AJ Hinch expects Tigers' roster to take a 'step forward' this offseason

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — This is media week for managers across baseball. With no Winter Meetings, Major League Baseball is rolling out its managers in a series of Zoom conferences, as well as on radio, television and other digital platforms.

Tigers new skipper AJ Hinch, who will meet with reporters across the country in a Zoom video conference Wednesday, was a guest on XM Radio’s MLB Network on Monday morning.

Willi Castro

While endorsing general manager Al Avila’s “patiently opportunistic” approach, Hinch shed a bit more light on the Tigers’ game plan this offseason.

“We’ll see a step forward this year in terms of the players we add,” he said on MLB Network’s Power Alley program hosted by Mike Ferrin and former general managers Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden. “It’s a very methodical approach. You have to be prepared for the young players coming up in the next couple of years.”

The Tigers, he said, are mindful of not blocking the development and ascension of prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, as well as pitchers Case Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning.

“You have to make sure the path is somewhat clear, but you also want to increase your competitiveness at the Major League level,” he said.

Pitching, as Hinch said right from his introductory press conference back in October, is priority one.

“Adding a pitcher or two is something Al is searching for,” Hinch said. “You can never have enough pitching. Look at the teams that have done well, either getting to the playoffs or making a deep run, those teams have tremendous pitching.

“If we’re going to this right in Detroit, we have to get the pitching right.”

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Hinch said he hopes Matthew Boyd, Michael Fulmer and Spencer Turnbull can be workhorses in the rotation. Mize and Skubal both made their big-league debuts in 2020, but they pitched just 28 and 32 innings, respectively. It’s likely their workloads will be limited next season. Same for Manning and Alex Faedo, who didn’t pitch at all in 2020.

In terms of position players, Avila is seeking offensive upgrades, be it a corner outfielder or corner infielder. The Tigers also have a hole at second base and, given what Hinch said Monday, he will be entrusting the shortstop role to the promising but largely unproven Willi Castro.

Hinch indicated that he sees Niko Goodrum, the Tigers' starting shortstop last season, in a utility role, which opens an opportunity for Castro, but also perhaps is an indication the Tigers will add a veteran middle infielder, like they did last year re-signing Jordy Mercer.

Niko Goodrum

“There’s been some young players who have taken a step forward,” Hinch said. “Willi Castro at short, Niko Goodrum as kind of an all-everything type of player who can play every position, and Jeimer Candelario had a breakout year. Hopefully we can supplement these guys with some veteran presence. I think that’s really important.

“But the market has to produce that and players have to want to come to Detroit, and they have to fit into our budget. We’re being patient but we’re also being opportunistic when the time comes.”

Regardless of what the Tigers do this offseason, Hinch said his message to the players and his goal for next season remains the same: It’s time to win.

“We have to start talking about winning now,” he said. “Everybody wants to improve…but we’re not conceding the season or the Central Division or anything. We can surprise a lot of people by taking steps forward in certain areas.”

Win the game today – that’s the mindset Hinch is asking his players to adopt. If you win today, you have a chance to win a series. If you win series, you start stacking up winning weeks and winning months.

“I don’t know why we have to label ourselves as a winning team or a losing team, as a building team or a rebuilding team,” Hinch said. “We want to beat you today and we have players here who can do that. We can win on any given day."

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky