The Tigers are discussing a minor league pact with former Orioles first baseman/designated hitter Renato Nunez, tweets Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic. Baltimore designated Nunez for assignment rather than tendering him a contract prior to this December’s deadline.
The Nunez DFA caught some by surprise, given the 26-year-old’s 43 home runs for the O’s over the past two seasons and a modest arbitration projection as a first-time-eligible player. Nunez, however, is a sub-par defender at both infield corners with below-average walk rates that have held back his ability to get on base. Despite the 43 long balls over the past two years, his penchant for strikeouts and pop-ups have coupled with that aversion to walks to produce a .247/.314/.469 batting line.
That’s still a bit north of league-average offensive output, by measure of wRC+ and OPS+ (106), but combined with a lack of any value with the glove, it clearly didn’t lead to much interest in his services. Nunez went unclaimed on waivers even though he’d likely have earned under $4MM in arbitration, and there’s been little in the way of reported interest in him since the Orioles ultimately released him.
Several years ago, Nunez likely would’ve been tendered or at least traded — and had he hit the open market at that time, there’d surely have been stronger interest. Generally speaking, though, clubs have moved away from spending on defensively limited sluggers who carry OBP questions of this magnitude.
Should Nunez and the Tigers come to terms on a deal, he’d presumably head to minor league camp to compete with Jeimer Candelario at first base and as a possible bench bat to give incoming skipper AJ Hinch some pop off the bench. He’s technically controllable through the 2024 season via arbitration, but he’ll need to work on his on-base abilities or considerably improve his glovework to avoid being a non-tender candidate again next winter even if he does make the roster.