Tigers silent but ‘really busy’ on free-agent market at Winter Meetings

Detroit News

San Diego – On Day Two of the Winter Meetings, a couple of players that seemed to fit the profile of free agents president Scott Harris said the Tigers might be targeting came off the board.

Josh Bell, a switch-hitting corner infielder, agreed to a two-year deal worth $33 million with the Cleveland Guardians. And Mitch Haniger, a right-handed hitting corner outfielder, agreed to a three-year, $43.5 million deal with Harris’ former club, the San Francisco Giants.

The Tigers, meanwhile, won the first-ever draft lottery, moving up three spots to get the third pick in the 2023 amateur player draft. But as for adding big-league players to the roster – crickets. Nothing since agreeing with Matthew Boyd for one year and $10 million last week.

And yet, Harris scoffed at the idea that the market, from where the Tigers are playing, might be sluggish.

“It’s not sluggish at all,” he said. “For every deal that happens, there are hundreds of other ideas that we’re working on. We’re working really hard right now to make the team better. It consumes an unbelievable amount of bandwidth to make a trade.

“We’re really busy right now. We don’t have a trade to announce to show how busy we are. But rest assured, we do not find the trade market or the free agent market to be sluggish row. Even if on Twitter it doesn’t look like anything is happening.”

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Certainly there is no rush. The deadline for making deals isn’t at the conclusion of these meetings. Spring training is still more than two months away.

“We’re just looking for opportunities to get better,” Harris said.

But he steadfastly refused to discuss the club’s payroll relevant to spending power. And on Monday night, he pointedly talked about investing in the young players already on the roster and in the system. He talked about earmarking at-bats and innings for young players not just in September but throughout the season.

Conversely, he said he’s met with every agent and is shopping in every aisle. But it didn’t sound like any franchise-altering deals were imminent.

And yet, as manager AJ Hinch reiterated on Tuesday, the mission is still to put a competitive team on the field in 2023.

“I think we can win here,” Hinch said. “I want to win. It’s something that Scott and I have talked about a ton. We’ll be doing multiple things at the same time while we’re breaking in young talent, trying to win that day’s game, play as deep as you can (into the season) and make a run at the playoffs.

“That hasn’t changed since the day I got here. But it’s been enhanced by Scott’s vision of coming here from a really, really good job in his hometown and taking on the challenge to do it and partner up.”

Harris was asked what gave him confidence, should the payroll stay relatively the same as it was last season, that a winning team could be assembled here.

“A: I wouldn’t have taken the job if I wasn’t confident,” he said. “And B: I am excited about some of the young players we have in the big leagues right now and some of the players who are coming. Anytime you have a roster with a lot of young players, you have the opportunity to spend your resources elsewhere.

“If our development-centric coaching staff can help get the very most out of our young players, then we will have plenty of resources to supplement our roster with whatever we need.”

The conversation with Harris Tuesday covered a lot of ground.

∎ On working with Hinch. He was asked if the manager had full autonomy to make lineup and in-game decisions.

“Come on, you guys have met AJ,” Harris said, laughing. “You know that’s not going to be a problem. It’s really important that AJ and I are challenging each other. That I am presenting new, compelling information to him that helps him make better decisions in games.

“And he’s doing the same for me with decisions on roster construction and player development. He was a former farm director. He played…He’s had experiences I’ve never had. He can contribute a lot to what we’re doing upstairs. We text each other a hundred times a day. It’s been a very rewarding relationship so far.”

∎ On the dimensions at Comerica Park. He said there was no update on whether the fences were going to be moved and was asked if he thought the park was too spacious.

“My general opinion on dimensions is, I prefer it to be one side of the aisle or the other,” he said. “I would prefer to have the opportunity to have some asymmetry in the environment that we’re playing in. If we are on one side of the aisle as a pitcher’s park or on the other side as a hitter’s park, we have the opportunity to build a team a certain way to take advantage of the dimensions.

“We are the only team that will play there 81 times a year. I would prefer it not to be right down the middle.”

∎ On if there were any untouchables on his roster, players he would not trade even if the right deal were presented.

“No and that will be consistent throughout my time here,” he said. “We’re just not going to look at any player as untouchable. We have varying levels of interest in making moves with any player. But I don’t think any team operates with truly untouchable players anymore.”

∎ On the Rule 5 draft Wednesday. The Tigers will have the sixth pick, unless one of the teams picking ahead of them has a full 40-man roster.

“If we take a player in the Rule 5 draft, we would expect that player to contribute and have a chance to both help us and stick throughout the year,” he said.

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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