The Tigers made notable progress in 2020 (granted, there was nowhere to go but up after their previous campaign), but they still finished well under .500 for the fourth straight year. GM Al Avila has already hired A.J. Hinch to replace the retired Ron Gardenhire as the Tigers’ next manager. The next step is improving their roster.
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B/DH: $102MM through 2023 (including $8MM buyout for 2023)
Note on arb-eligible players: this year’s arbitration projections are more volatile than ever, given the unprecedented revenue losses felt by clubs and the shortened 2020 schedule. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, who developed our arbitration projection model, used three different methods to calculate different projection numbers. You can see the full projections and an explanation of each if you click here, but for the purposes of our Outlook series, we’ll be using Matt’s 37-percent method — extrapolating what degree of raise a player’s 2020 rate of play would have earned him in a full 162-game slate and then awarding him 37 percent of that raise.
- Matthew Boyd – $6.2MM
- Jeimer Candelario – $1.7MM
- Jose Cisnero – $900K
- Buck Farmer – $1.4MM
- Michael Fulmer – $2.9MM
- Niko Goodrum – $1.6MM
- Joe Jimenez – $1.0MM
- JaCoby Jones – $2.0MM
- Daniel Norris – $3.1MM
- Non-tender candidates: Goodrum, Jimenez
Let’s start with the infield, which could see quite a shakeup this offseason. The Tigers had a couple of 20-something breakout players there in shortstop Willi Castro and third baseman/first baseman Jeimer Candelario, but it’s not clear where either will primarily line up next season.
In regards to Castro, Avila said after the season (via Evan Woodbery of MLive.com), “We feel he has the athletic ability to play anywhere in the infield.”
Although Castro had a huge offensive year at short, that doesn’t mean the Tigers will keep him there. They may instead be tempted to pursue Korean star Ha-Seong Kim, a 24-year-old whom the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes will post this offseason. According to Baseball America, Kim’s a top 100-caliber prospect, so lots of teams – including rebuilding clubs – should be after him. From Detroit’s perspective, it would seemingly make sense to bring in Kim as a Day 1 starter, either as a third baseman or shortstop. If it’s the latter, the Tigers could put Castro at the keystone, move on from free agent Jonathan Schoop and eschew the rest of the middle class of second base free agents (Kolten Wong, Cesar Hernandez and Tommy La Stella are among those names).
Candelario, meanwhile, began the year as the Tigers’ third baseman, but he shifted to first after C.J. Cron underwent season-ending knee surgery in August. Cron’s a free agent who’s near the top of a weak class for free-agent first basemen; so, rather than go back to him or try for a different veteran first baseman (Carlos Santana and Justin Smoak are also a couple of names out there), perhaps the Tigers will leave Candelario at the position. A Candelario-Castro-Kim scenario from right to left would leave the Tigers with a potential need at third, though they may simply decide to let Isaac Paredes sink or swim there or sign someone like Jake Lamb or Marwin Gonzalez to man the spot. Paredes, for his part, had a very rough debut as the Tigers’ top third baseman in 2020, but he’s still just 21 years old and not far removed from top 100 status as a prospect.
Elsewhere in the Tigers’ lineup, it’s unclear how they’ll handle catcher or assemble their outfield. They signed former Yankees catcher Austin Romine to a $4.1MM guarantee last offseason with the hope that he’d emerge as a true full-time player, but he instead endured an awful season and is once again due to reach free agency. Detroit’s other choices, Grayson Greiner and Eric Haase, also produced next to nothing at the plate, while Jake Rogers still hasn’t established himself at the MLB level.
Avila said last month he’d like offensive help behind the plate, but he seemed to suggest he’d rather rely on the eventual emergence of Rogers. It’s unknown, then, whether the Tigers will seek veteran help at the position in the offseason. If they do, the Tigers probably won’t be be in on the two best free-agent catchers available, J.T. Realmuto and ex-Tiger James McCann. However, the GM’s son, former Tiger Alex Avila, as well as Yadier Molina, Jason Castro, Mike Zunino, Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki, Robinson Chirinos and Tyler Flowers are available as Band-Aids if the team wants to bridge the gap to Rogers in free agency. Gary Sanchez could also end up in free agency or as an attainable trade target if the Yankees decide to move on from him.
