After picking up reliever Andrew Chafin, and then starting pitcher Michael Pineda, GM Al Avila confirmed that the Detroit Tigers’ offseason was complete. The two big signings of Eduardo Rodriguez and Javy Báez led the way back in November, although their trade for catcher Tucker Barnhart was the first move of the offseason. Ultimately it wasn’t quite the monster offseason many hoped for, but it may have been the offseason the Tigers’ needed.
How would you grade GM Al Avila’s work this offseason? Give us a letter grade and some commentary.
Brady McAtamney: I feel comfortable at a B+. It’s impossible for me to get into “A” territory without a Correa signing, considering we very much could have gotten him. But Baez and Rodriguez were two very solid signings, and Chafin, Peralta and Pineda are all great ways to fill out the roster. For what feels like the first time in years, I’m not sure the Tigers roster has any holes.
Peter Kwasniak: From where the team stood at the end on the 2021 season to where they are now, I would give them a very strong B+ or weak A-. Yes it would have been awesome to get Correa and you can argue that the Tigers could have easily afforded it, yet at the end of the day, Báez is still a darn good SS. Rodriguez gives them a veteran top rotation arm to pair with the exciting trio of Mize, Skubal, and Manning. Barnhart was the best catcher available and they got him on day 1. Chafin gives them a very good relief arm to add to an already decent bullpen. Pineda rounds out the rotation nicely and they have brought in solid depth, highlighted by another year with Wily Peralta, who provided some solid pitching for them last year. I was holding my breath to see if Chris Ilitch would make good on his promises to spend on the team and he came through. You can argue about how far he should have committed but you cannot say he is being cheap. I think it’s an aggressive commitment while not going all in should things go south on them. This is a team that should make a lot of noise in 2022 and I cannot wait to see how this plays out.
Brady: It’ll be really interesting to see if they’ll remain active on the trade market, especially as the season progresses. Of course, you need to win in order to want to make moves, but they could be players in July.
Brandon Day: They better be.
I’m going to go with an A-, although I may be compensating slightly after dogging Avila relentlessly for 6+ seasons. The minor fly in the ointment is that they didn’t land one of the top couple bats in free agency. Obviously I was looking for Correa or Story. This is balanced against my sense that Eduardo Rodriguez has a good chance to be the best starting pitcher signing of the offseason, and they got on the ball early enough in dealing for Barnhart and signing Rodriguez and Javy Báez that they didn’t have to come out of the lockout in desperation mode. Andrew Chafin’s addition gives them a shot at a really good bullpen with Tyler Alexander included. And the low cost additions of Wily Peralta and Michael Pineda mean that Alexander should have more of a fixed role as a full-time reliever this season.
They managed to do all this without trading any prospects and without even going much over a league average payroll. That last bit is annoying, but it does leave them plenty of flexibility to make moves and address needs that arise. For me, the goal was to put a team that could make the playoffs on the field. I feel like they accomplished that. I would’ve been happier if they’d spent big and landed Correa over Báez, and signed another really good starter, but so much depends on the development of their young players that I understand not emptying the tank all at once.
This is a fairly strong, deep, versatile roster of players, arguably headed by the best coaching staff in the division. They have solid power at every position but DH, which is unique, and illustrates the problem of the aging superstar near the end of a long-term deal. They have numerous high OBP types. They have a lot of speed. They’re deeper than most teams in terms of left-handed pitching. They have a few switch hitters, and on paper, the deepest bullpen I’ve ever seen in this organization, though that isn’t as ringing an endorsement as it might be. Finally, they have a lot of top-shelf young talent to continue developing, and can expect some support from the farm system this year as needed. If things go as planned and the young players contribute the way we hope, the club is in great position, with the ability to compete for just about any finishing piece they want in July. Feeling very good right now.
Mr. Sunshine: We could absolutely still sign Correa for the heck of it, slide Báez to 2B, and keep Schoop instead of one of the Castros as our rotating bench bat. Imagine the mix and match fun you could have with the lineup. It’s not our money!
But I’d give this offseason that same range as above, probably B+/A- range. Would have loved to get one more mid to elite pitcher, given the mediocre payroll. Báez was my least favorite of the big-name shortstops, but he’s still good. E-Rod is exciting, and the possibility of having a bullpen that won’t induce panic runs for the Pepto is almost unbelievable. Absolutely loving the pitching depth signings though, and guys like Chafin with his incredible stache and attitude.
Les Lim: I’m just happy they turned in their work
Mr. Sunshine: Annnnnnnd Correa signs with the Twins with a deal we could have matched for my dream above. Ugh. Definitely a B+ now.
Adam Dubbin: In order for the Tigers to have earned an A, it would require the acquisition of Correa or Story, which unfortunately didn’t happen. But what did happen was a series of signings that clearly improved and solidified the team into something that resembles a competitive squad. The bullpen looks as good as it has been in a long time, the starting rotation — while still having headroom for improvement— is no longer a carousel of misfits. For all the crap I’ve given Avila, I tip my hat to him for this offseason. I award the Tigers a B+ grade.
Rob Rogacki: Unless something else happens, I really can’t give them any better than a B-. The Tigers made a number of upgrades this offseason, but their biggest need by a longshot was to plug the gaping hole at shortstop. They did that with Javier Baez, but it really feels like they left a lot on the table. I felt this way even before the Twins signed Carlos Correa — to a contract requiring the type of out-of-the-box thinking we have rarely seen from this front office, no less — as the only thing really stopping the Tigers from getting one of the top three shortstops available was their willingness to meet those players’ financial demands. Instead, it seems that the Tigers turned to Baez and closed up shop on that front.
