Detroit Tigers – MLB Trade Rumors Wed, 17 Oct 2018 21:13:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Jordan Zimmermann, Christin Stewart Undergo Core Muscle Surgeries Thu, 11 Oct 2018 20:57:52 +0000 The Tigers announced today that righty Jordan Zimmermann and outfielder Christin Stewart underwent surgeries to repair core muscle injuries. Both players are expected to be at full health for the start of camp.

In the case of Zimmermann, the news comes on the heels of another disappointing campaign in Detroit. The 32-year-old now carries a 5.24 ERA in his 396 2/3 innings since signing on with the club in advance of the 2016 campaign.

To be fair, Zimmermann did make some strides after a brutal 2017 showing. His swinging-strike rate jumped to 9.1%, the second-highest level in his career, though he continued to shed velocity. Zimmermann also posted a career-low 35.0% groundball rate and career-high 15.7% HR/FB rate, and ended the year with a 4.52 ERA, so there’s obviously still work to do.

Ultimately, the surgery represents another ding to a pitcher who simply hasn’t performed as hoped. With $50MM still owed over the two seasons to come, he wasn’t likely to be dealt regardless. But his situation is worth watching more closely now that his full no-trade protection has reverted to a partial no-trade clause. (He can block trades to all but ten teams.)

As for Stewart, a 2015 first-rounder who cracked the majors for the first time in 2018, the procedure won’t change the outlook in an appreciable manner. He impressed in a brief run at the big leagues, posting a .267/.375/.417 slash with two home runs and a strong 13:10 K/BB ratio over 72 plate appearances. Having posted big offensive numbers at each minor-league stop along the way, Stewart has likely earned a presumption of a big-league job in 2019.

Players Electing Free Agency Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:20:27 +0000 Quite a few players will hit the open market this fall, and they’ll do so by way of varying mechanisms. The end of the regular season triggered a recent wave of free agents, consisting of a certain subset of players — namely, those who were outrighted from 40-man rosters during the season and accepted minor-league assignments at that time despite having the right to elect free agency. Players in that situation are entitled instead to hit the open market at season’s end, if they were not added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime.

As conveyed by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, who also covers quite a few other minor moves, these players have now elected free agency:

Athletics: RHP Raul Alcantara, LHP Danny Coulombe

Blue Jays: RHP Mike Hauschild, INF/OF Darnell Sweeney

Braves: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Miguel Socolovich

Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons

Indians: RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Alexi Ogando

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Mike Morin, INF Zach Vincej

Marlins: OF JB Shuck

Mets: RHP Chris Beck, OF Bryce Brentz, RHP Scott Copeland, OF Matt den Dekker, INF Ty Kelly

Nationals: LHP Tommy Milone, OF Moises Sierra, RHP Carlos Torres

Orioles: RHP Jhan Marinez, INF Luis Sardinas

Padres: OF Matt Szczur

Phillies: INF Trevor Plouffe

Pirates: LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Casey Sadler, RHP A.J. Schugel

Rangers: C Juan Centeno, LHP Anthony Gose, RHP Drew Hutchison, INF Tommy Joseph, RHP Chris Rowley

Rays: INF Brandon Snyder, RHP Ryan Weber

Reds: C Tim Federowicz, RHP Kevin Quackenbush

Tigers: INF Dixon Machado, RHP Jacob Turner

White Sox: RHP Tyler Danish

Gardenhire: Tigers Will Increase Emphasis On Fundamentals In Minors Mon, 08 Oct 2018 19:55:49 +0000
  • Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire had his share of frustration regarding fundamental miscues in September, and he spoke to Evan Woodbery of about the need to have players better prepared for the Majors upon arrival. Woodbery notes that a number of players specifically cited by Gardenhire — rookie infielders Dawel Lugo and Jeimer Candelario among them — were trade acquisitions and haven’t spent the bulk of their career in the Tigers farm. That said, Gardenhire made clear how strongly he, GM Al Avila and farm director Dave Littlefield feel about ingraining fundamentals into players at an early age. “That’s really important to make sure our people in the lower minor leagues are on top of this, our staff guys,” said Gardenhire. “Littlefield gets it. He knows it. Al has talked about it. Our people have to be better in the minor leagues. They have to pound it in or we’re going to find new people. He’s told me that. He’s made that clear.” Everything from running out ground-balls to hitting the cutoff man to proper execution on double plays will be a point of focus, per Gardenhire, who is quoted extensively in a piece that’s well worth a full look for Tigers fans.
  • ]]>
    Quick Hits: Managerial Openings Sat, 06 Oct 2018 14:34:49 +0000 Make your pick for the most appealing managerial opening here, but while you mull your options, catch up on the latest rumblings…

