It's come to this. Since the calendar turned to 2021, Tigers fans have been clamoring that the Tigers sign a big-time shortstop. This upcoming off-season happens to feature probably the best free-agent class of shortstops that we've ever seen. I think it would only make sense for the Tigers' first big free-agency splash in years to come in the form of a shortstop. Ryan Kreidler has potentially thrown a wrench in some of those plans. The former 4th round pick out of UCLA has had a lovely season in the minor leagues. He's off to a red hot start in Toledo with the AAA affiliate. Kreidler is currently batting .406 with a 1.200 OPS through 10 games in Toledo. This is great for the organization, and I hope that Ryan Kreidler becomes a solid major league player. With that said, the Detroit Tigers still need to sign shortstop this off-season. I will be unwavering with my opinion on this. In Toledo, Ryan Kreidler could hit for a .900 batting average in AAA, and I'll still be clamoring for Carlos Correa this off-season.
It's worth noting that Ryan Kreidler's minor-league dominance in 2021 has been blown quite a bit out of proportion. He's off to an excellent start in Toledo. He's also played ten games in AAA. When he was called up from Erie with Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, he was in the midst of a season in which he batted .256 with a .750 OPS in 88 games down in AA. Those are not precisely all-star numbers. Now that is not to say that he's going to be a bad major league player. It seems like he's developing quite well. If this were two years ago, I'd come on here and say, "OK, maybe they do have a shortstop for the future." But this team is closer to competing than they've been in probably five years, and this upcoming free-agent class features perhaps the most extraordinary shortstop class that we've ever seen. For the Tigers not to make a move and sign one of them to a long-term contract would be organizational malpractice, regardless of what Ryan Kreidler does in the minor leagues.
I think it's important to say that just because you're pro-signing a shortstop does not mean that you are anti-Ryan Kreidler. I'm happy for Kreidler, and I'm glad for what his development means for the Detroit Tigers. For one, it shows that the Tigers, flaws and all, have done a much better job of developing their young talent over the last several seasons. Even at his worst, the one thing that a player like Ryan Kreidler will add is depth. This is something that I feel has been lacking in the Tigers system over the last, well, several decades. That's the one gripe I've had against the Tigers farm system over the previous several years. Everyone talked about Torkelson, Greene, and Mize, but the one complaint I've had is that they've lacked the depth that other robust farm systems have. That has changed. Some relatively serviceable major league players will start next season in AAA for the Tigers. That's a good thing. It means that the organization has grown.
Ryan Kreidler's production should not be an excuse for the Tigers not to spend. It should encourage them to spend on a shortstop. You can never have too much depth. And maybe you're in that select group of people who is worried that if the Tigers spend, they will overspend and dig themselves a hole the way they did late in the Dave Dombrowski/Mike Ilitch era. That will always be a concern, but they will have to get your feet wet eventually. I don't care how strong your farm system is; no team has ever won a World Series with 26 homegrown players. Even the small-market teams get their hands dirty at some point. The 2015 Royals are one of the smallest market teams ever to win a World Series championship, and yes, they had a core with Hosmer, Cane, Moustakas, Gordon, and Perez. But despite their limited budget, they still went out and spent on Edinson Volquez, who had a phenomenal year for them in 2015. They also took a flyer out on Kendrys Morales, who led the team in RBIs that year.
It finally seems like the Detroit Tigers farm system has become one with actual depth, and I think that is phenomenal news, but the days of nickel and diming at the major league level should be over. The Detroit Tigers are a big market team in a big market city, and Chris Ilitch is one of the wealthiest owners in sports. A.J. Hinch and crew have shown more than enough this year to prove to people that this team is ascending. They need to make a splash in free agency, and it starts with a shortstop position.