The Tigers are in the middle of a rebuilding season, so expectations coming into this year were low. But they started off the season well, and going into last month they were still within reach of first place of the American League Central Division. Then in the first week of May, Miguel Cabrera was placed on the Disabled List. Due to the surprisingly solid play from replacement John Hicks and Jeimer Candelario, the Tigers were still able to put up a winning record in May. Their luck quickly ran out the following month after the news that Cabrera would not be returning this season came out. Since the start of June, the Tigers have won only 15 games while losing 23. That puts their total record at 41 wins and 57 losses, which is 13 games behind first place in the AL Central. Due to this deficit, the club has to be reasonable about what they can achieve in the final half of the season. So, what goals should they set?
The first goal that the Tigers should have is to trade away any of their rental pieces for the year that they can in order to continue to improve upon their farm system. Players like Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers, and Jose Iglesias are on the top of this list. These players are not considered the best at their respective positions, but they can still provide a lot of value for a team competing for the postseason. Teams like the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Atlanta Braves would be possible landing spots for Liriano or Fiers in particular. If the Tigers can manage to move these players for even a modest return that can be considered a success for the club. They should avoid moving Nicholas Castellanos and Michael Fulmer if they can due to the fact that they still have control over the pair for at least one season apiece via arbitration.
The next goal for the club is to give an opportunity to more of their developing talent in the minor leagues. They should completely steer into the fact that this is a lost season so that they can allow players like Sandy Baez and Ryan Carpenter a chance to get playtime at the major league level. This could prove to be invaluable for both the players and the team. The players get to put their talent to work against the best players in the world to see if they have what it takes to compete at this level. Meanwhile, the team gets to see firsthand just what they can do, and see if these players have the potential to help out in the long run. One of the best uses of a losing season in baseball is to test the younger players in the organization with playtime in the majors.
The final, and arguably most important goal for the Tigers in the second half of the season is to build synergy in the clubhouse and on the field. The major league roster is made up of quite a few young players that have plenty of team control left on their contracts, so they should put those players on the field as much as possible. By doing that, they allow the players to get used to each one of their teammates’ playstyles, and how best to accommodate their own playstyles to best match that. This also has the added benefit of allowing the coaching staff to focus on developing the teams potential rather than trying to win every game despite being at a major disadvantage every step of the way.
If the Tigers can manage to accomplish even two of these three goals, then this season should be considered a success. Every baseball fan knows that a full rebuild takes time, so the club should make the most out of that time. By trading away veterans for more capable prospects they help build an organization of capable talent that can perform at a major league level at a moments notice. By allowing young talent to get playtime on the Major League roster, it gives the player a chance to get used to the difference in the level of play. And by playing these young players consistently, the team can start to build a synergy on and off the field that will allow them to consistently compete for the postseason every season.