    • The Rangers managerial job is Michael Young’s if he wants it, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The former Rangers infielder is one of many ex-Rangers currently serving as special assistant to GM Jon Daniels, along with Ivan Rodriguez, Darren Oliver, and Colby Lewis. Theoretically, Young would provide philosophical continuity with the previous regime as well as the front office. Conversely, he’s been looked at before, withdrawing himself from consideration before the hiring of Bannister in 2014, and there’s no indication he has any more interest in the position now. MLB TV analyst Mark DeRosa and Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin – Young’s teammates on the 2006 Rangers – continue to pop up as potential alternatives.
    • The Reds hope to have their new skipper in place by the end of the World Series, per Nightengale. Next on the interview docket: Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo and Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens will be brought in this week, reports Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Meulens served as Bruce Bochy’s right-hand man last year after eight season as the Giants’ hitting coach. The Curacao native managed the Netherlands for two World Baseball Classics and has been considered a manager-in-waiting for a few seasons – interviewing with the Tigers and Yankees last winter, added Mark Sheldon of Charlie Montoyo managed Rays affiliates for eighteen years before coaching third base at Tropicana from 2015-17 and – like Meulens – moving to the bench for 2018. Along with their internal candidates, the Reds have interviewed Joe Girardi, Brad Ausmus, and current Giants VP of player development David Bell, as it appears the Reds search is beginning to take shape. It’s no surprise that they’ll want their new manager installed before the offseason bonanza begins, as they plan to be aggressive in going after pitching. If they can secure a clear, strong voice in the dugout and a few extra arms for the mound, the Reds will have accomplished their two primary offseason goals.
    Jose Iglesias Unlikely To Return To Tigers? Thu, 04 Oct 2018 23:35:01 +0000
  • Jose Iglesias bid farewell to the Tigers organization on Instagram today, and Evan Woodbery of writes that it’s become increasingly apparent that the Tigers aren’t likely to pursue a reunion. Manager Ron Gardenhire bluntly indicated that the team is “looking for cheaper and inexpensive” as it looks to fill its middle infield voids. A return for Iglesias certainly doesn’t seem impossible — Woodbery notes that trade interest in him has been nonexistent over the past two seasons, which doesn’t bode well for free agency — but it doesn’t sound as if he’ll be an immediate priority for the club. Woodbery adds that Dixon Machado isn’t likely to be in the team’s plans, either; he elected free agency yesterday after being removed from the Tigers’ 40-man roster several months ago.
  • ]]>
    Tigers’ Al Avila On Castellanos, McCann, Middle Infield Sun, 30 Sep 2018 00:31:48 +0000 With Detroit in a rebuild and one of its best players, right fielder Nicholas Castellanos, only under control for another year, this weekend may be his last as a Tiger. But general manager Avila suggested Saturday that the team’s not a sure bet to trade Castellanos during the offseason.

    “Where he fits in the future of the Detroit Tigers, we’re still working through that at this point. But right now, I see him as our starting right fielder in 2019,” Avila said (Twitter links via Jason Beck of

    Avila added that revenue sharing could factor into whether the Tigers keep Castellanos, given that they may go from paying it to collecting it. As Beck notes, by becoming a revenue sharing collector, Detroit would stand to receive a more valuable compensatory draft pick should it retain Castellanos through next season, issue him a qualifying offer after the campaign and then watch him depart in free agency.

    Offensively, Castellanos has made a case that he’s a qualifying offer-worthy player since 2016 – his breakout season. And the former top prospect’s now on the verge of wrapping up his best campaign at the plate, having slashed .297/.354/.495 (129 wRC+) with 22 home runs in 670 trips. Castellanos has posted a terrific .362 weighted on-base average along the way, though his .388 xwOBA (via Statcast) suggests he has deserved even better results.

