Half measures won’t help the Tigers get back on the winning side

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers are one year into their rebuild. Last summer the team dumped right fielder J.D. Martinez in a move that signaled the franchise was waving the white flag on the season. A few weeks later they traded ace Justin Verlander in a move that indicated the franchise was making a hard stop on an era.

General manager Al Avila said it plain and clear: “Hard times are ahead,” as the Detroit Tigers enter a rebuilding phase. There’s been talk of it taking 4 to 5 years, and like the chalkboard-clearing moves made by the Cubs and Astros in the last decade, lots of losses are expected.

But the Tigers are trying to do this rebuild thing with half measures. The roster is peppered with placeholders, never-wases, and wannabes. Most of their lineup consists of marginal big leaguers lucky to be playing regularly. The rotation includes 27-year old Matthew Boyd and 32-year old Blaine Hardy, once-upon-a-time prospects who are no longer viable short-term or long-term big league pitchers. Francisco Liriano, who has won 17 games in the last three-plus years, is taking the ball every fifth day. The roster is like a mix of retreads and losers.

If the Tigers really want to show their fans what they can get excited about in the next few years, why not play the kids who actually have a future? Who wants to go to the ballpark to see John Hicks, Daniel Stumpf, and Alex Wilson? Sounds more like a law firm than a baseball team.

The Tigers lone All-Star was reliever Joe Jimenez, a 23-year old hard thrower who came up through the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy. Jimenez has the makings of a closer, but the team uses him as a setup man. Why? Are they afraid the young man’s confidence will evaporate if he blows a few saves? Hogwash. Jimenez can learn by trial and fire.

Christin Stewart is the best outfield prospect in the organization. He has 18 home runs at Toledo. He’s 24 years old. Yet for some reason he hasn’t been called up to Detroit. This team is going to lose 90 games or more. Stewart is possibly a future left fielder in Comerica Park. Why not give him the chance to see what the big leagues are?

Beau Burrows and Alex Faedo are 21 and 22 years old, respectively. They’re both rated in the top ten in the organization and both are good young pitchers. They could be getting a chance to learn the ropes in the majors. Instead of Liriano or Jordan Zimmermann taking turns. Both are held down on the farm.

Detractors will say it takes time for young players to be major league ready. Well, we just saw Alan Trammell earn his Hall of Fame plaque. He was 20 when he came up. The Tigers brought up a slew of young players in the late 1970s, forcing them to cut their teeth at the MLB level. That worked out well.

The Tigers could bring up half the roster from Toledo and half of the promising youngsters from Erie and still finish in third or fourth place. (The Royals are so bad they have a lock on the cellar.) What does it matter if they limp along and win 72 games and finish third with players who won’t be here next season, or even next month?

If you want me to buy into your rebuild philosophy, if you want me to swallow your notion that the team will lose a lot for three or four or even five years, then show me some good young talent. Players with promise, players with a future. Don’t make me accept Victor Reyes and something called Niko Goodrum.

Where are the Tigers headed? Consider their decision to bring back Jacob Turner, their former first round pick who hasn’t made a start for the team since 2012 when he was packaged in a trade that netted Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from the Marlins. Remember that? Seems like ages ago, doesn’t it? Well, the Tigers have re-acquired Turner and plan on starting him this week. That doesn’t seem like a rebuild, it seems like a tired old rerun.

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About Dan Holmes

The editor of Detroit Athletic Co. blog, is the author of Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY, and worked for Major League Baseball as a web producer. He contributed to Sock it to 'Em Tigers: The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers, and Deadball Stars of the American League. Follow him on Twitter at @thedanholmes or visit his personal blog at danholmes.com.