Detroit Tigers’ Javier Baez runs the bases on an RBI-double to score Robbie Grossman in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the New York Yankees, Sunday in Tampa, Fla.
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers are suddenly on the verge of being relevant again after spending big money in free agency to jolt a franchise that has been focused on drafting and developing players in a long rebuilding process.
Detroit was 77-85 last season, but it was its best record in five years, showing just how rough it has been lately for baseball in the Motor City.
Determined to pick up the pace on the slow turnaround, the Tigers were active before and after the 99-day lockout ended on March 10 to complement the young players they have in place.
“When we show up to spring training, I’ve told every team I’ve ever managed we need to win our division and we need to make the playoffs,” second-year manager AJ Hinch said. “I don’t know why this would be any different.”
The Tigers have had some real reasons to be fired up since last winter, adding two-time All-Star infielder Javier Baez with a $140 million contract to address a desperate need at shortstop and lefty Eduardo Rodr”guez for $77 million to lead a solid starting rotation.
“Our manager and organization last year sent a new message that it’s time to win and they showed that this past offseason, signing two big guys,” veteran slugger Miguel Cabrera said. “I think we’ve got an opportunity to do that here so I’m really excited.”
Detroit opens the regular season April 8 at home against the Chicago White Sox.
Besides adding Baez and Rodr”guez, Detroit brought Michael Pineda to a rotation that also includes righty Casey Mize, bolstered the bullpen with lefty Andrew Chafin and traded for catcher Tucker Barnhart from Cincinnati.
“There’a a buzz in the clubhouse,” said outfielder Robbie Grossman, who became the seventh Tiger to have at least 20 homers, 20 stolen bases and 20 doubles last season. “We’ve brought in some really good players. We’re only going to get better so our expectations are getting higher and higher.”
The Tigers didn’t lose much in the offseason, parting way with shortstop Niko Goodrum and left-hander Matthew Boyd.
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