    Although Castellanos has emerged as a key offensive piece, he hasn’t established himself on the other end. After struggling as a third baseman from 2014-17, Detroit moved Castellanos to the outfield on a full-time basis this year, but the returns haven’t been encouraging. Castellanos ranks last among outfielders in Outs Above Average (minus-25), third worst in Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-12.9) and fifth from the bottom in Defensive Runs Saved (minus-19). The 26-year-old’s limitations as a defender obviously help tamp down his impact, but thanks to his prowess as a hitter, he has still posted 2.8 wins above replacement. Castellanos has been a valuable player this year, then, and the Tigers will have to decide whether to continue with him in 2019 – his third and final arbitration-eligible season, in which he’ll earn a raise over his current salary of $6.05MM – or deal him during the winter.

    Along with making a decision on Castellanos, Avila revealed that catcher, second base and shortstop will be among his areas of focus in the offseason (Twitter links via Evan Woodbery of The Tigers will have a “tough” call to make on catcher James McCann, Avila admitted, adding: “We have not made any decisions yet, but he’s one guy that we have to look at and determine do we bring him back or not?”

    McCann, 28, looked like a promising piece for the Tigers as recently as 2017, but he has limped to a .220/.267/.314 (58 wRC+) batting line in 453 PA this season. Both that and his his subpar defensive work (per Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner) have seemingly put his Detroit tenure in jeopardy. On the heels of a rough 2018, in which he earned $2.375MM, McCann’s slated to go through arbitration for the second-last time in the offseason.

    While McCann’s future is unclear, it’s obvious Avila plans to address the team’s middle infield, where shortstop Jose Iglesias is among its pending free agents.

    “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sign both but at least we’ll try to sign one,” Avila said of the two middle infield spots.

    Going by fWAR (2.5), Iglesias was the Tigers’ second-most valuable position player this year before suffering a season-ending abdominal strain in late August. Never much of a threat at the plate, the 28-year-old Iglesias managed passable offensive production, as his .269/.310/.389 line and 90 wRC+ in 464 PA show, while providing his typical brand of plus defense (8.3 UZR, one DRS).

    Whether the Tigers are interested in re-signing Iglesias is unknown, but it’s worth noting they reportedly had him on the trading block for the majority of the past couple years. Assuming his Tigers tenure is over, Iglesias will be one of the most proven non-Manny Machado shortstops available in free agency. It seems the Tigers will be prepared to sift through that group of players, given that they might not have an immediate Iglesias replacement on hand.

    Detroit may also be lacking a capable starter at second heading into the offseason, but it’s possible it could turn to Niko Goodrum as its main option there. After inking a minors deal with the Tigers last offseason, Goodrum, 26, has batted a solid .244/.313/.433 (102 wRC+) with 16 HRs and 12 steals on 16 attempts across 486 trips to the plate. Goodrum has spent the majority of 2018 at the keystone, where he has racked up 64 appearances, but has also recorded double-digit showings at first, short, third and in the outfield.

    The Tigers may want to keep Goodrum in a similar type of utility role next year, especially if aging, big-bodied first baseman Miguel Cabrera sees more time at designated hitter in the wake of Victor Martinez’s retirement. In that event, Detroit could look to free agency for help, to which Avila alluded. There will be some veteran stopgaps on the open market, perhaps including Brian Dozier, Logan Forsythe, old friend Ian Kinsler, Neil Walker and Josh Harrison.

    Now on the cusp of wrapping up their second straight season as one of baseball’s worst teams, it’s fair to say the Tigers won’t be operating as aggressive buyers in the offseason. The rebuilding club still has some intriguing offseason calls ahead, though, particularly with respect to Castellanos.

    Past, Present & Future: American League Closer Turnover Tue, 25 Sep 2018 17:01:58 +0000 By the end of the 2017 season, the list of pitchers closing out games for their respective teams included Matt Belisle, Alex Claudio, Juan Minaya and Mike Minor. Three of them were without a career save coming into the season—Belisle had five in 13 MLB seasons—and none had been expected to fill a significant late-inning bullpen role. By way of injuries, trades or ineffectiveness from those ahead of them on the depth chart, they were given a chance to record the final out in a close win and proved themselves capable.

