Despite early work, Tigers’ offseason far from finished

Detroit Tigers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tigers filed out of the Winter Meetings without any major deals, though they still stole the headlines when Jim Leyland was elected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday night. President of baseball operations Scott Harris and general manager Jeff Greenberg both noted how unusually quiet the Meetings had gone.

“There’s been a lot of chatter behind the scenes about how quiet it is,” Harris said Tuesday. “I’m not involved in every conversation, but it has felt a little bit quieter from my perspective. We’ve been pretty active relative to other teams.”

Detroit isn’t done, but it also doesn’t have a long shopping list. The Tigers have talked at length about keeping opportunities open for their prospects, and so far their actions have backed it up. They want to have a spot for slugging second-base prospect Colt Keith to win, and they want to have an obvious path for Jace Jung to potentially join him in Detroit later this year.

1. Starting pitching: The Tigers would like one more starter to join Maeda in providing experience and innings for an otherwise young rotation. While that market has moved some, it likely won’t pick up in earnest until some of the top free agents sign, such as Blake Snell and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Detroit is more interested in a short-term deal to keep slots open for prospects in the coming years.

2. Lefty reliever: The Tigers say they can go into a season with Tyler Holton as their lone southpaw — after all, manager A.J. Hinch has gone stretches without any lefties before — though they’d still like another lefty to at least provide some situational work. Former Tiger Andrew Chafin is still on the market as a free agent.

3. Sign young players for long term? The Tigers continue to be coy about it, but having seen other clubs position themselves for long-term success by signing young players to extended contracts, they see the opportunity to do the same.

“We are always open to it,” Harris said. “I’m never going to comment on it until it’s done, for obvious reasons. It just creates all kinds of issues internally. But you want to be in a position where you have young players that are worth considering [for] extensions. I think we are moving towards that.”

For the first time since 2015, the Tigers did not select anyone in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. They selected two right-handed relievers in the Minor League portion: Nick Starr, who posted a 5-3 record and a 5.96 ERA in 33 appearances for Double-A Frisco this past season but who has averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings over five years in Texas’ system, and Calvin Coker, who went 3-4 with six saves and a 3.15 ERA in 46 appearances (74 1/3 innings) for Double-A Midland in the A’s system last year.

“It’s really important for us to walk the line between adding to this team without blocking young players. If you start to forecast plate appearances in 2024, it gets a little tight. That doesn’t mean that we’re done, but it gets tight. And it has to be a priority for us to build a runway for young players. You guys saw in 2023 what young players can do at this level, and we have more coming.” — Harris

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