(I want to dip into the C’s but I can’t tell if that’s just because I’m angry about the Correa news)
Jason Law: Despite the Correa news, I’d give it a B+. I didn’t think the Tigers were going to land him, anyway — and, let’s face it, Baez is more than just a consolation prize. He can be a foundational piece of a solid core as the next generation of prospcts comes up, if things fall the Tigers’ way. I was hoping the front office wouldn’t make dramatic signings just for drama’s sake, and I think they hit that balance pretty well. As for the pitching staff… call me crazy, but I think the current crew, with the addition of Rodriguez, can be very, very solid, both in the rotation and the bullpen. Really interested to see what role Tyler Alexander takes this year, too.
Zane Harding: I just want to emphasize Jason’s message that Báez is more than a consolation prize. There is part of me that prefers him in general.
Peter: Yes, seconded (thirded?)! It’s kinda like when you get a really awesome toy but then your sibling gets an even awesome toy. Your new toy is now crap.
Rob: My negativity largely stems from me not being very high on Baez. He feels like the kind of guy that will fall off a cliff once the hands and bat speed starts to slow down.
Adam: I was wavering between B and B+ but a recent jolt of positivity pushed me to the + territory.
Brady: Baez is definitely a consolation prize. He’s going to provide some really fun moments, but I agree that he’s more than likely going to have a steady decline. Here’s hoping he can take a page out of Robbie’s book and start drawing some walks, because that’ll boost his offensive value a lot.
Zane: He probably won’t get the walks up, but the defense is elite and the power and durability have been better than Correa. There is part of me that feels like Correa is just as likely to have his production evaporate within five years because of the injury history. I think I have come to decide that Baez was a more fiscally responsible move, but I want to see the rest of the money spent still that was offered to Correa. As of now, I’m at a B+ for the offseason, but I can’t put an A if we aren’t actually spending the full amount of financial resources reportedly offered out this offseason. Especially as a strong proponent of the “you have to spend money to make money” Keynesian economic philosophy.
Now, if he does get the walks up, build Hinch a statue for making that happen. I don’t think there’s another skipper whose team could get Báez to actually draw walks right now in the league, based on his history. Fangraphs should label his swing %’s NSFW, LOL.
Adam: Gotta get Báezy goin’.
Peter: TL;DR of the staff grades. B- if you don’t like Baez. B+ if you do.
Adam: I’m pretty meh on Baez so can I please change my grade to B then?
Jason: No. No changey-backseys.
Mr. Sunshine: Hey, I gave a B+ and I don’t really like Baez
Trevor Hooth: So I’m going to set the curve here and go with an A-…ducks while you all throw things at me. I’m with Brandon. I think we all fell so in love with the idea or Correa that it became Correa or bust. Báez is so better than anything else that was going to be available there, and the opt-outs make it a very interesting contract. I think it was a good signing. Plus bringing in the pitching, I think the front office did a really good job preparing this team for the arrival of Torkelson and Greene. Anyway readers thanks for your support, I may be fired now!
For real though, I’m super optimistic about the Baez signing.
Cameron Kaiser: I give Al Avila a “B” for his offseason moves. Eduardo Rodriguez, Javier Baez, Andrew Chafin, Tucker Barnhart, and now Michael Pineda should all help the Tigers in areas that they really needed to see improvement in. E-Rod will eat innings at the top of the rotation, and Pineda will take pressure off of Matt Manning at the back of the rotation. Chafin has been very good in the bullpen for a few years and has the greatest mustache that the team has had since Todd Jones. Barnhart is an excellent defensive catcher with a knack for guiding pitchers, and that’s a skill that the young staff in Detroit will love. I’ve written extensively on Javy Baez, and while his game has plenty of warts, he’s going crush a lot of baseballs and make some spectacular plays at shortstop.
The reason for the “B” instead of an “A” has to do with the moves that they could’ve made. Not to beat a dead horse, but the biggest need for the Tigers was a shortstop and the best shortstop in baseball in Carlos Correa was a free agent. The Tigers payroll had plenty of room to add a premium player on a $30+ million deal, and instead opted for a cheaper, lesser player. This looks even worse now that Correa signed on a reasonable three-year, $105 million deal with the division rival Minnesota Twins. Jumping on Báez before the lockout assured that the Tigers upgraded the position, but failing to land the best player on the market now hurts even more considering they’ll face Correa 20 times this year, and possibly the next few years depending on if Correa uses his opt-outs.
Speaking of the Twins, they dealt prospects for Sonny Gray, another shrewd move that will make the race in the AL Central Division interesting. Whether Sonny Gray was the right guy to trade for is debatable, but a similar trade by Detroit for a proven pitcher would’ve gone a long way in my confidence for the 2022 season. Relying on Matt Manning in the rotation for the entire season is a scary thought, but it seems that’s what the Tigers plan on doing. Should he succeed, Avila will look smart having saved all of the organization’s prospect capital, but if he struggles, he’ll most likely pay a premium at the trade deadline for another arm should the Tigers be in a fight for the playoffs. Overall, it’s hard to argue against the moves that Al Avila and co. did make, and on paper he has assembled the best Tigers roster of the last five years. Let’s see how far they can go.
Jason: I totally forgot about Barnhart. (In my defense, that was a good long while ago, and time has had very little meaning of late.) That’s going to be such a huge plus for the Tigers this year.
Adam: Man and here I thought Brando went all Tolstoy on us.
Brandon: Never go full Tolstoy.
Full Dostoevsky is acceptable