DETROIT – The Tigers have reached the point in their rebuilding that their farming system is shaping their big league club, not just in the top prospects but in all of the talent across the roster. Casey mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning formed the core of Detroit’s rotation at the end of the season, and Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene could arrive sooner rather than later. But don’t expect leads to be used as in previous years as commercial bait to help the Tigers source veterans from other teams.
In that sense, that’s the biggest difference between the streak the Tigers enjoyed a decade ago and the return to competition they’re trying to do now. Former Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski used to note that no player was untouchable in trade negotiations. Current chief executive Al Avila doesn’t necessarily label anyone, but he sounds a lot more cautious.
“I would be very sensitive to trade which we believe can be part of this winning organization going forward,” Avila said at the Tigers’ season-ending press conference earlier this month.
This year’s playoffs have some examples of prospects from the Tigers past. The Brewers won National League Central in large part thanks to shortstop Willy Adames, who was originally a Tigers fan before coming to Tampa Bay in 2014 in the David Price trade.
Another member of the Price trade, former Tigers starter / reliever Drew Smyly, made 23 starts for the Braves this season, going 11-4 with a 4.48 ERA, before taking the relief victory. for Atlanta in NLCS Game 4 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Corey Knebel, who opened the doors for the Dodgers in NLCS Game 1 and Game 5 of their Division Series, is a former Tigers first-round pick who debuted for Detroit in 2014 before being traded. in Texas two months later for Joakim Soria.
José Álvarez, also traded in 2014 to the Angels for Andrew Romine, was a left-handed reliever for the Giants and pitched in Game 4 of their NL Division series. Other Tigers prospects traded for veterans over the years spill over elsewhere, including Reds infielder Eugenio Suárez.
That’s not to say that none of them would have been Tigers at this point if they hadn’t been traded. The only exception could have been Adames, who was the main hope in the price trade. He was a teenager who played Low-A at the time, and he won’t be a free agent for three years.
The Rays traded Adames to Milwaukee in May to make room for top prospect Wander Franco, acquiring swingman Drew Rasmussen and reliever JP Feyereisen from the Brewers as part of the deal. Detroit has expressed interest in Adames, knowing the shortstop could be a need by 2022, but has never come close to finding a game with Tampa Bay.
When asked earlier this month whether the Tigers now have enough prospects to consider packing them for big deals as before, Avila didn’t rule out the possibility, but played it down.
“I’m still very sensitive to that, trading prospects for established players,” said Avila. “I have always said it and in my conversations with [manager] A J [Hinch] when we hired AJ: We’re not looking for a quick payoff and then we got out [of contention]. We are looking to perpetuate this.
“If you’ve been paying attention, we’re in the process of revising our minor league system right now, what I would call phase two, and it’s a plan for this team and organization to be sustainable and successful for them. years to come. More importantly, this includes the players, and we have to be very careful about it. “
The overhaul included the hiring of Ryan Garko last month as the Tigers’ vice president of player development. He has already made several changes in the ranks of Minor League coaches and instructors. The end goal is to enhance the depth of the Tigers’ outlook and develop young talent beyond their top picks and international signings.
The more the Tigers can get into their system, the more they can consider trading their strengths – not just for established players, but for prospects in other areas where the Tigers need help. However, these areas may change from year to year. What once looked like an overabundance of pitching prospects when Mize, Skubal and Manning arrived has cleared up since arriving in Detroit and since Tommy John’s operations for Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo. Only three pitchers are in the top 10 of the latest MLB Pipeline Tigers Prospect Rankings, and all were drafted last summer.
Until then, free agency might be the easiest route for Avila and Detroit to add veterans in key locations without giving up prospects.