Free Agency Predictions: Detroit Tigers

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With the offseason right around the corner, there are some names that Tigers fans should be aware of.

Buying For Need

There is no doubt that if you asked Tigers fans what the team’s biggest needs are entering the 2022 off-season, the majority would answer with two positions: SS and SP. Sure, there are other areas in need of improvement, but those don’t compare to the needs in the middle infield and the rotation. Following the shortened 2020 season, there was optimism that Willi Castro may be able to lock down the SS job for a few years even though his defense had always been a big negative. His offensive struggles in 2021 all but assured Tigers fans that he is not the long-term solution at the position. Ryan Kreidler showed promise on multiple minor league levels in 2021, but it is unlikely the Tigers will allow the position to remain in flux with another youngster while they are attempting to flip the script back to winning.

On the flip side, pitching was a position that just couldn’t stay healthy for this team. Given the injuries, it was a minor miracle the Tigers staff was able to be as effective as they were with guys like Matt Manning, Tyler Alexander, and Wily Peralta. Detroit would be wise not to bet on this trend to continue and instead pursue one or two mid-level starters.

This free-agency cycle affords the opportunity for the Tigers to not only add their long-term SS and potential rotation anchors, but also a new face of the team. Unlike their contending years when they had a clear face in guys like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, the current Tigers haven’t had a face guiding them through the rebuild. The young guns have been something for Tigers fans to rally around, but they need an established star to come in and be the guy. Whether this comes via trade, free agency, or both, I expect Detroit to be making a splash to bring in some pretty big names this off-season. Using that school of thought, here are my Tigers predictions for 2022 free agency:

Tigers Reunite with an Old Friend

That’s right. Justin Verlander could be coming back to Detroit. Some would say this is too risky for the Tigers. After all, a 39-year old coming off of Tommy John‘s surgery brings up quite the question mark. My rebuttal: why not? We’re talking about arguably the greatest Detroit pitcher of all time. There is a question of whether Houston will extend the qualifying offer to Verlander or not, but many around baseball would say it is probably likely that he does. Even so, Verlander could choose to opt for free agency. If he does, Detroit could be at the top of his list of potential landing spots. There is no doubt that Verlander loved his time in Detroit, and he is still very fond of the city and its fans. Given his age, it is likely that winning will be a huge factor in his decision, but the challenge of leading his old team back to contention is one that would likely be appealing to Verlander. His decision could come based on other potential moves the Tigers may make. If they show they are serious about winning with some high-quality signings, Verlander could decide to come back and try to win one with Detroit.

Detroit Gets Their Star in Correa

This one might set the city of Detroit ablaze. Correa is an absolute stud, and he has shown once again that he is a killer in the postseason. He grades out as one of the best defensive shortstops in the league, and he is rock-solid with the bat. The suitors will be aplenty, but the Tigers do have a couple of advantages when it comes to courting Correa. Chief among them is Correa’s history with current manager, AJ Hinch. A reunion between the two who won the infamous world series together could be enticing to Correa. On top of this, Detroit’s current cap situation affords them the ability to essentially give Correa whatever he desires in terms of price. Whatever the number is, Correa is likely worth it. Many might ask why Correa would want to leave a good situation in Houston. Maybe he doesn’t, but he could want to get out of the city that many around the league now despise and show that he can win wherever. After all, he did say earlier this season that he wanted to win one in his ‘last year with the Astros’. Detroit could be the perfect fit for Correa to lead a core of young players into their first window of contention. If Detroit swings and misses with Correa, expect them to target the other big SS’s in this class: Corey Seager, Trevor Story, or Marcus Simien.

Detroit Rounds Out the Rotation

For this one, I see the Tigers landing on a younger starter. However, this one also comes fresh off of Tommy John’s surgery. Noah Syndergaard is such a talent that I see the Tigers making another gamble. Syndergaard’s situation with the Mets is messy, given their cap situation and question marks around his future effectiveness, but he is not likely to be quite as expensive as he could have been in years prior. I see the Tigers bringing him in on a “prove-it” deal that ranges one or two seasons for less money than he may be worth. There will certainly be suitors for Syndergaard, especially when you factor in teams that would likely want to bring him in to see if they can work him into a bullpen role. The Tigers, however, would likely be willing to offer Syndergaard the opportunity to start, which is what he has been working towards throughout his recovery. This one could go either way, but I see Detroit going for a massive “high-risk, high-reward” swing here.

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