The Tigers finalized their two-year contract with Kenta Maeda this afternoon. The right-hander adds a veteran presence to the middle of the staff behind Tarik Skubal. He joins younger hurlers Reese Olson, Casey Mize, Sawyer Gipson-Long and Matt Manning in the season-opening mix.
That’s a talented group, but Detroit doesn’t seem prepared to sit on its laurels. President of baseball operations Scott Harris told the beat this afternoon that the front office will continue searching for pitching (relayed by Evan Woodbery of MLive).
Harris acknowledged the general truism that teams could always stand to stockpile pitching depth. Beyond that, there’s good reason for the front office to look for at least one more rotation option. Each of Detroit’s top six has some workload questions. Skubal missed nearly a calendar year between 2022 and ’23 due to a flexor issue that required forearm surgery. Mize didn’t pitch at all this year as he worked back from June ’22 Tommy John surgery. Maeda had undergone a UCL repair late in ’21 and missed the entire 2022 campaign. He pitched 104 1/3 innings this past season, losing a couple months to a triceps strain.
Manning fractured both feet on separate comebackers this year, keeping him to 15 starts. While those are fluky in nature, he’d battled shoulder issues and was limited to 12 appearances in 2022. Olson and Gipson-Long, meanwhile, made their MLB debuts in the middle of this past season. The former pitched 103 2/3 innings over 23 appearances; the latter made four starts in the final month.
Adding another rotation option could allow the front office to keep one of their younger arms at Triple-A Toledo in preparation for injuries that’ll inevitably arise throughout the year. It’d also afford some flexibility for manager A.J. Hinch to potentially deploy someone from the group out of the bullpen.
Detroit could also add to the relief corps directly. Harris didn’t differentiate between the rotation and bullpen when discussing the search for pitching. It’d be a surprise if the Tigers made a significant splash in the bullpen, which was a league average unit. Jason Foley, Alex Lange, Will Vest and Tyler Holton are a strong top four, but Detroit could bring in a veteran for the middle innings.
The Tigers haven’t been publicly tied to any specific relievers this offseason. Reports from before the Maeda deal linked them to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Seth Lugo and Luis Severino on the rotation front. A strike at Yamamoto or even Lugo seem like long shots given the general belief that Detroit will pursue shorter-term deals. Lugo seems likely to land a three-year pact, while the Tigers reportedly preferred to keep the commitment to one season. A one-year rebound contract seems likely for Severino. Wade Miley, Frankie Montas and James Paxton are among the other one-year possibilities in free agency.