The Tigers announced Wednesday that they’ve designated first baseman Renato Nunez for assignment in order to open a roster spot for infielder Zack Short, who has been recalled from the team’s alternate training site. Detroit also plans to activate right-hander Spencer Turnbull from the Covid-19 list later today, as Evan Woodberry of MLive.com points out, which necessitates this morning’s 40-man move.
Many were surprised to see the Orioles cut Nunez loose over the winter rather than pay him a raise via arbitration. He’d slugged 43 long balls for Baltimore from 2019-20, including a 31-homer campaign back in 2019. However, as a below-average defender at both infield corners with contact issues and a generally sub-par OBP, Nunez went unclaimed on waivers despite his obvious power. He ultimately landed a minor league deal in Detroit and had his contract selected 10 days ago.
Nunez, 27, showed off that power by homering twice in 29 plate appearances as a Tiger, but the same OBP, strikeout and defensive concerns were present. The Tigers slotted him at DH (four games) more than first base (three), as he split his time in the field with both Harold Castro and Jonathan Schoop. Nunez punched out eight times in his 29 trips to the plate against just one walk, resulting in an overall .148/.207/.444 batting line. Nunez paired that output with a .188/.212/.344 slash in 33 spring plate appearances, which likely also played into the decision.
The Tigers will have a week to trade Nunez or attempt to pass him through outright waivers, although even if he goes unclaimed this time around, he can still opt for free agency by virtue of the fact that he’s already cleared waivers once before.
The 25-year-old Short will be making his big league debut the first time he gets into a game with the Tigers. Acquired from the Cubs last summer in a trade that sent Cameron Maybin to Chicago, Short is a former 17th-round pick who emerged as one of the top 30 prospects in the Cubs’ system from 2019-20, per Baseball America. He ranks 24th among Tigers farmhands right now over at MLB.com, where he’s regarded as a plus defender at multiple positions and an above-average runner with gap power. He hasn’t hit for a great average in the minors but draws tons of walks (16.4 percent), which has resulted in a .241/.377/.405 line in his minor league career.