An Advance Look at the 2003 Detroit Tigers
ALSO: WILL MARLINS' PLAYER MOVES HELP THEM MOVE UP IN STANDINGS?
Did you know…
He’s 27, talented, and able to supply speed and defense at shortstop but Boston’s newly-acquiredAdalberto Mondesi is also a walking IL, sitting with a right shoulder impingement, groin strain, two left shoulder subluxations, a left hamstring strain, an oblique strain and a torn ACL that needed surgical repair and wiped out his 2022 season . . .
Aaron Judge told Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show audience this week that he stayed with the Yankees because he didn’t want to separate doggie playmates Penny, who belongs to Judge, and Kevin, who belongs to Anthony Rizzo, who also re-signed with the Yanks . . .
Even at age 76, Angels owner Arte Moreno hasn’t lost his love of the game — convincing him to take his team off the market and spark speculation that he’ll find a way to retain two-way star Shohei Ohtani, a prospective free agent this fall . . .
Ohtani’s high school rival, Shintaro Fujinami, is a 28-year-old, 6’6” right-hander who joins the Oakland Athletics, a rival to the Angels in the American League West, after multiple All-Star honors in Japan . . .
Confusion reigns: Not only do the Giants have identical twins in their bullpen but the Brewers have a player and announcer with the same name (Brian Anderson) . . .
The Minnesota Twins lack a left-handed starting pitcher . . .
Eloy Jimenez, whose outfield defense is weak, will be deployed as a DH by the Chicago White Sox . . .
After losing veteran José Iglesias to free agency, the Rockies may trust 21-year-old rookie Ezequiel Tovar, who made his debut last year. But he’s played only 80 games above High-A and only 14 above Double-A. Should he struggle in his first real taste of the majors, their backup plan would be to turn to Alan Trejo or Cole Tucker, neither of whom having much major league success of their own.
Offseason evaluation of the Detroit Tigers
By Joe Underhill
It has been a relatively quiet off-season for the Detroit Tigers.
The biggest change for the team has been in the “behind the scenes” areas starting with the hiring of Scott Harris to be the new President of Baseball Operations. While many fans were hoping the Tigers would jump into the free-agent frenzy, they have been pretty conservative in both their signings and trades so far.
While many fans fear the lack of major signings signal another long rebuild, it is the belief of this writer that it actually signals a long overdue system evaluation. Harris and the Tigers are in the midst of reorganizing their player development and further developing their analytical department. Last off-season, owner Chris Ilitch answered the question of whether he would be willing to spend on free agents by signing Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez to large contracts.
With all this said, let’s take a look at the signings and trades that should impact the Tigers roster in 2023. Transactions sorted by date.
Justyn-Henry Malloy: Acquired from the Braves in the trade for Joe Jimenez, Malloy shows good plate discipline and will be coming to camp with a legitimate chance to make the opening day roster. He posted strong numbers across three levels in the minors and performed well in the AFL. Defense has been a challenge for Malloy at third, so his path to The Show is most likely in a corner outfield position.
Mason Englert: A strong second half to the 2021 season made Englert a target for the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft. Englert has been a starter for his minor-league career and will come to Spring Training competing for a spot in the back of the Tigers rotation because the Tigers need to keep him on the 26-man roster or offer him back to Texas. For 2023, there is a good chance Englert will work as a swing starter/long relief option for the Tigers.
Michael Lorenzen and Matthew Boyd: Both signed on the same day and fit the same role for the Tigers, albeit one from the right side and the other from the left. Both pitchers signed one-year deals and will work in the back of the Tigers rotation or in long relief (pending Spring Training competition). The Tigers have shown an ability to make the most out of pitchers and both Lorenzen and Boyd could be trade candidates if they have strong first halves to the year.
Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, Donny Sands: The Tigers received these three gents in exchange for closer Gregory Soto and utility man Kody Clemens. Vierling is predominantly an outfielder, but has seen playing time on the dirt as well. He has seen time in the Majors in 2021 and 2022 slashing .260/.309/.374. A right-handed hitter, Vierling will be expected to push for at least platoon status with the Tigers, especially considering the lefties currently in the Tigers outfield. Maton is more of a utility-player who hits from the left side. Maton still has a minor-league option and will most likely start the year in AAA, but he will be given a chance to impress in Spring Training. Donny Sands has been a highly-productive hitter at AAA and will come to spring training in competition with Jake Rogers to share catching duties with Eric Haase.