The Tigers are probably content with two-thirds of their outfield with center fielder JaCoby Jones and corner man Victor Reyes. The other spot may be up for grabs, though, as Christin Stewart didn’t hit in either of the previous two seasons, they can’t count on Niko Goodrum as a regular, and Daz Cameron hasn’t shown he’s ready for a full-time major league role. MLBTR predicts the club will supplement its outfield with a Jurickson Profar signing, but Joc Pederson, Robbie Grossman, Kevin Pillar and Adam Eaton are among others it could spend on for short-term help.
Turning to the pitching side, the Tigers seem to have three-fifths of next year’s rotation set with Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Michael Fulmer. But Turnbull was the only member of the trio who performed well in 2020. Boyd looked like a breakout candidate as recently as the first half of 2019, but his production has fallen off a cliff since then. The Tigers will soon have to make a decision on whether to retain Boyd, as Anthony Franco of MLBTR explained last weekend. Like Boyd, Fulmer has shown flashes in the past, but he’s coming off a rough return from Tommy John surgery.
Beyond Boyd, Turnbull and Fulmer, the Tigers do have some rather promising young hurlers in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Alex Faedo – four of their top prospects. Mize and Skuball debuted in the majors in 2020, though they had trouble keeping runs off the board in their first taste of MLB action.
Any of Mize, Skubal, Manning or Faedo could factor into the Tigers’ rotation next year, but it seems they’ll look to take some pressure off by adding at least one veteran this offseason. They’ve already shown interest in free agent Taijuan Walker, who could be a reasonably priced acquisition on a one- or tw0-year deal. Former Tiger Rick Porcello, Garrett Richards, Martin Perez and Mike Minor might also be among potential targets for the team.
Moving to the bullpen, the Tigers look to be mostly set with what they have. Daniel Norris blossomed in a relief role in 2020, while Jose Cisnero also turned in encouraging results. Bryan Garcia, Gregory Soto, Buck Farmer and Tyler Alexander also probably aren’t going anywhere, though there’s at least room for improvement over John Schreiber and Joe Jimenez (the latter looks like a non-tender candidate). That’s not to say the Tigers will shop near the top of the market for relief help, but with the wealth of veteran bullpen options looking for deals, they should be able to improve their late-game outlook in free agency.
The Tigers have had their share of aggressive offseasons in the past, but they have been relatively quiet of late during their rebuild. Once again, the Tigers probably won’t be that active this winter. That said, with some legitimate talent in or near the majors and a rising farm system led by last year’s No. 1 overall pick, first baseman Spencer Torkelson, Detroit’s time is coming.
I’ve said this before, but the Tigers, Mets, and Angels are each going to have huge off-seasons in their own right. The Tigers get a new manager with a winning culture, the Mets… wow, and the Angels are actually showing some progressiveness with the way they hire guys now. This off-season will be huge for them.
The Tigers get a new manager with a cheating culture…
Even w Cabrera’s $31million the Tigers are almost certainly to have a payroll under $70 million (probably closer to $60).
This would be a good year to go big. Money might not be thrown around like in the past so the Tigers might be able to dangle a long term big bucks deal at Bauer and make him the Kenny Rogers of this teams rebuild. 1-2 yrs more to build then serious contention by ‘23.
On a 1-2 yr deal I like Pederson if he’ll take it. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Riley Greene makes his debut after the ASB.
Bauer is on record he’s only signing 1 yr deals. And it’s still too soon to spend big in Detroit. Show more progress in 21, let Hinch set the mood, then open the wallet in 22.
He’s also said he’s open to multi-year deals, though not likely with the Tigers.
Sorry I responded to the wrong guy
While I agree, I would hop on some type of spending this season because after the vaccine, we may return to SOME semblance of normalcy. If that happens the deals that you could get this offseason may not be around for next offseason. If you can get a great 3 year deal you take it. But I wouldn’t wait around for next year just to spend more money
Bauer is also on record for walking that back some.
For Love of the Game
AJ Hinch and his All-Star coaching staff aren’t going to Detroit to lose 100 games. They expect to build a winner. With the low payroll like ‘beeb mentioned, they can afford to spend. Pick up at least one long-term piece. Ha-Seong Kim sounds like a fit. Don’t block the way of the youngsters, though, by picking up AAAA veterans on one-year deals. Let ’em play through the season and then you’ll know who makes the grade.
I swear if the Tigers take Ha-Seong Kim from the Rangers….. ooooooo I will be mad. We have saved up for great international free agents recently and they just end up going else where. At least we have Acosta and Acuna (two young studs in the making).
