The Tigers have signed infielder/outfielder Ryan Vilade to a minor league contract, according to his transactions tracker at MLB.com. He will receive an invitation to major league Spring Training, per Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press.
Vilade, 25 in February, spent 2023 with the Pirates mostly in a non-roster capacity. He was claimed off waivers from the Rockies in the offseason but was designated for assignment on Opening Day, passing through waivers and sticking with the Bucs at Triple-A. He played 122 games at that level, striking out in 24.9% of his plate appearances but also walking at a 12.5% clip. He only hit six home runs on the year, leading to a batting line of .270/.370/.382 and wRC+ of 96.
He brings plenty of defensive versatility to the table, as he spent some time at first base, third base and all three outfield positions this year. He’s played some shortstop in the past, though not since 2019. He was limited to seven stolen bases in 2023, but he was in double digits in each previous year in which minor league games were played going back to 2018. He has three games of MLB experience, which came with the Rockies in 2021.
The Tigers already have plenty of outfielders, with Parker Meadows, Riley Greene, Kerry Carpenter, Mark Canha and Akil Baddoo looking to split the playing time on the grass and perhaps in the designated hitter spot. Spencer Torkelson seems entrenched at first base but the hot corner is a bit more open. Matt Vierling is likely the favorite at that spot for now, though he hasn’t really done anything to lock the job down as he was around league average offensively and defensively in 2023. Andy Ibañez, Tyler Nevin, Nick Maton and Andre Lipcius are also on the roster and in the mix. Prospect Colt Keith could be the third baseman of the future but he’s also been getting some second base work lately. Justyn-Henry Malloy is also an attractive third base prospect, though he plays the outfield corners as well.
Vilade will give the club a bit more depth at that spot in a non-roster capacity, with the ability to pivot to other spots if injuries open up holes elsewhere. He is still quite young, has a couple of options and less than a year of service time, meaning he could be a long-term depth option for the club if he earns his way onto the roster.