The Tigers announced that right-hander Drew Hutchison has cleared waivers and elected free agency. He had been designated for assignment on Tuesday when the club claimed utility man Jermaine Palacios off waivers from the Twins.
Hutchison, 32, was signed to a minor league deal by the Tigers last year and ended up cracking the big league team to toss 21 1/3 innings down the stretch. He was outrighted at the end of the season but impressed the club enough that he was brought back for another season as an emergency depth option.
In 2022, they needed to lean on Hutchison far more than they would have liked, as the rotation was decimated by injuries. Just about every hurler the Tigers trotted out to start a game either got hurt or underperformed. In the end, Hutchison made 18 starts, a figure that placed him second on the team, with only Tarik Skubal’s 21 starts ahead of him.
As far as emergency starters go, Hutchison fared well enough, posting a 4.53 ERA in 105 1/3 innings. His peripherals weren’t as strong, however, as his 14.7% strikeout rate, 9.1% walk rate and 40.3% ground ball rate were all worse than league average. Advanced metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA had him closer to 5.00, based on those underlying numbers.
Detroit’s rotation still has many question marks around it, with Casey Mize set to miss most of next year recovering from Tommy John surgery. Skubal and Matt Manning are also dealing with arm issues and have uncertain timelines going into the winter. Despite bouncing around the league for years, Hutchison has yet to reach six years of MLB service time, meaning the club could have retained him for next year via arbitration. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Hutchison to make $1.8MM in the arb process, but the club has opted not to go that route.
Hutchison will now be able to get an early start on looking for his next gig. He elected free agency a handful of times this year and always wound up back with the Tigers on a new minor league deal. It’s possible he could follow that pattern again, though the Tigers are under new management now. General manager Al Avila was fired and Scott Harris was hired as president of baseball operations. With the regime change and the uncertainty around their young starters, they will likely take some time figuring out their plan of attack for 2023.