The Tigers have made one big rotation splash this winter, signing Eduardo Rodríguez to a five-year, $77MM guarantee. Yet they also non-tendered Matthew Boyd and will be without Spencer Turnbull for most or all of next season due to a July 2021 Tommy John surgery. Boyd, Turnbull and depth options Wily Peralta and José Ureña — each of whom has reached free agency — combined to toss 304 innings out of the rotation last year, thinning the Detroit depth.
With that in mind, Evan Woodbery of MLive writes that the Tigers are likely to pursue another starter coming out of the lockout. Carlos Rodón and Clayton Kershaw are the top free agent starters available, with most of the other options (Peralta and Ureña included) projecting as back-end types. As things currently stand, the Tigers look likely to open the season with a starting five of Rodríguez, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning and Tyler Alexander.
That’s a rather young group. While it’s full of pedigree, Manning struggled last season. Skubal posted solid strikeout and walk numbers but had the league’s second-highest home run rate (2.11 HR/9) among pitchers with 100+ innings. A veteran depth addition at the back end makes plenty of sense, particularly with prospects Joey Wentz and Alex Faedo among the leading internal depth options.
Neither Wentz nor Faedo has yet made their major league debuts, and both pitchers are coming off fairly recent Tommy John procedures. Wentz underwent the surgery in March 2020 and returned in late May; Faedo went under the knife in January 2021. The 26-year-old’s timetable for a return to the field remains unclear, but he tells Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press he’s begun to throw off flat ground.
Faedo pitched his way to Double-A in 2019 and tossed 115 1/3 innings of 3.90 ERA ball with plus strikeout and walk rates (28.3% and 5.3%, respectively) there that year. A former first-round pick, Faedo’s prospect stock has dipped in recent seasons but he was nevertheless selected onto the Tigers’ 40-man roster over the 2020-21 offseason. Baseball America ranked the former University of Florida star 25th among Detroit farmhands midseason, writing that he projects as a back-of-the-rotation arm.
It’s also possible Faedo and/or Wentz break into the bullpen mix at some point. Tigers’ relievers ranked just 22nd in ERA (4.50) and 28th in strikeout/walk rate differential (11.4 percentage points) last year. Detroit didn’t do anything to address that area of the roster over the first couple months of the offseason, and Woodbery suggests the Tigers could look to add a reliever or two from outside the organization this winter.
Kenley Jansen is the top free agent reliever available, with such arms as Joe Kelly, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin and Collin McHugh among the setup types on the market. Of course, Detroit could look to the trade market, waiver wire or even perhaps the Rule 5 draft as alternative means of adding to the bullpen. Amir Garrett, Cole Sulser, Chris Stratton and Lou Trivino are among the late-game options who might be attainable via trade once the transactions freeze concludes.