It's safe to say we can turn our minds towards what next season will look like for the Detroit Tigers. Outside of the progression of some of the younger players on the team, the fate of this season has been determined. Of course, the idea of next season comes with plenty of questions. Will Jeimer Candelario be back next season? Can Javier Baez recover from a rough first season in Detroit and live up to his contract?
Will Spencer Torkelson find his way back to the Tigers next year? There are plenty of other questions out there as well that I'll try to tackle while constructing what I believe is the ideal lineup for Opening Day next season. To determine the ideal lineup, we first must establish which players will be a part of the roster to start next season.
As mentioned earlier, it is not a guarantee that Jeimer Candelario will be back in Detroit next season. His contract is up at the end of the season. He is eligible for arbitration, but the Tigers could decide to non-tender him and let him walk in free agency.
Jeimer is just one year removed from a truly solid season at the plate, as he finished the 2021 season with a .271 batting average. He also led the league in doubles that season, with 42. This year has been a completely different story, as he has stumbled his way to a .196 average through 95 games played.
While it might be easier to look at this season as a blip on the radar, it wouldn't be a complete surprise to see the team choose to go in a different direction at third base.
Next topic: Javier Baez. Barring a completely unexpected move this off-season, Baez will be back in Detroit next season. To say that the first year of his six-year, $140 million contract has not gone as hoped would be an understatement.
He strikes out too much (106 strikeouts in 401 at-bats), has been subpar defensively (20 errors, most in the entire league), and has a well-below acceptable .227 batting average. Like it or not, Baez will be with the Detroit Tigers to start next season.
One option the team might have with Baez could be to move him to second base to help cut down on errors, then try to make a splash (for the second off-season in a row) at shortstop in free agency. But he will certainly be included on next year's team, thus cementing him in the ideal version of next year's lineup.
Another hot topic concerning next year's team will, of course, be Spencer Torkelson. The first overall pick of the 2020 draft, Torkelson made this year's team out of Spring Training. From there, it wasn't pretty. He struggled to gain any sense of consistency with Detroit, slumping his way to a .197 average with just five home runs and 21 RBIs through 83 games.
He was demoted to AAA-Toledo on July 17th. Unfortunately, he hasn't found his footing at the AAA level yet. He's batting .182 through his first 23 games with Toledo. I imagine it very safe to say that Torkelson will be working extremely hard on his swing the rest of this season and throughout the off-season, and it is hard not to see him on the team to start next season again.
Here's where it gets really interesting. We have no clue what the off-season will bring for the Detroit Tigers. Will they choose to make another splash in free agency? Make a big trade? Which young players will push for roster spots leading up to the 2023 season?
Are players like Willi Castro, Harold Castro, and Akil Baddoo still in the plans? Impossible to know at this point. Current rookie Kerry Carpenter seems to be someone who can be included in the conversation for next year's team. He's batting .300 with two home runs through his first six career games. If the team turns the corner towards contending, these are the kinds of guys who play very important depth roles. Should they be everyday starters? Likely not, but they don't hurt your team when they are there.
Ideal 2023 Detroit Tigers Lineup
With all of these considerations put into place, here is my ideal Detroit Tigers lineup in 2023:
- CF Riley Greene
- 2B Javier Baez
- 3B Harold Castro
- SS Carlos Correa
- RF Austin Meadows
- DH Kerry Carpenter
- C Eric Haase
- 1B Spencer Torkelson
- LF Akil Baddoo
Perhaps a bit aggressive to think the Tigers will be in the running for another big splash in free agency, yes. But considering the money the team has already spent coming into this season, I can't imagine that this tailspin of a season can be looked at without lighting a fire underneath upper management.
At this point, all signs indicate that Carlos Correa plans to exercise the opt-out included in his current deal with the Minnesota Twins. There was also speculation that Detroit preferred Correa over Baez in free agency last off-season, but Detroit wasn't willing to meet his high salary ask.
The team brought in Austin Meadows to add power in the middle of the lineup. That didn't happen this year, as he missed most of the season with various injuries. But when healthy, he is a legit threat in the middle of a lineup. Add another power bat to the lineup, and you have the lineup of a team that could make some serious steps towards the playoffs.
I can't imagine that all (or many, if any) of my “ideal” moves will become a reality. But if the Detroit Tigers are serious about taking another step towards contending, this is my projection for how they get there the quickest.
*All statistics in this article are valid before the Detroit Tigers game on Friday, August 19.