Cesar Hernandez: The Tigers just signed Hernandez to a minor league free-agent contract and he will come to camp with a chance to show that he is still capable of being a productive major-league player. The Tigers have a major hole at third base and a combination of Hernandez and Jonathan Schoop could combine to handle second and third base. Offensively, both Hernandez and Schoop are looking for bounce-back seasons at the plate. Both Hernandez and Schoop have been Gold Glove winners at second base, but it is unknown how the rule changes regarding the shift will impact their defense.
Overall, the Tigers’ off-season has been quiet, but that shouldn’t be confused with failure. Spring Training and 2023 will bring an opportunity for a significant number of prospects to prove they belong in The Show, and the free agents acquired will not stop the Tigers from playing the young players.
Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for www.tigstown.com. You can follow Joe on Twitter@TransplantedDet. or e.mail email@example.com.
Marlins Seek to Balance Payroll Limits, High-Promise Pitchers
By Dan Schlossberg
Kim Ng, the only female GM in the major leagues, is making her mark with the Miami Marlins. But she faces the double whammy of tight purse-strings and a division dominated by three juggernauts: the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies, the 101-win New York Mets, and the Atlanta Braves, seeking their sixth consecutive division title — the longest active streak in the majors.
The Fish floundered in 2022, finishing fourth with a 69-93 mark that left them 32 games from the top of the NL East. If not for the Washington Nationals, who lost a team-record 107 times, the Marlins might have finished last.
Miami ranks 26th among the 30 teams with a 2023 payroll of $70,425,000, according to Spotrac, but that’s expected to jump to $91,537,150 once arbitration arguments end.
Take away outfielders Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia, both free agents added last year, and the team would save a $27 million. Both are strong candidates for mid-season trades.
Derek Jeter resigned as CEO in protest of the team’s money-saving ways. But he had a thankless job anyway, since there’s virtually no hope the Marlins or Nationals can compete against the Big Three — even in a season where each team plays each of the other 29 teams at least once.
But Ng doesn’t give up. She sent veteran shortstop Miguel Rojas to the Los Angeles Dodgers and pitcher Pablo Lopez to the Minnesota Twins, signed versatile infielder Jean Segura, flirted with former batting champion Yuli Gurriel, and imported highly-respected coach Skip Schumaker to succeed the overly-patient Don Mattingly as manager.
As a result, the Fish will field the worst defensive team in the league, if not the majors, and sabotage one of the best young pitching staffs.
Arraez, the 2022 American League batting champion, lacks speed, power, and a position, since he’s best deployed as a designated hitter. He’s likely to compete with Garrett Cooper at first base, though he could also play second and third.
Holdover Jazz Chisholm, Jr. is a rising star but has no experience in center field, the position he’s been asked to play this year.
Segura, who gave the Phillies a fine season last year, is also moving elsewhere: from second to third.
That leaves Joey Wendle, a movable infield piece in 2022, at short with Arraez his most likely double-play partner. The Marlins will miss third baseman Brian Anderson, who rowed the murky waters of free agency to the Milwaukee Brewers.
More than anything, the Fish need to find offense. Their .230 team batting average last year tied Arizona for next-to-worst in the National League and was better only than Pittsburgh’s pathetic .222.
The pitching, on the other hand, showed potential. Sandy Alcantara won the Cy Young Award and was the major reasons the Marlins led the majors with six complete games. Collectively, Miami starters posted a respectable 3.87 earned run average that ranked eighth in the majors, though the bullpen placed 22nd with its 4.15 ERA.
Blessed with an excess of talented young arms, Ng didn’t hesitate to swap Lopez for a hitter, albeit one who won’t add anything to the defense. Adding both Arraez and Segura should help Miami score more runs but don’t expect a repeat of 1997 or 2003, when the Marlins paylayed wild-card wins into world championships.
This may be a year of surprises but the Marlins won’t be one of them. Sorry, Kim.
Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books and regular articles for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and Memories & Dreams. E.mail him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"He will be great, super, even wonderful. Now if he can only learn to catch a fly ball."
— Casey Stengel on future World Series hero Ron Swoboda
The original Frank Thomas, who just passed away, was among the four Milwaukee Braves who became the first quartet in baseball history to hit consecutive home runs; Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, and Thomas tagged Cincinnati pitching in the seventh inning of a game on June 8, 1961 before Joe Torre grounded out . . .
Al Downing wore No. 21 at Trenton High School to honor another left-handed starter who wore it, Hall of Famer Warren Spahn . . .
The great-grandfather of former National League MVP Christian Yelich played in the NFL for eight seasons, twice leading the league in rushing yards per attempt, and made the Football Hall of Fame.
Know Your Editors
HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.