    Things haven’t changed much this year. Raise your hand if you thought Wily Peralta would have one save in 2018. He has 13! Of the 15 American League teams, only four currently have a closer situation that mirrors what they had on Opening Day. When it comes to closers, uncertainty is the only certainty. And that’s why Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are Hall of Famers and the relief pitchers who will join them in Cooperstown in the future are few and far between.

    Here’s a look back at each American League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (Click HERE to view the National League.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Baltimore Orioles Orioles Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens
    September 2018: Mychal Givens

    Future Outlook: Brach got the majority of the committee’s save chances prior to Zach Britton reclaiming the job shortly after returning from the disabled list in late June. Soon after, Givens was the last man standing following a series of July trades (Brach to the Braves; Britton to the Yankees). O’Day, meanwhile, suffered a season-ending hamstring surgery and was later traded to Atlanta in a separate deal.

    A valuable setup man for most of the past three seasons, Givens has done a fine job since taking over ninth-inning duties. In his last 19 appearances, he has a 2.18 ERA and eight saves in 10 chances. With so many holes to fill on the roster, upgrading at the closer position is probably low on the Orioles’ priority list. Givens, therefore, likely enters 2019 with the job — if he isn’t traded himself this offseason as the O’s continue their rebuilding efforts.

    Boston Red Sox Red Sox Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Craig Kimbrel
    September 2018: Craig Kimbrel

    Future Outlook: Kimbrel, who recently became the fourth pitcher in MLB history to record at least 40 saves in five different seasons, has been a huge part of Boston’s historic season. As a free agent following the 2018 campaign, the 30-year-old will command a contract that rivals the highest-paid relievers in the game. Can the Red Sox afford to let him walk? Just in case he does, they’ll have to plan accordingly.

    With Joe Kelly also set to become a free agent, Matt Barnes is the logical choice to inherit the closer’s gig. He’s earned the opportunity with a 3.28 ERA and 25 holds while serving as the primary setup man on the best team in baseball. The 28-year-old also has an impressive 13.9 K/9 in 60.1 innings of work, an increase from 10.7 K/9 in ’17 and 9.6 K/9 in ’16. The only question is whether a team capable of winning over 100 games will entrust the role to someone with two career saves. If Kimbrel signs elsewhere, it seems likely that the Sox would pursue alternatives in free agency and/or trades.

    Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Joakim Soria
    September 2018: Committee — Nate Jones, Jace Fry, Minaya, etc.

    Future Outlook: Soria was as good as he’d been in years, posting a 2.56 ERA with 16 saves and 11.4 K/9 in 40 appearances. The White Sox cashed in by sending him to the Brewers for two pitching prospects in late July. Since then, they’ve handed off the closer’s job to a committee that included just about any relief pitcher on their active roster—seven different pitchers have recorded saves since the Soria trade.

    The next step for the rebuilding White Sox is to put together a roster that can, at the very least, be a .500 team and potential playoff contender. Having a reliable closer would be an important part of that plan. Jones looks the part, but he’s missed most of the last two seasons recovering from elbow surgery and still might not be ready to take on the workload of a primary closer. A healthy Zack Burdi, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016 and one time “closer of the future,” could also be in the mix at some point, though he spent 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. They’ll likely play it safe, however, and add at least one veteran with closing experience this offseason.

    Cleveland Indians | Indians Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Cody Allen
    September 2018: Co-Closers – Allen and Brad Hand

    Future Outlook: Allen has a lot of mileage on his arm, averaging 71 relief appearances per season since 2013, and it’s showed at times during the current season. With Andrew Miller on the disabled list and Allen’s ERA creeping up near 5.00, the Indians’ acquisition of Brad Hand from the Padres on July 19th was a no-brainer.

    Not only has it helped them down the stretch—Hand has a 2.45 ERA and eight saves while Allen has 10 consecutive scoreless appearances—it also gives the Indians a very good closer option for 2019. Allen and Miller are both headed for free agency while the 28-year-old Hand is under contract through 2021. The job should be his moving forward.

