Scott Harris wanted to be clear. The way he had just explained his approach to next season made 2023 sound like another rebuilding year for the Tigers.
"That’s not what I mean," Harris said Monday at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
With that in mind, the Tigers new president of baseball operations decided it was "a good time to step back and present a few more thoughts on how I'm looking at building the roster."
"Coming off of last year," Harris said, "we have a lot of holes on our roster and we are trying to stay as open-minded as possible to any way to get better. But one thing we won’t waver on is, we’re going to invest in our young players. We are going to earmark at-bats and innings for our young players."
Harris and the Tigers have starting jobs up for grabs across their roster. They would like to add a left-handed infield bat and a right-handed outfield bat, via free agency or the trade market. At the same time, they want to preserve opportunities for their up-and-coming players to prove that they belong -- or don't belong -- in the big leagues.
This isn't specific to Harris' plans for 2023. It's central to his broader strategy to turn the Tigers into a winning organization.
"One of our most valuable resources in this organization is opportunity at the major league level," Harris said. "It’s important for us to redistribute the at-bats that we created over the last month with some of our decisions, toward some of our young players that have a chance to be here for a long time. I should note, this doesn’t just apply to 2023. In this organization, we have to get to a place where we are both competing and developing young players at the same time. We have to, if we are sincere about building a sustainable winner."
To that end, Harris said one of the Tigers' priorities this winter is to "carve out enough space in our pitching staff and in our position playing group for young players to come up and get that valuable opportunity." That might mean they give Ryan Kreidler a shot at third after parting ways with Jeimer Candelario last month, or that they give Jake Rogers another look behind the plate after he missed last season recovering from Tommy John.
It might mean the Tigers trade one of their established big-leaguers where the talent pipeline is rich. Or just the opposite, that they trade a prospect from a position of depth to address an immediate hole. That would mark a change in posture from years past, when the Tigers were stockpiling as many prospects as possible during a rebuild that hit a wall last season. Harris said he and his staff are "always on our phones talking with agents and other teams, trying to find opportunities to get better."
"We’re open to everything," he said. "We just are. We’re not being intentionally obtuse. We just have to be open to everything, so we’re open to any type of trade that can make us better."
The Tigers have reportedly agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with pitcher Matthew Boyd, though Harris can't comment on it until it becomes official. He did say they "are open-minded to" signing another free agent starter to a major league deal after their rotation was ravaged by injuries last season.
"We are going to make sure that we have as much depth as possible. Whether that depth comes from internal promotions or trades or free agent singings, I can’t say right now, but we’re going to need a lot of innings," Harris said.
And one way or another, they're going to need a lot of growth in 2023. One day into the Winter Meetings, and one month into Harris' first offseason running the Tigers, plenty remains to be seen about the roster next spring.