Detroit Tigers hope worst is behind them in rebuild
By NOAH TRISTER
DETROIT (AP) Detroit general manager Al Avila hopes the worst is over for the rebuilding Tigers.
"I don't think anybody was trying to hide away from the difficult couple years, three years that we've been having," Avila said. "Went through a full teardown, full rebuild, and now we're in a process where we're ready to step up and start getting better."
Detroit began its new path in earnest in 2017, when Justin Verlander and some other significant players were traded away. The results since then have been predictable, but after 114 losses last year, Avila and the Tigers are hoping this coming season will include some signs of progress.
Detroit has some highly touted pitching prospects who could certainly help at some point this season, and the Tigers added some power in an effort to improve on last year's anemic offense.
There's still a long way to go, a fact that was underscored by Detroit's hesitance to make any major, long-term commitments in the free agent market. If the Tigers finish with a more respectable record and the young players pan out, there may then be more pressure on the front office to boost the payroll.
For now, expectations are still measured.
"We're looking forward to the competition with some of our young guys," Avila said. "We feel we're going to have a better team and a better year."
Detroit added second baseman Jonathan Schoop and first baseman C.J. Cron, both of whom hit over 20 home runs last year. Nobody on the Tigers hit more than 15. The Tigers also signed right-hander Ivan Nova and catcher Austin Romine.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
Right-hander Casey Mize, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, headlines a group of pitching prospects that also includes righty Matt Manning. It sounds like they will start the season at Triple-A, but they will be at spring training, and any sign of progress from them in 2020 will be welcome news for Detroit fans.
Minor league left-hander Tarik Skubal came on strong last year as well.
There is no area on the Tigers that can't be improved, but the starting rotation could be respectable even without immediate help from the prospects. Matthew Boyd struck out 238 batters last year, and if he can reduce his number of home runs allowed, he could have a fine season. In Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris, the Tigers had three regular starters with ERAs between 4.49 and 4.61 last year. Not great by any means, but hardly the team's biggest problem.
The Tigers finished last in the American League in home runs and OPS and last in the majors in on-base percentage. Miguel Cabrera's decline was a big part of the problem. The 36-year-old Cabrera hit .282 but had a slugging percentage of only .398. Even after adding Schoop and Cron, this lineup isn't particularly intimidating.
The presence of Mize, Manning and Skubal makes spring training intriguing for Tigers fans, even if they might not be in the majors for a little while. Cabrera, who is under contract through at least 2023, will also be under scrutiny.
Detroit opens the regular season at Cleveland on March 26.
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Updated February 6, 2020