Justin Verlander’s somewhat quiet resurgence over the final two months of the season played a significant factor in the Tigers’ offseason, GM Al Avila tells ESPN’s Jayson Stark. “Justin’s finish gave us the confidence and the hope that we could go for it again, and rebuild this team and try to win a championship,” said Avila, who spent more than $270MM on free agents this winter and also made several upgrades on the trade market. As Stark notes, the Tigers’ rotation no longer has the star power it held in the days of Max Scherzer and David Price joining Verlander atop the starting five, but the addition of Jordan Zimmermann and a return to form for Anibal Sanchez could go a long way toward revitalizing the Detroit rotation and fueling yet another postseason push.
More notes out of Motown…
- The Tigers have “quietly prepared” to trade backup catcher Bryan Holaday ever since signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to serve as the backup to starting catcher James McCann, writes Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. Though Holaday is in the midst of a big Spring Training performance and has seen time at both third base and left field in Grapefruit League action, the out-of-options catcher, whom Henning notes is beloved by teammates and coaches alike, is all but certain to land on another club at the end of the month. While Saltalamacchia isn’t as strong a defender as Holaday, the Tigers’ right-leaning lineup will benefit from Salty’s left-handed swing and power — traits that made him attractive to the club. The Tigers now consider the younger Miguel Gonzalez, who will head to Triple-A to open the season, as the third catcher in the organization, per Henning. As a career .251/.283/.340 hitter, Holaday’s value to other clubs isn’t exceptionally high, but he still offers a superior option to many internal candidates on clubs with more questionable catching depth.
- Right-hander Angel Nesbitt, who has been aiming to make the Opening Day bullpen, will now be out four to six weeks with a right ankle sprain suffered during pitchers’ fielding practice yesterday, as MLive.com’s Chris Iott writes. Nesbitt is currently using crutches and a walking boot to get around the clubhouse. Skipper Brad Ausmus told the Detroit media that Nesbitt had been throwing well and looked to have regained confidence after a shaky 2015 season. Nesbitt, who turned 25 this winter, earned a spot in the Tigers’ Opening Day ’pen last season but struggled through 21 2/3 big league innings, posting a 5.40 ERA in that time. Nesbitt, who jumped directly to the Majors from Double-A after posting dominant numbers there, was sent to Triple-A and continued to struggle, logging a 6.25 ERA in 40 1/3 innings there. The hard-throwing righty will now, presumably, open the season at the Triple-A level and hope that better results yield a return to the Major League staff.