Detroit shoud look to the future

Detroit would be better served to plow money back into its farm system, rather than to pursue free agents.

Updated: November 11, 2003, 8:55 AM ET
By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
What is a realistic goal for the Tigers in 2004? How many games can they possibly hope to win and, more importantly, how many games should they try to win? By this I mean, how much should they spend in the free agent market this off-season? Do they have enough funds available to even bother with free agents? Clearly, they are not going to pursue or be pursued by any of the A-list players like Miguel Tejada, Vladimir Guerrero, Kevin Millwood or Andy Pettitte. Does this leave them in a position wherein they only have enough money to land players who will only perpetuate their losing ways?

Gene Guidi of the Detroit Free Press notes that the Tigers haven't gone after any free agents since Craig Paquette. "Unfortunately for everyone concerned, they got him," he rightly adds. What, past the big names that are getting all the hype, is left for a team like Detroit? Guidi suggests they might go after a second baseman like Todd Walker or Pokey Reese or perhaps an outfielder like Reggie Sanders or Jose Cruz, Jr. When Comerica Park was built it was hoped that its pitcher-friendly confines would lure moundsmen bent on making their numbers look good. Unfortunately, this has not been the case as the Tigers have surrounded their pitchers with a lineup that in no way resembles the early to mid-'60s Dodgers, a prime example of a supportive offense trapped in a pitcher's paradise. Guidi suggests the team should target pitchers like Pat Hentgen, Brian Anderson or Corey Lidle and let the big boys fight over the big names.

Getting back to the original question: what is the goal here? Should the Tigers make moves just to give the public the notion that they are trying to improve? History tells us that they are bound to improve no matter what they do. Let's take a look at the teams that came the year after some of the worst seasons in history -- group the Tigers joined with their 2003 effort:

Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at