    Detroit Tigers Tigers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Shane Greene
    September 2018: Shane Greene

    Future Outlook: With a 5.20 ERA and six blown saves in 37 chances, Greene is probably lucky to have held on to the job for the entire season. But on a rebuilding Tigers team, who is going to close out games for them is the least of their worries. With that said, Greene probably fits best as a setup man. Even if they don’t upgrade this offseason, All-Star Joe Jimenez (11.2 K/9, 22 holds, 3 saves, 2.88 FIP) could supplant Greene in 2019.

    Houston Astros Astros Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Co-Closers – Chris Devenski and Ken Giles
    September 2018: Roberto Osuna

    Future Outlook: Despite a drop in strikeout rate—8.0 K/9 in ’18; 11.7 K/9 in ’17—Osuna has continued to perform at a high level amid abuse allegations that led to a 75-game suspension under MLB’s domestic abuse policy. The Astros still decided to acquire him in a trade with the Jays despite the ongoing investigation.

    Barring any struggles during the team’s playoff run — he’s postseason eligible in spite of that suspension — or any further off-the-field troubles, the 23-year-old Osuna seems likely to enter 2019 as the Astros’ closer. He’s under club control through the 2020 season.

    Kansas City Royals Royals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kelvin Herrera
    September 2018: Wily Peralta

    Future Outlook: Soon after Herrera was traded to Washington in mid-June, Peralta emerged from the closer committee to become one of the unlikeliest ninth-inning success stories of 2018. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the 29-year-old has 13 saves in 13 chances and a 9.5 K/9 rate.

    After getting booted from the Brewers’ rotation last May, he had a disastrous 11-appearance stint as a relief pitcher (17 1/3 innings, 23 ER, 28 H, 15 BB) before getting designated for assignment in late July. He signed a Major League deal with Kansas City this offseason, only to be designated for assignment again and outrighted to Triple-A. He returned to the Majors one day before the Herrera trade and picked up his first MLB save eight days later.

    Peralta has a $3MM club option in 2019, which could very well be exercised. Even if it’s not, he’s remain under team control for one more season via arbitration. While he’s been better than anyone could’ve anticipated in his current role, his 22 walks in 31 1/3 innings serve as a red flag that will likely keep the Royals from locking him into the job next season without some form of competition.

    Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Keynan Middleton
    September 2018: Ty Buttrey

    Future Outlook: Blake Parker, who finished 2017 as the closer, picked up the team’s first save of 2018 after finishing last season in the role. But it was Middleton who got the call for the next six save chances, all successful, making it clear that he was manager Mike Scioscia’s preferred choice in the ninth inning. A few weeks later, however, Middleton had undergone season-ending Tommy John surgery and it was back to the drawing board for the Angels.

    Parker got the majority of save chances with Middleton out. And as was the case in 2017, he got the job done with a 3.21 ERA and 13 saves in 16 chances from May 14th—the day after Middleton’s last game— through September 3rd. But Buttrey, acquired from the Red Sox in the July deal for Ian Kinsler, is getting a chance to show what he can do as of late. In six appearances from September 7th through September 18th, the 25-year-old tossed seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and four saves. He has failed to convert his last two save chances, though.

    Regardless, there probably wasn’t enough time for Buttrey to seal the job for 2019. He will be a candidate alongside Parker, though, unless the Angels acquire a closer this offseason.

    Minnesota Twins Twins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Fernando Rodney
    September 2018: Trevor Hildenberger

    Future Outlook: After saving 25 games and solidifying the ninth inning for Minnesota over the first four months of the season, Rodney was traded to Oakland in AugustRyan Pressly, who would’ve been the logical choice to succeed him, was traded to Houston in late July. A closer committee appeared likely, but Hildenberger has been the go-to guy with seven saves in eight chances since Rodney’s departure. Taylor Rogers, while serving mostly in a setup role, has not allowed a run over his last 23 2/3 innings while logging two saves and 11 holds over that span.

    Between Hildenberger, Rogers, Addison Reed and Trevor May, who has five walks and 31 strikeouts in 23 innings in his first season since Tommy John surgery, the Twins have some decent late-inning options for 2019. It’s probably not enough to keep them away from the offseason closer’s market, though.

