The Tigers have signed right-hander Jacob Barnes to a minor league deal. The club also announced that Barnes will receive an invitation to the Tigers’ big league Spring Training camp.
Barnes elected free agency in October rather than accept an outright assignment to the Blue Jays’ Triple-A team. Barnes is in his second year of arbitration eligibility and was projected for a $1.2MM salary, but the Jays’ outright assignment was essentially a non-tender that allowed Barnes to get an early jump on the free agent market.
After posting a 3.54 ERA and 11.6% homer rate over 147 1/3 innings out of the Brewers’ bullpen from 2016-18, Barnes’ numbers began to sail north thanks in large part to an increase in his home run rate. In 79 1/3 innings since the start of the 2019 season, Barnes has a 6.58 ERA and an 18.8% homer rate, which has caused him to bounce around to five different clubs over that three-season span.
In 2021, the 31-year-old posted a 6.28 ERA over 28 2/3 combined innings with the Mets and Blue Jays in 2021, along with a 25.8% strikeout rate and 8.6% walk rate. Barnes has continually gotten some strong spin rates on his mid-90s fastball, but apart that four-seamer, he has had trouble finding consistent results with any of the other pitches in his arsenal.
Barnes will get another chance in the Tigers’ camp, as Detroit will likely audition more than a few veteran arms during their spring camp. The Tigers bullpen wasn’t particularly good in 2021, yet as aggressive as the team has already been with its winter shopping, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them turn their attention to more established relief options now that some of their bigger-ticket additions (Javier Baez, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Tucker Barnhart) have been added to the roster.