Detroit had their fun in the early part of this decade. They are lingering at the bottom of a dismal American League Central. A high draft pick and player development is the aim for 2019.
The Tigers added two veterans to their rotation in Matt Moore and Tyson Ross. Both are one-year deals and are not exactly exciting. Moore was once a promising young pitcher, but it’s a long time since he’s really been any good. Ross might be okay and could get a return at the deadline.
Jordy Mercer filled the shortstop void left by Jose Iglesias. The shortstop options in free agency were limited and, while Mercer isn’t going to set the world alight, it was a decent way to fill a hole.
Josh Harrison was picked up on a similar one-year deal to play alongside Mercer at second. Harrison’s versatility makes him a reasonable candidate to be traded midseason.
Veteran Pete Kozma arrived on a minor league deal too. He provides some infield depth behind Mercer.
The biggest offseason news has been the lack of Nick Castellanos movement. Castellanos is a free agent at season’s end and wants out. With Miguel Cabrera needing to DH long-term, Castellanos does not have a spot on the Detroit roster and could get a couple of good prospects in return. Expect him to be dealt before the July deadline.
What to watch
Michael Fulmer looked like a potential ace when he won Rookie of the Year in 2016, but he has since regressed. Projections are good for him this season, though it’s a case of needing to see it to believe it. Detroit should have sold high on Fulmer a couple of years ago. If he bounces back, they will have a dilemma about whether to keep or trade.
Cabrera’s injuries are a concern, forcing him to miss time in 2017 and 2018. His contract runs until 2023 at least and Detroit need production from the future Hall of Famer if they are to contend in the near future. A .843 OPS in a small sample last season gives hope.
Away from Castellanos and Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario is the only position player with any upside. His .710 OPS in 2018 isn’t a point of great optimism, nor are is poor statcast numbers, but ZiPs project 17 homers. The Tigers will hope he can get somewhere near the numbers he put up in the minors that made him a highly rated prospect with the Cubs.
It’s going to be a long season. There’s little intrigue in this Tigers roster and the best prospects, like last season’s number one overall pick Casey Mize, are unlikely to appear in the Majors in 2019.
A return for Castellanos, a strong season from Fulmer and a breakout from Candelario are the most likely routes to a positive season for Detroit.