Instead, they have made moves for major league talent.
They signed catcher Austin Romine on the last day of the Winter Meetings to a one-year, $4 million contract to address their need for leadership behind the plate. Then, on Saturday, Detroit signed second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman C.J Cron to one-year, $6.1M contracts. Romine had been behind the plate with the New York Yankees and while he was the clear backup behind Gary Sanchez, he held his own when Sanchez was sidelined. Since the start of the 2018 season, Romine has slashed .262/.302/.428 with 18 homers. He is a below-average pitch framer but posted above-average numbers when it concerns blocking pitches in the dirt. He also threw out 28% of would-be base stealers in the past two seasons.
Schoop and Cron bring a bit more to the Tigers. Schoop enjoyed a small return to form with the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins last season. He slashed .256/.304/.473 with 23 homers and a 1.8 bWAR/1.3 fWAR in 2018. Schoop did experience a bit of a slump towards the end of the season, and rookie Luis Arraez took the starting job by October. Cron posted a .253/.311/.469 slash line with 25 bombs and 78 RBI. He was below average in the field and has never really hit for average. Cron and Schoop were both members of Minnesota’s “Bomba Squad” and helped the team break the single-season record for most home runs hit by a team. These two also did something no one on the Tigers did in 2019: hit 20 home runs.
Future for the Tigers
These three guys won’t make the Tigers into title contenders, but that’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to make the Tigers a better team. Moore, Ross, Harrison, and Mercer were signed the last offseason to simply plug and play. They didn’t do much to improve the major league team. They were signed to build their trade value, and then be moved in July to improve the team’s farm system. This year, the moves feel like they’re intended to improve the Tigers’ major league team. Even if it won’t put them into World Series contention.
The Tigers added some pop to their lineup, which was sorely lacking, and they have a catcher with playoff experience to help mold Jake Rodgers. The Tigers won’t win it all in 2020, but they are starting to move in a positive direction with these small moves.