How Arizona’s Improbable Pennant Could Play Into the Detroit Tigers Off-Season

Diamondbacks/Tigers Success

The Arizona Diamondbacks just did what nobody expected them to do. They battled through one of the toughest divisions in baseball to win 84 games and earn a playoff berth. They didn’t just get to the postseason, but they dominated by sweeping the Brewers in the Wild Card round and beating up their rival Los Angeles Dodgers to sweep them in the Divisional Round. It didn’t seem like many gave the D-Backs a chance in a seven-game series against the powerhouse Phillies, but after losing game one and being humiliated 10-0 in game two, the Diamondbacks found a way to fight back. They took game three 2-1 and battled their way to a 6-5 win in game four to even the series. The Phillies had the Diamondbacks against the ropes after a 6-1 win in game five, but the D-Backs got a 5-1 win in game six before sending Philly home in game seven. On Friday, they will play in their first World Series in 22 years against the Rangers. Truly an unprecedented match-up.

How did the Diamondbacks pull off a National League pennant during the off-season? They just showed every team in baseball that rebuilds aren’t nearly as complicated as they seem. Two years ago, the Diamondbacks finished dead last in their division with just 52 wins. The D-Backs lost 110 games. The following year, the Diamondbacks had a similar season to the 2021 Detroit Tigers, right before they spent big bucks on Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Baez. The Tigers won 77 games in 2021, and the Diamondbacks won 74 games in 2022. Detroit felt that their rebuild was going to be coming to an end in 2022, and the D-Backs felt that way about 2023… the only difference is that one team is going to the World Series, and the other has been watching the postseason from home since the end of the regular season. But why is that? Well, the big moves made by Detroit during the off-season following the 2021 season did not pan out. Javier Baez has been horrendous for the Tigers, and he has shown no improvement. Although Eduardo Rodriguez has pitched very well, he will almost certainly opt out of his contract this off-season after the Tigers attempted to trade him during the deadline this season. Detroit made a deal with the Dodgers, but Rodriguez decided to use his no-trade clause to stop that trade from happening, which messes up Detroit as he will now walk out the door with the Tigers not getting anything in return. The off-season before the start of 2022 was a disaster for Detroit. However, the Diamondbacks had everything work out for them this past off-season. They weren’t making huge splashes. They were subtle but effective moves to make Arizona a playoff contender. It all started when they traded Daulton Varsho to the Toronto Blue Jays for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno. That was arguably their most significant move during the off-season.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. batted .261 with 24 home runs, 82 RBIs, and a .772 OPS. He stole five bases during the season as well. In the playoffs, Gurriel Jr. is batting. 250 with two home runs, six RBIs, a .703 OPS, and two bases stolen. Gabriel Moreno had a solid season, batting .284 with seven home runs, 50 RBIs, a .747 OPS, and six stolen bases. He’s also had an outstanding postseason, batting .279 with three home runs, nine RBIs, and a .852 OPS. The D-Backs also signed Evan Longoria, Andrew Chafin, Scott McGough, Miguel Castro, and Zach Davies. With those additions and Corbin Carroll’s first season in the majors, they turned their franchise around. When you look at the pieces the Tigers already have, they can do the same thing.

How the Tigers Can Copy What the D-Backs Did This Off-season

Since the passing of former Tigers owner Mike Illitch, Detroit has been trapped in a nearly decade-long rebuild. We thought they had reached the end of the tunnel after 2021, but unfortunately, it was the beginning of another devastating season for Tigers fans. However, with the pieces from the farm system that arrived last season, those that are coming, and Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson starting to reach their full potential, the light at the end of the tunnel is visible. The question is, how soon will they reach it?…

The Tigers have the money to be a playoff team this upcoming season. Miguel Cabrera has retired, which will free up some cash, and with Rodriguez opting out, that is more money to spend as well. They will need a natural cleanup hitter to hit at the top of the lineup with Greene, Torkelson, and Kerry Carpenter. Who will that be? Would J.D. Martinez be interested in a return to Detroit? He is coming off of a season where he put up incredible numbers in the power-hitting category. It’s possible with Miguel Cabrera retired and the DH spot in the lineup yet to be filled. Colt Keith will hopefully be the Tigers’ version of Corbin Carroll; as far as production goes, he can play second or third base, and although Zach McKinstry had a better-than-expected season, they should move on from him, in my opinion. So, Detroit could sign an infielder this off-season. They could target a big name like Matt Chapman or Max Muncy, or they could bring back Jeimer Candelario, which would be a more subtle move but an effective one nonetheless; unless they think Dillon Dingler will be ready, Detroit will need a catcher to pair up with Jake Rodgers Rangers catcher Mitch Garver would make a lot of sense One more reliable bullpen arm and a starter will be required as well. Michael Lorenzen or Wade Miley makes sense for the starting pitcher need, and Phil Maton or Jake Diekman could make sense for relief pitchers the Tigers could add.

They are only a top-of-the-lineup power hitter, a solid infielder, one more starter, and one more bullpen arm away from being a playoff team next season. They can add those pieces this off-season. Scott Harris said they plan to be active. This should be a fun off-season ahead for Tigers fans.

Gage O'Leary

I'm one of the writers for ITD Baseball, I cover the Detroit Tigers and I hope to have a career in sports some day.

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