Harris expects ‘a different brand of energy’ from young Tigers club

Detroit Tigers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris was asked Tuesday about the clubhouse mix with Miguel Cabrera retired, he offered an observation: Yes, they’re young with Miggy gone, but they have a chance to turn that into a strength.

“I’ve been around a lot of teams in my career. Sometimes the young teams are the most fun teams,” Harris said from baseball’s Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. “They bring energy. They bring determination. They get to the ballpark really early. They bring the best out of the veterans. I think you saw a little bit of that later [this past season].

“We’re going to be a young team next year, and I think these guys are going to bring a ton of energy, and they’re going to be really excited to be in the moment. Not that veterans aren’t, but there’s just a different brand of energy that comes with young players, and I think you’re going to see that in our clubhouse.”

With recent moves, shortstop Javier Báez (31), outfielder Mark Canha (34), pitcher Kenta Maeda (35) and infielder Andy Ibañez (30) are the only players in their thirties on Detroit’s 40-man roster. A few players are in their late twenties, with catcher Carson Kelly set to turn 30 next July, but the majority of the roster consists of players in their mid-twenties.

That average age could change with additional moves, notably the potential addition of another starting pitcher to add innings and experience. But it could also trend even younger if No. 2 prospect Colt Keith (22) and No. 9 prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy (24 in February) make the team out of Spring Training.

Under Harris, the Tigers have made a point to keep opportunities available for young players to not only make the big league roster but make an impact. That’s partly why Detroit hasn’t done much on the hitting market since trading for Canha. But Harris emphasized Tuesday that Keith and Malloy aren’t guaranteed spots.

“They have to earn a spot,” Harris said. “The path is to show up in Lakeland, [Fla.] and compete for a spot on the roster. We’re going to have a really competitive camp in Lakeland; that’s a great sign of health for us. There are going to be a lot of players that are vying for spots on our Opening Day roster, and I think it’s going to bring the best out of these players. I think the more competitive a camp is, the better the roster is going to be and also the better the collection of individual performances you’re going to get.

“My hope is they come to camp and make a really tough decision for [manager] A.J. Hinch, [general manager] Jeff [Greenberg] and me.”

Tigers hope Turnbull finds fresh start
When the season ended, Harris said he expected Spencer Turnbull to report to Spring Training next year and compete for a rotation spot. A month and a half later, the Tigers non-tendered him, making the right-hander a free agent. What changed in that time?

It wasn’t Turnbull’s appeal for a full year of service time — and with it, the right to decline a Minor League assignment — Harris said, but a sentiment that both sides were ready to move on.

“I think we got to a point where we realized both sides needed a fresh start,” Harris said. “And so, the tender decision was the mechanism by which we created a fresh start for both sides.”

Tigers hope for best for Meadows
After Harris said at season’s end that he needed to talk with Austin Meadows, the two had multiple conversations leading up to the Tigers’ decision to non-tender the outfielder last month.

“We prioritized him as a human being and the work that he’s doing on himself right now,” Harris said of Meadows, who missed most of this past season to focus on his mental health. “Austin knows how I feel about him. He knows how the organization feels about him. When we get to a point in which he wants to talk about what comes next in his baseball life, we’ll be ready to have that conversation. I think the priority right now is Austin and his family. If we get past that, then we can talk about baseball stuff.”

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