TODAY: Mahtook cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A, the Tigers announced.
THURSDAY: The Tigers announced this morning that they’ve designated outfielder Mikie Mahtook for assignment. His spot on the 25-man roster will go to fellow outfielder JaCoby Jones, who has been reinstated after opening the season on the injured list due to a shoulder sprain.
Mahtook, 29, had a promising first year with the Tigers in 2017 after being acquired in a minor trade with the Rays in the preceding offseason. The 2011 first-round pick slashed .276/.330/.457 with a dozen homers in 379 plate appearances and gave the organization some hope that he could be a useful pieces for years to come, given the amount of club control he had remaining.
Unfortunately, Mahtook’s production cratered in 2018 as his strikeout rate soared north of 26 percent while the .324 BABIP he turned in a year prior cratered to a career-low .238. Mahtook saw his hard-contact and line-drive rates both decline, while he hit infield pop-ups at a career-worst clip as well.
Things haven’t gone better for Mahtook in the early stages of the 2019 campaign, either. He’s hitless through 25 plate appearances, including 11 strikeouts, and a recent misplay in center field turned a routine Eric Stamets single into a little league homer.
Detroit will have a week to either trade Mahtook or run him through outright waivers, at which point he’d remain under organizational control should the team wish to assign him to a minor league affiliate. Mahtook has never been previously outrighted and doesn’t have the requisite three years of big league service to reject an outright assignment, so electing free agency wouldn’t be an option for him.
Mahtook’s DFA means that Jones can be penciled in for everyday at-bats in center field, while former Padres and Braves prospect Dustin Peterson, whom Detroit claimed off waivers last September, will stick on the big league roster as the primary reserve outfielder for the time being. That’ll leave Detroit without a true backup center fielder; Peterson and utilityman Niko Goodrum are the only players on the big league roster with experience at the position, though that pair has combined for just 331 innings of work at the position (nearly all in the minor leagues). It’s possible that another move is coming to add a more natural backup, but for now Jones, who hit .207/.266/.364 in 467 PAs last season, appears ticketed for a heavy workload.