Inbox: Is Detroit being conservative with prospects?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions

Inbox: Is Detroit being conservative with prospects?

Do you believe that after all the years of Dave Dombrowski stripping the farm system that the Tigers have become ultraconservative when it comes to trading prospects for proven Major League players (such as the coup the White Sox just pulled off to get Todd Frazier)?
-- Roger I., Flushing, Mich.

I do think the Tigers are trying to hold on to more of their prospects, especially pitchers, not just for future seasons but for depth and options right now. One of the most amazing facets of the Tigers' rotation during Detroit's run of division titles was health, highlighted by just six starters used in 2013. Injuries finally caught up with them over the past couple of years, and they were struggling to fill slots with pitchers who could give them a reasonable chance to win. Add in the idea of a pitching prospect or two (like Michael Fulmer) working into the bullpen mix sooner than later, and there's a reasoning behind the Tigers balking at giving up higher-rated prospects.

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What will the Tigers do since the rival White Sox got Frazier?
-- Andrew B., Grand Blanc, Mich.

They'll find a different way to pitch him compared with last June in Cincinnati, I would imagine. But they're not going to try to one-up the White Sox with a bigger move, if that's what you're asking.

Are the Tigers serious about contending again in 2016? Competition has really grown, so our Tigers must respond with a big signing to send a message.
-- Darryl Z., Marana, Ariz.

See previous answer. The problem with making a big signing to "send a message" is that the contract lasts far longer than the message. A lot of bad deals have come out of that thought process, and a lot of teams that won the Hot Stove League in recent offseasons ended up not winning anything come the regular season (White Sox, Red Sox and Padres last year, to name a few). If a big deal fits a need as part of a plan -- such as the Tigers with Jordan Zimmermann, or the Red Sox with David Price, or even Prince Fielder to Detroit a few years ago to fill Victor Martinez's void -- that's one thing. But making a big deal for the sake of making a big deal often doesn't work out.

Do you see the Tigers looking to audition a few NRIs to compete with Tyler Collins in left field and for the last spot on the bench (right-handed-hitting corner outfielder)? With spots on the Major League roster up for grabs, does that help the Tigers attract those types of guys?
-- Charles W., Raleigh, NSW, Australia

If the Tigers stick to the line of not chasing the top end of the free-agent outfield market, a non-roster invite or two could be an alternative. It's not just the top-ranked free-agent outfielders whose markets aren't moving right now, even after Jason Heyward signed with the Cubs. A slew of lower-tier outfielders are still out there, and while the Tigers might have a hard time guaranteeing a spot, they could take a chance with a Minor League deal in January or February and let somebody on the comeback trail compete for a role.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.