What’s Next for the Detroit Tigers Without Kerry Carpenter?

The loss of Kerry Carpenter could be a massive one for the Detroit Tigers. How do they fill the void during his absence?

DETROIT, MI - MAY 15: Kerry Carpenter #30 of the Detroit Tigers looks on in the third inning during the game between the Miami Marlins and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

A.J. Hinch’s Detroit Tigers have been off to another tumultuous start of ups and downs this season, seeing players like Javier Baez and Spencer Torkelson struggle heavily in their first 60 games of the 2023 season.

One of their only bright spots in the offense has been Kerry Carpenter and his hot bat in the middle of the lineup. Now, with Carpenter out of the lineup with a spinal fracture, the Tigers could fall farther in the race for a playoff spot and struggle to find a replacement for the offense Carpenter brings.

Carpenter Was the Tigers Best Hitter in 2024

As mentioned, Carpenter has been, arguably, the Tigers best hitter boasting a slash line of .283/.342/.572 and an OPS+ of 155. Just butter-knifing through the Tigers month of May, Carpenter played 20 games, hit .309, with 5 HR’s, 14 RBI’s and an OPS of 1.136.

Looking deeper, Carpenter is first on the team in batting average, RBI and wRC+ and second in home runs and fWAR among position players on the team. For a Tigers offense that sometimes appears to be allergic to hitting the baseball, ranking in the bottom half of the league for almost every hitting stat in the league, Carpenter’s loss is more than just a blow – it’s a catastrophic nuke to this lineup. How do the Tigers duct tape this massive hole in the lineup?

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Who Will Fill in for the Tigers?

The answer to this question has been the same thing Hinch has done the past three years as manager: versatility and MLB-ready prospects. The Tigers have stacked their lineup with multiple players who can move around in the event of an injury so the replacement of Carpenter’s hole in the outfield becomes easier than expected.

It’s fair to expect a combination of Matt Vierling, Wenceel Perez, Akil Baddoo and even Justyn Henry-Malloy getting time in Carpenter’s spot. I’d expect Perez and Baddoo to get a lot of those reps with Malloy getting pushed to DH and Vierling filling where he can.

For the offense, there would have to be some sort of step up from at least half the lineup to stay afloat. Malloy is a good shot in the arm for this offense, being a solid enough bat to stick in the middle of the lineup. Riley Greene has been fantastic this season at the plate and Vierling has taken another step to help this team but there has to be more.

With the demotion of Torkelson, the Tigers are relying on the middling players and rookies to be the guys to step up. We’ve seen Colt Keith start to figure it out at the end of May and Perez give them a boost when needed, but is that enough for them to keep pushing? There has to some sort of drastic turn around or breakout for this team to fully turn the corner or it may be another lost season in Detroit.

Could the Loss of Carpenter Push Detroit To Sell?

Should the Tigers sell? Yes. Will the Tigers Sell? It depends.

Detroit holds a gaggle of one-year deals that are expendable when deadline season comes around. Guys like Jason Foley, Jack Flaherty, Kenta Maeda and Andy Ibanez could all be dealt, and those are just the most intriguing names. So the basis of a sell is there.

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But if the team is anywhere close to a Wild Card spot with time lost from Carpenter, the front office may have no choice. In my eyes, you trade away a couple of players to make room for the probable September call-ups like Jace Jung and Ty Madden.

The other option is using these prospects as an add-on for a playoff push. The Tigers have a top-five pipeline with Jackson Jobe and Max Clark holding the top spots. If there is a way to get some of these young players like Tarik Skubal, Riley Greene and Carpenter some playoff experience, you do everything you can to get there.

Not only will it help those young players get that playoff experience but it weathers the storm for those top prospects to come into the team the year after. So adding a Madden to an already solid rotation and adding a Jung to a depleted, run hungry lineup for a playoff push could be just enough to sneak in. This doesn’t mean buy. It just means don’t sell.

It really all depends on how the Tigers fare without Carpenter in the lineup. If they can stay afloat, there is a chance for a run at the playoffs. But if they drop too many games to the point of no return, they could see some of their best contributors shipped off to contenders while they stay at the basement of the AL Central.