    New York Yankees Yankees Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Aroldis Chapman
    September 2018: Co-Closers – Zach Britton and Dellin Betances

    Future Outlook: Chapman might not have enough time to reclaim the closer’s job before the end of the regular season—he returned from the disabled list last Wednesday—or even the playoffs for that matter. But there’s no reason to think a change is on the horizon in 2019. The 30-year-old lefty, who is 31-for-33 in save opportunities and is striking out 16.1 batters per nine innings, will be entering year three of a five-year, $85MM contract.

    Oakland Athletics Athletics Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Blake Treinen
    September 2018: Blake Treinen

    Future Outlook: Treinen has been one of the breakout stars in 2018, saving 37 games while posting an 0.80 ERA and striking out 11.1 batters per nine innings for a playoff-bound A’s team. The 30-year-old is still under team control for two more seasons, although he’s in line for a significant raise from the $2.15MM he made in ’18. Barring injury, there’s no doubt that he’ll retain the job in 2019.

    Seattle Mariners Mariners Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Edwin Diaz 
    September 2018: Edwin Diaz

    Future Outlook: No other closer, arguably, has contributed more to his team’s success than the 24-year-old Diaz, who has 14 more saves (56) than any other pitcher in baseball and 13 more save chances (60). The Mariners play a lot of close ballgames—they are 36-21 in one-run games—and Diaz rarely gives his opponent a chance in the ninth inning. He has held his opponent scoreless in 59 of his 71 appearances and hitless in 44. He also has 41 multi-strikeout games.

    The 24-year-old is going to get paid once he reaches arbitration, although he could fall just short during the upcoming offseason. The Super Two cutoff has not fallen under 2.122 (two years, 122 days) since 2009. Diaz will be one day shy of that total.

    Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Alex Colome
    September 2018: Co-Closers – Sergio Romo/Jose Alvarado

    Future Outlook: When Colome was traded to Seattle on May 25th, the Rays were two games under .500 and 10 games out in the division. It’s not clear whether they were throwing in the towel or whether they just had enough confidence in Romo, who had 84 career saves coming into the season, and the remaining group of young arms. In any case, it’s worked out just fine.

    Since the trade, the Rays are 64-44 with Romo as the primary closer (3.38 ERA, 23-for-28  in save chances) and Alvarado, a 23-year-old lefty, also playing an integral role (1.98 ERA, 7 saves). Not that you can count on the Rays to do anything conventional like name a closer prior to the season or at any point during the regular season, but Alvarez and the hard-throwing Diego Castillo would be the leading in-house candidates if they did. Tampa Bay could also look to bring Romo back into the fold.

    Texas Rangers Rangers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Keone Kela
    September 2018: Jose Leclerc

    Future Outlook: No relief pitcher has boosted their value more in the second half of the season than Leclerc, who spent the first four months in a setup role. Once Kela was traded to the Pirates on July 31st, it was the 24-year-old Leclerc’s chance to shine. It’s hard to imagine a more convincing way to show that he wouldn’t be relinquishing the job anytime soon.

    Aside from converting each of his 11 save opportunities, Leclerc has allowed just two hits and six walks over 17 scoreless innings while striking out 28. The Rangers will look to bolster their bullpen this offseason, but finding a new closer isn’t likely to be on the agenda. Leclerc is controlled through 2022.

    Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Roberto Osuna
    September 2018: Ken Giles

    Future Outlook: Despite being the primary closer on the World Champion Astros, it was clear  that Giles was not trusted with the game on the line. The trade to Toronto in late July gave the 28-year-old a chance to re-establish himself, out of the spotlight, as a reliable late-inning reliever. So far, so good.

    After a few shaky appearances to begin his Blue Jays tenure, Giles has settled into the closer’s role with 1.29 ERA over his past 15 appearances with 12 saves in 12 chances. It might not be enough to prevent the Jays from pursuing another option this winter, but Giles should at least be in the mix.

    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
    Central Notes: Detroit Ballparks, Forsythe, Hader Sun, 23 Sep 2018 16:34:21 +0000 In 1895, a ballpark was built on a patch of Detroit grass on the corners of Michigan and Trumbull avenues. 17 years later, the Tigers would make it their home until the turn of the millennium. But after it sat empty and lonely for another ten years, and then, as Jared Wyllys of puts it, it was gone.

