Detroit Tigers 2022 Season Previewby John Lepore April 3, 2022 0 comments
The Detroit Tigers are heading into 2022 with high expectations in a weak American League Central. They are a young team and may be a year or two away, but that didn’t stop General Manager Al Avila from bringing in a few veterans. After going 77-85 in 2021 under AJ Hinch in his first season at the helm, the Tigers look for a perfect mix of those veterans and top prospects to take them to the postseason.
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UPDATE: The Tigers acquired outfielder Austin Meadows from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for infielder Isaac Paredes and a Comp B pick in 2022. Of note, Detroit has Austin’s younger brother Parker in the minors.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Five Years/$77 Million (Opt-out after 2023 season)
The Tigers made an early splash in the offseason by signing the former Red Sox lefty to a five-year deal back in November. On the surface, Rodriguez’s stats don’t look great from last season. He gave up more than a hit per inning and had an unsightly 4.74 ERA. However, he had the highest strikeout rate (27.4 percent) of his career and the lowest walk rate (7.0 percent) of his career. Rodriguez also posted a 3.32 FIP and was actually BABIPed to death at .364. One of the reasons Detroit brought in the southpaw was to have a veteran on the staff with some of their young kids coming up. With Rodriguez regressing to the norm and the added advantage of playing now in the AL Central rather than the AL East, E-Rod will be the team’s ace immediately.
Javier Baez, SS, Six Years/$140 Million (Opt-out after 2023 season)
Just a couple of weeks after the Tigers signed Rodriguez, they brought in some help behind him. Baez will shore up the infield defense. Detroit got a combined -15 DRS from shortstop last season. With Baez averaging +15 per 150 games at the position, it is a huge improvement. This allows Willi Castro to move to second base where he is a better fielder. Baez made improvements in his offense last season when he went to the New York Mets. His walk rate jumped to 7.0 percent, the highest it has ever been and he still hit nine home runs in just 186 plate appearances. He is a perfect fit for the up and coming Tigers.
Tucker Barnhart, C, Acquired in trade with the Cincinnati Reds
Before the Tigers even signed Rodriguez and Baez, they wanted to solidify their catching position. Detroit traded former second-round pick Nick Quintana over to Cincinnati for the two-time Gold Glove winner. Barnhart is in the final year of his contract and is due $7.5 million this year. It has been rumored that the Tigers are looking to sign Barnhart to an extension. He is an excellent defensive catcher and Detroit would be happy to keep him around to work with their young staff over the next few years.
The Tigers really didn’t lose too much this offseason. A few players opted for free agency, but Detroit replaced them and even upgraded the positions they lost players at. Some of the veterans moving on like Julio Teheran, Grayson Greiner, and Derek Holland have either not been signed or, in the case of Holland, have agreed to a minor league deal (Red Sox). The “losses” to the Tigers’ roster are not significant but let’s take a look at a couple of players who will be playing elsewhere.
Niko Goodrum, Util, Houston Astros
Goodrum looked like a valuable swiss army knife in 2018 and 2019 for the Tigers. However, the last two years have seen him struggle. In 133 games combined, the jack of all trades has only slashed .203/.282/.350 with an unsightly 34.9 percent strikeout rate. On the other hand, the Astros may be rather looking at the 14 home runs and 21 stolen bases Niko put up during that time. Either way the 30-year-old was certainly expendable for the Tigers.
Matthew Boyd, LHP, San Francisco Giants
This is the perfect landing spot for the southpaw. San Francisco seems to be the place where post-hype pitchers go to resurrect their careers (i.e. Kevin Gausman). With a rotation filled with Alex Cobb who is throwing gas all of a sudden and Carlos Rodon who had a resurgence last year and looks to be healthy again, the Giants brought in Boyd who is now 31 years old. He looked to be headed in the right direction in 2018 when he improved his walk and strikeout rates at 27 years old in his fourth year in the majors. However, he led the league in 2019 and 2020 in home runs allowed and struggled with injuries. If there is anywhere Boyd could get back to being a solid mid-rotation guy, it is San Francisco.
The future is bright for the Tigers, and it starts this season. With Baez and Rodriguez in tow for the next two seasons at least and a veteran catcher behind the plate to help the young staff, Detroit is hoping to jump start the rebuild. They have two of the top six prospects in the majors and while Riley Greene unfortunately won’t be getting a shot in Comerica anytime soon thanks to a foot injury, Spencer Torkelson will be manning first base on Opening Day. There will be growing pains, but this team will be fun to watch.
A seven-game improvement may not seem like much. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Tigers have pitchers who still need to develop and their lineup, even with Tork, doesn’t really scare anyone. They were very savvy adding the free agents that they did, and that will help. Another year of seasoning for this young group, especially on the mound, will have the Tigers right back in the hunt for the AL Central.
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