Central Notes: Tigers, Marmol, Ashby, Brewers

MLB Trade Rumors

The hot corner was a clear problem area for the Tigers in 2023. The club’s third basemen slashed a collective .211/.294/.323 last season, good for a 72 wRC+ that was better than only that tied with the A’s for the second-worst offensive production from the position in the majors, beating out only the Mets. In terms of fWAR, Detroit’s third basemen combined for -1.0 fWAR, tied with the Angels for bottom three in the majors ahead of the aforementioned clubs. Despite that dire situation, however, Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic suggests that the Tigers may be content to enter 2024 relying on their internal options at the position.

That strategy could be more sensible than it may seem. Top prospects Jace Jung and Colt Keith could both find themselves in the majors in 2024 after strong offensive seasons in 2023 that saw them each slug over .500 while reaching the Double- and Triple-A level, respectively, for the first time in their career. Until the club’s young infielders are ready for the show, Stavenhagen suggests that the Tigers figure to rely on Matt Vierling as their primary third baseman. Vierling slashed a respectable .261/.329/.388 across 134 games in 2023 while primarily playing the outfield, but Detroit’s acquisition of Mark Canha figures to allow Vierling more time on the infield dirt in 2024 after making 27 starts at the hot corner this past season.

One area the Tigers do hope to make an addition this offseason is the bullpen, where Stavenhagen notes the club hopes to add a left-handed reliever. The club already has southpaws Tyler Holton and Joey Wentz among their relief options for 2024, but Wentz struggled badly in 2023 with a 6.90 ERA in 105 2/3 innings of work across 25 appearances, 19 of which were starts. While Wentz posted a more respectable 4.26 ERA in 25 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen last year, it’s easy to see why the club may want additional support from the left side headed into 2024. That’s particularly true after the club released Chasen Shreve back in August and lost Tyler Alexander on waivers to the Rays last month.

More from around MLB’s Central divisions…

  • On the heels of a 91-loss season that saw his club finish dead last in the NL Central, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol is entering the final year of his contract in St. Louis. According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the sides have not discussed an extension at this point, leaving Marmol poised to enter the 2024 campaign as a lame duck. For his part, Marmol told Goold that he wasn’t concerned about the lack of security, “This industry is pretty simple,” Marmol said, “If you’re good, they keep you. If you’re not good, they don’t.” President of baseball operations John Mozeliak, meanwhile, expressed confidence in his manager entering the final year of his deal with the club, suggesting that he’s “very optimistic” that Marmol will be with the club “for a long time.”
  • In conversation with reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, Brewers GM Matt Arnold suggested that the club views left-hander Aaron Ashby as a starting pitching option for the club in 2024. That said, Arnold was noncommittal about Ashby’s timeline for return to action following shoulder surgery, which he underwent back in April. Despite the uncertainty surrounding Ashby’s readiness for Opening Day next season, Arnold made clear that the young lefty will be “part of [the club’s] mix” when he is ready to return to action. Ashby signed a five-year extension with the Brewers partway through the 2022 season but has thrown just 31 1/3 innings for the club since then amid shoulder issues. When and if he’s healthy enough to return to the mound, Ashby figures to compete with the likes of Colin Rea and Adrian Houser for a spot in the club’s rotation alongside Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, and Wade Miley.
  • Sticking with the Brewers, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relayed yesterday that while Arnold did not rule out the possibility of top catching prospect Jeferson Quero making his big league debut at some point during 2024, the club nonetheless hopes to make an addition behind the plate to serve as the primary backup to William Contreras. Quero, 21, is the only other catcher on the club’s 40-man roster following the departure for Victor Caratini, who landed with the Astros on a two-year deal yesterday. Tom Murphy, Austin Hedges and Martin Maldonado are among the catchers still available on the open market this winter.

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