“All Star Coaching staff?” Okay
It’s certainly an improvement.
On the plus side, the Tigers didn’t have any players suspended for 162 games today, so there is that…
Decent write up Conner. I will pick on a couple of things though. I doubt Jimenez is a non-tender candidate. His arb number is pretty reasonable and he has a ton of talent. Not like the Tigers payroll will be huge next year. They will give Chris Fetter every chance to see if he can fix Joe and realize the potential he had coming up through the system. It is also unlikely they will put Candelario back at first. While he performed admirably there last year, his best position defensively is third. Plus, while Parades did give glimpses of why the Tigers see him as part of their future, he also showed he is not ready. He needs at least a half season in AAA (hoping we have a AAA season)..
I like the suggestion regarding going after Kim from Kiwoom. Would also love to see them go after Min-woo Park from NC Dinos, as he is also rumored to be posted. But the Tigers have never actually signed a big international free agent, ever. Tried to get Cespedes but lost out on him. Other than that, zip. So kind of a believe when I see it deal.
‘Fulmer showed flashes” .How about Rookie of the Year winner and 10th in Cy voting, followed up by a similar second season where he was on the All Star team?
Showed flashes is a phrase for guys that have a hot month or 6 weeks. Ugh.
Jimenez isn’t a non-tender candidate, agreed.
The write-up reads like someone had a deadline and forgot about it while staying up too late binge watching.
As Goodrum is above average at every position defensively, runs well, and is a switch hitter, I am baffled why his name is on a non tender list while he is still cheap. I can understand Jimenez, due to his bad stretch, but expect an offer to be made, as he was the closer last year, and has a new pitching coach to work with.
Avila needs to find a healthy vet to add stability to the rotation, and lead by example. Some one that won’t be too proud to move to the pen if the youngsters step up. Kim would be a good add also, as there is no SS in their system that can be expected to be more than a glove. That’s why Goodrum was given the shot. I could see any of Easton, Pederson or Profar for the OF, and was thinking Springer, before the Hinch signing. Spare me the Grossman and Pillar talk. If healthy, I would try to bring back Cron. I would also consider McCann on a 3 year deal. Avila aid he wanted a home grown player at C. There he is.
“First Baseman” Spencer Torkelson? Um….
McCann would be the best choice I feel. But it’ll prob be Alex Avila. Tigers certainly need a ss and Kim seems worth a shot. Hope some of the youngsters pan out. Getting tired of last place.
When was the last time the Tigers didn’t wait too long to trade a starting pitcher? It’s amazing to me that Boyd and Fulmer are STILL on their roster heading into 2021.
Hard to walk with four balls
Because making a trade that doesn’t make your team better is dumb.
If you were the GM of a rival club you would have traded for Boyd and Fulmer? They would have fired you.
You are unrealistic.
Uh, okay. I was merely pointing out that the Tigers didn’t trade them when they should have. Both had incredible value at their peaks. Fulmer in 2017 and Boyd in 2019. It really would have helped their rebuild more instead of just hanging onto them stubbornly.
Tigers did an awful job managing them as trade assets.
Not necessarily. Teams were “”low balling” the Tigers on both Fulmer and Boyd. Tigers were smart to not accept a bag of balls and AAAA players for either of them. Boyd and Fulmer will have “bounceback years” this year and could be trade candidates in 2021.
Tigers have 2 years to trade or resign them to 2 year deals etc..
I expect Fulmer and Boyd to reestablish themselves as top of the rotation starters in 2021 with AJ and a New Coaching Staff.
Yankees, Angels, Astros, Padres and other teams will be burning up the phone lines to the Tigers at the trade deadline in 2021 making bids on one or the other..
Low ball? I’m not saying they weren’t low-balled by anyone, but they were offered Alex Bregman by the Astros and Baez from the Cubs for Fulmer. Also, what’s Boyd have to bounce back to? A #4 starter? He’s durable, but from 2017 to 2019 he had a 4.70 ERA, 4.43 FIP and 1.29 WHIP. It would be an improvement from 2020 Boyd, but let’s not act like he was like Fulmer coming off a ROY campaign and All-Star season in back-to-back seasons.
Bag of balls and AAAA players is an absurd overpay for Boyd. He’s not worth that much.
Living in Detroit, and watching every game, those were Rumors. Neither had any substance. Teams in playoff contention are not going to move a starting player, creating a hole, in order to fill another. Teams that are rebuilding don’t want an established player, with higher salary, and less control back in a trade. They want minor league talent that is cheap and controlable.