    All that remains now of former Tiger Stadium is a dark green flag pole in center field at the new Corner Ballpark that’s since been built on site. The former home of the Negro League Detroit Stars has been neglected for two decades, too. Ike Blessit, a Tiger for four MLB games back in 1972, has started his own 501(c)3 organization to try and raise money to restore it. It’s a project of considerable size, but Blessit will “tirelessly evangelize any audience” in order to get the attention he feels the endeavor deserves. There are plenty more details within the full piece, which historians and Tigers fans alike ought give a full read.

    A couple more items out of the Midwest…

    • Twins infielder Logan Forsythe heads into free agency for the first time “surrounded by unknowns,” Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets as an intro to a full piece on the subject. Forsythe has been dealing with a left knee issue, and will have only a small handful of opportunities to reverse a 44-game homer drought when he’s able to return to the lineup. Berardino describes Forsythe’s offense as being on a “downward trend”, citing a .287 slugging percentage with just ten doubles since his last homer on June 10th. While that’s somewhat of an arbitrary endpoint, Berardino brings to light more stable figures to draw from, such as a dip in homers per season and average exit velocity since his peak with the Rays in 2016. “This year going into the offseason, we’re just open ears right now,” Forsythe said on the subject. “When the offers start coming in, it’s going to be based on where our family is at and what’s best for our family. But I’ve always been a fan of Minnesota, coming here to play. It’s a sleeper city.”
    • Brewers relief ace Josh Hader broke two more records during Friday night’s contest against the Pirates, Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes, which further adds to the splendor of his 2018 resume. Hader’s streak of 16 consecutive outs recorded via the strikeout is the longest by a pitcher in the expansion era, and his 136 K’s on the season are now the most ever for a left-handed reliever in a single season. He’s needed just 77 innings to reach that threshold, making that feat all the more remarkable considering the former record holder needed 150 innings to set the old record of 134. Rosiak lists a slew of other accomplishments by Hader, and details his pitch selection along with some fun facts that diehard Brewers fans will surely enjoy.
    Victor Martinez Will Conclude Playing Career This Weekend Fri, 21 Sep 2018 20:56:02 +0000 Victor Martinez will take the final at-bat of his career this Saturday, per Chris McCosky of The Detroit News. Friday and Saturday against Kansas City will be the final two games of Martinez’s career.

    Victor Martinez

    It seems, then, that Martinez has put aside any remaining doubt as to his intentions. He said recently, in reference to the remainder of the 2018 season, that he was “pretty sure this is going to be it,” as Evan Woodberry of was among those to cover. It’s now clear that Martinez will hang up his spikes after taking the final at-bat of his career in front of his home crowd in Detroit — which, as Woodberry tweets, is the way the veteran wants to wrap things up.

    Martinez, a native of Venezuala, signed as an amateur free agent with the Cleveland Indians in 1996. After breaking into the majors as a catcher with the Indians in 2002, Martinez played his first full season as a 24-year-old the following season. Cleveland traded their star catcher to the Boston Red Sox at the 2009 deadline for a package of Nick Hagadone, Justin Masterson, and Bryan Price. After finishing out the 2009 season with a disappointing ALDS loss to the Angels, Martinez returned to Boston for the 2010 seasons – his last year of playing full-time at catcher.

    As a free agent in 2011, Martinez joined the Detroit Tigers on a four-year, $50MM contract, where he became a primary designated hitter. The Tigers won the AL Central in all four seasons of Martinez’ initial deal, prompting the Tigers to re-sign him after the 2014 season to a second four-year pact, this one worth $68MM. That contract runs out at the end of this season.

    The last two seasons have not been kind to Martinez, but he was legitimately one of the most feared hitters in the American League for a ten-year stretch from 2004-2014. His best season came with the Tigers in 2014 when he hit .335/.409/.565, leading the league with an impressive .974 OPS. For his career, Martinez slashed .296/.360/.455, with 246 home runs and a 118 OPS+, making the All-Star team five times and winning a Silver Slugger Award twice – in 2004 as a catcher and in 2014 as a DH.

