Addressing the media yesterday, Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch struck a notably optimistic tone regarding his organization’s outlook. Evan Woodbery of MLive.com was among those to cover the chat; we’ll tick through a few items of particular note here.
Needless to say, with a 59-86 record, the current roster is not up to snuff. But that doesn’t mean the current campaign hasn’t been productive in the estimation of the man who sits top the organizational hierarchy.
As Ilitch put it, “I think this year has been a tremendous year of progress for the Detroit Tigers.” He credited the major-league club and its staff for producing “a fun team to watch,” even if it isn’t one that has won many games.
Of course, that substandard record was widely anticipated entering the year. GM Al Avila has been tasked with building for the future, rather than prioritizing the present. The Opening Day payroll was down by about $75MM against its 2016-17 levels and stands to fall yet further in the seasons to come.
The “tremendous” season cited by Ilitch, then, has less to do with the MLB showing than his take on the broader organizational overhaul efforts undertaken in this new era for the franchise. He explained:
“I see how hard Al Avila and his staff worked to enhance our scouting, our analytics, our player development. Our goal is very clear: We are working to build a world-class organization that will compete for championships on a sustainable basis. And I’m very committed to providing all of the resources and assets that are necessary to accomplish that.”
There’s little question that the Tigers have accumulated some intriguing young assets. The club’s farm is considered especially deep in pitching, led by recent first overall draft pick Casey Mize and including several other players added in recent drafts and trades.
Just when and how the club will begin to turn the corner again toward contention remains to be seen, but continued progress from those young arms could perhaps force the matter in relatively short order. Of course, health and development remain risk factors. And gathering up a new position-player core will also represent a challenge.
Eventually, we’ll find out whether Ilitch will spend to supplement the roster as lavishly as his father did, but it seems rather unlikely that the openness of his wallet will be tested full this coming offseason. Still, the club could consider some targeted free-agent spending, particularly if there’s good value to be had on a risky or more youthful player. And extensions could always be explored, though Nicholas Castellanos is the only realistic candidate who’ll be entering his walk year.