How do you know the Tigers were low balled? Are you being updated on Tigers trade efforts? Do you have a link to support that statement? You’re making an assumption because they didn’t trade those two and not because you know anything. As for them rebuilding value, well, good luck with that. We’ve seen a hand full of years from Boyd and it’s getting a little late to demonstrate your talent.
I’ve never understood why the Tigers had such a crazy high market for Boyd. They’ve asked for #1 starter type packages for him and he’s never really been more than a #4 starter. Career ERA over 5, career FIP of 4.75, K/9 under 9.0.
Wouldn’t the Pirates have been better served by asking for a better return for Glasnow? Boyd was controllable and showing improvement with metrics that supported it. Giving him away when he looked like he was turning the corner would not have been a good move. Tigers moved Verlander for less than they wanted, because Verlander controlled where he would go. Its currently looking like it was not a good move. Don’t see people raving about what a great move that was, taking what was available at the time.
Interesting write up – no mention of Cabrera’s impact on 2021 at all. (Except for his salary)
Not that readers here don’t already know how Miggy fits in, but it is funny that a future HoF player is an afterthought.
I mean he is just going to be their DH.
I really think the tigers should go after Springer. He’s played for Hinch and the tigers need that other outfield piece, not to mention they have the cash to throw at him. They’re a couple years away from contending, but it could be a situation where they sign him to a 5 year deal and he helps speed up their rebuild process
Springer’s cheating is what got Hinch his suspension. Doubt that’s going to happen.
Eh springer mashes at comerica and they can’t cheat at a home stadium
I agree. It’d be similar to the Magglio Ordonez where they added him as they were just bringing up their young guys and his second year there they went to a 95 win team after being a 71 win team his first year.
Miguel Cabrera will pass two milestones in 2021: 500 home runs and 3,000 hits…punching his ticket as a 1st ballot Hall of Famer…
I’d take the under on him getting to 3000 in 2021
There will be some deals in the free agent market in 2021 because many teams lost big money in 2020 with no fans in the stands. In 2021, Teams could be playing with 25% fans in the stands instead of full houses. Tigers, Mets and a few others not adverse to spending some cash could benefit greatly from this market.
Tigers have to balance seeing their young players fight for major league time and major league production breakthroughs versus locking up a few free agent bargains for ’21-23.
I’m sorry, but this team still looks like it’s a long way away from competing. If I was ownership, I’d fire Avila and get someone better.
If a team is going to be terrible for three years, the next wave ought to compete for pennants. I would trade all the arb guys for prospects and try to take on as many bad contracts as possible, a la Zack Cozart.
Why would you take on bad contracts during a rebuild? Especially during a pandemic?
Because other teams might be even more desperate than normal to give away top prospects if it means they can unload toxic contracts.
For example, if the Tigers took on $100M in toxic contracts over the next two years, they might be able to add 5 or 7 elite prospects, plus some depth.
I hope the braves sign austin romine to back up dArnoud
I hope the Tigers resign Austin Romine. I’ve seen enough of Grayson Greiner, Christin Stewart and JaCoby Jones. They may not hit so much but, they will win their share of games with their gloves and speed.
C Austin Romine
C Jake Rogers
1B Willi Castro
2B Harold Castro
3B Jeimer Candelario
SS Niko Goodrum
LF Victor Reyes
CF Derek Hill
RF Daz Cameron
Miggy should do the tigers a favor and retire ASAP. He is not good enough to play everyday. Who wants to see Miggy hit .240 12 home runs again? Tigers can win 75-80 wins if they sign Cron and Schoop in 21. Zimmerman is worthless at this point. Jones is AAA. No room for Nova. Signing Romine was a mistake. Jake Rogers has great catching ability and has power potential.
Miggy is not retiring, and showed some rebound in this short season. Don’t know what you don’t like about Jones other than he keeps getting injured. Jake Rogers may be able to catch, but he had one of the worst approaches at the plate I’ve seen, during his cup of coffee. Unless they rebuild him from scratch, he looks like a Mike Matheny type. Haase got the call over him this year. That says a lot.
Your comment implys that you follow the Tigers periodically. Some of the guys you mentioned won’t be on the Tigers in 2021. Read the article and comments to catch up.
Wouldn’t Buck Farmer be a likely non-tender candidate? Going into age 30 season, meh stats. The ultimate “replacement player?”