Now that the Tigers have their shortstop for the next six seasons, what becomes of their shortstop on the farm? What becomes of the strong, athletic 24-year-old who shined as brightly as Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson this summer in Triple-A? What becomes of Ryan Kreidler?
"We like Kreidler a lot," GM Al Avila said in November. "Actually, he’s come up in some interest, some other clubs have raised his name in possible trades. I’ve mentioned to you that I’ll be very hesitant to trade any players that we feel are going to be an impact in the immediate future."
Of course, that was before the Tigers committed $140 million to Javier Baez. Kreidler can play more positions than shortstop -- indeed, that's part of his value -- but it's hard to see where he fits in Detroit's immediate future now that shortstop is spoken for.
Third base belongs to Jeimer Candelario, who's firmly established in the club's long-term plans. First base is reserved for Torkelson, who's slated to arrive next season. When he does, second base will belong to Jonathan Schoop, who just signed a two-year extension.
So either the Tigers keep Kreidler in the system to eventually take over for Schoop or they start grooming him in the outfield, where they could use his blossoming bat. Kreidler posted a .926 OPS in 41 games last season with the Triple-A Mud Hens. Or they trade him while his stock is climbing for a piece they need now. Bullpen help? Another rotation arm? Outfield power?
"There’s lot of different moves you can do with him," Avila said. "If he actually progresses at a good rate, you could always move him to a different position. You’re always looking ahead. You’re not just looking at 2022. I’m looking at 2023 and 2024. We usually work over a five-year plan."
If all goes according to plan, the Tigers' only infield opening in the next five years will be at second base -- a position Kreidler has never played in the pros. He's probably talented enough to make the transition. The Tigers might be wise to let him try. At the same time, they're getting trade interest in a guy who was barely on their own radar a year ago. They might be wiser to cash in.
After signing Baez, Avila said the Tigers weren't necessarily done upgrading the roster. He said there are still "a few things we can do to make the team better" this winter and that they would be ready to make moves at the end of the lockout, which would begin a few hours later.
"We're going to continue to work on it, even when spring training starts to make some moves and maybe through the season you have to make some adjustments," he said. "It doesn't stop with this move here."
Any trade involving Kreidler doesn't have to happen this offseason. It doesn't have to happen at all. But as the Tigers shift their focus toward winning, it no longer serves them to hoard prospects. It's true, trading young infielders like Willy Adames and Eugenio Suarez is part of what got the organization in trouble in the first place. No one wants to revisit the last five years
anytime soon ever again. It's equally true that the Tigers have to prioritize the present.
They've begun to do that by spending about $225 million this winter on Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez and Tucker Barnhart. The next step is spending prospects, as Avila did with 24-year-old infielder Nick Quintana in the Barnhart trade. Who knows what's out there for Kreidler, drafted two rounds after Quintana in 2019. But if it can enhance Detroit's 'immediate future,' the cost is probably worth it.