Tony Paul’s top 50 MLB free agents: A new leader will try to bolster Tigers’ roster

Detroit News

Go through the gallery above to view Tony Paul’s top 50 Major League Baseball free agents heading into the 2023 season. Click here if you have trouble viewing the gallery.

Detroit — Black Friday still is two weeks away.

But for Major League Baseball, the store doors have swung open this week, with the start of free agency.

It’s a relatively deep class of free agents, as chronicled today by The Detroit News’ annual top-50 breakdown, particularly when it comes to shortstop, starting pitching and impact bats.

The question, at least locally: How will the Tigers fit into the spending spree?

The Tigers were among the most aggressive teams last offseason, signing shortstop Javier Báez, starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and relief pitcher Andrew Chafin, plus a trade for catcher Tucker Barnhart, in anticipation of a season that was supposed to be the Tigers’ return to relevance. That didn’t happen, general manager Al Avila was fired, and Scott Harris, all of 35, was tapped to take over as team president.

Harris, during his introductory press conference this fall, was careful not to use the word “rebuild,” which would seem to suggest that, while he plans to make a whole lot of changes, it won’t be a teardown.

Club CEO Christopher Ilitch said resources won’t be an issue as Harris tries to get the Tigers back to the postseason for the first time since 2014. Harris would’ve had to be given such assurances to leave a prime gig like general manager of the San Francisco Giants.

“He’s very competitive and he’s driven to win a World Series,” Ilitch said. “As simple as that may seem, not everybody is as aggressive in their thinking and commitment to want to be the best and win a World Series championship. Scott and I are very aligned in that respect.”

At this week’s general managers meetings in Las Vegas — Harris will hire a GM, but hasn’t yet — Harris told Detroit beat reporters that his top priorities for the offseason are adding a catcher, a left-handed hitting infielder, a right-handed hitting outfielder and pitching.

The Tigers’ offense was abysmal last season, and could benefit from an impact bat, and probably two. The Tigers’ pitching was much better, but injuries exposed that the depth isn’t what it was believed to be.

Harris has spent the early part of his tenure with the Tigers meeting with folks all across the business, and assessing the team’s needs from the ground up. He’s made some front-office hires, but hasn’t done much with the roster yet.

That time is coming. Whether it’ll all happen via free agency remains to be seen, though that would seem the natural route given the team isn’t exactly flush with trade chips. It does have plenty of payroll space, though. Despite last year’s spree, Detroit still was bottom half in MLB in total payroll.

“We talked about resources,” Harris said last month. “This ownership group has a long history of supporting the baseball operations.

“It’s on me to come up with compelling opportunities and to pitch those opportunities to Chris.

“I know that if I do, I’ll have his full support.”

We’ll see.

And, probably, very soon.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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