Tigers right-hander Drew VerHagen will sign a one-year deal with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News reports (Twitter links). Detroit has formally requested release waivers on VerHagen in order to facilitate the move, per a club announcement. The move drops the Tigers’ 40-man roster to a total of 39 players.
“It sounds like they are going to give me a great opportunity to start,” VerHagen tells McCosky (Twitter link). “I just felt like this is something cool and different and it will big financially, as well. I’m excited.”
VerHagen, 29, has spent his entire career in the Tigers’ organization. Originally drafted in the fourth round back in 2012, the 6’6″ righty has made a handful of starts with the Tigers since debuting in 2014 but has worked primarily out of the bullpen. VerHagen’s 5.11 ERA in 199 Major League innings doesn’t exactly stand out, but he’s notched a hearty 53.9 percent ground-ball rate at the game’s top level. Metrics like FIP (4.76), xFIP (4.50) and SIERA (4.29) all feel he’s been a fair sight better than his baseline ERA, which is perhaps unsurprising given that he’s played in front of some lackluster defenses as the Tigers have worked through their current rebuilding phase.
VerHagen’s time at the Triple-A level has gone much better. He’s appeared in parts of six seasons there, compiling a 3.97 earned run average with 7.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 321 2/3 innings. He wouldn’t be the first pitcher to reinvent himself in Japan before returning to MLB in his early or mid 30s, so his results in NPB will at least be worth keeping an eye on next season.