    Unfortunately, Martinez never won a World Series, but he was no stranger to the postseason, reaching the ALCS with Cleveland in 2007 and again with Detroit in 2011. Martinez missed the entirety of the 2012 season after tearing his left ACL during offseason conditioning, which was – unfortunately for Martinez – the year Detroit won the American League Pennant, getting swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

    With 32.3 career rWAR, there’s a Hall of Fame case to be made for the switch-hitting catcher/1B/DH – but it’s unlikely. His 30.6 JAWS score puts him well below the average Hall of Fame score of 44.0 for catchers, but certainly impressive enough to receive some votes and remain on the ballot for a few years. Nevertheless, Saturday will mark the final playing time in a long and impressive career for Martinez, who turns 40 in December. Martinez will retire having made over $140MM across 16 major league seasons.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Tigers Select Harold Castro Fri, 21 Sep 2018 19:41:06 +0000 The Tigers have selected the contract of infielder Harold Castro, per a club announcement. A roster spot was freed by placing injured starter Michael Fulmer on the 60-day DL.

    Castro, 24, has not done much at all with the bat in the upper minors. Through 367 plate appearances this year at Double and Triple-A, he posted a .265/.283/.319 batting line with a pair of home runs and just nine walks.

    Still, the Venezuelan could perhaps be a candidate to hold a 40-man spot through the winter if the Detroit organization feels he can contribute over time in a utility role. Castro has spent most of his time as a professional at second base, but has also lined up at short, third, and all three outfield positions.

    As for Fulmer, the move doesn’t tell us anything new. It was already clear that he was done for the season when he underwent knee surgery yesterday.

    Fulmer's Value Down Following Numerous Injuries Fri, 21 Sep 2018 02:39:07 +0000 Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press examines the aftermath of a brutal season for Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer. The results are hard to deny. As Fenech puts it, Fulmer has gone “from being the most important trade piece of the Tigers’ rebuild … to a missed opportunity.” Of course, there were reasons that the team elected not to move off of the big price tag it placed on the young hurler, as Fenech explores while noting it’d be unfair to use hindsight to say the Tigers “should” have traded Fulmer sooner. As things stand, it seems the Detroit organization will pay Fulmer his arbitration salary for 2019 (as a Super Two) and hope he can regain his standing. After all, he’s still controlled for four full seasons, and a vintage first half or even a strong full season would likely serve to quickly rebuild some of Fulmer’s stock.

    Michael Fulmer Undergoes Knee Surgery Thu, 20 Sep 2018 19:50:39 +0000 As had largely been expected by this point, the Tigers announced today that righty Michael Fulmer has undergone surgery on his right knee. (Via’s Jason Beck, on Twitter.) The repair work to his meniscus is not expected to prevent Fulmer from participating fully in Spring Training next year.

    Fulmer, 25, went mostly backwards this year in a rebuilding season for the club.  Though his 7.48 K/9 returned to the standard he’d set in his sterling rookie season of 2016, Fulmer gave up a career high 19 HR in just 132 2/3 IP, saw his walk rate spike a nearly a hitter per nine (3.13, from 2.19 in ’17), and allowed hard contact nearly 40% of the time in 2018.  It was, by most accounts, a disappointing season for the former Rookie of the Year.

    Still the crown jewel of a young Tigers rotation, Fulmer, a Super Two player, will embark on the first of his four arbitration-eligible seasons in 2019.  He figures to reprise his role as a coveted trade candidate in the offseason, where teams will no doubt value his long period of control, mostly consistent strike-throwing, and lack of significant injuries to this point.  It’s worth noting, too, that Fulmer’s average fastball velocity remained, at 95.8 MPH, one of the ten best in the league, so perhaps heretofore untapped upside is still in play.

    Silver Linings: American League Central Wed, 19 Sep 2018 22:27:49 +0000 It’s often difficult to feel positive about a team when it is finishing out a season that won’t end in meaningful games, let alone postseason play. Still, there are silver linings to be found in even the worst campaigns. We’ll tick through every division in the coming days to identify the brightest spots for the non-competitive organizations.

    First up is the division most in need of a pick-me-up: the American League Central. With the Indians cruising to a title, the four remaining clubs are all looking ahead to next year. Here’s each of those organizations’ most promising development from the ’18 campaign (with link to current depth chart):

    Royals: The Middle Infield

    Entering the year, the K.C. organization had a middling outlook up the middle on the dirt. Whit Merrifield had turned in a late-twenties breakout, sure, but could he keep it up? Meanwhile veteran Alcides Escobar was brought back to keep things patched up at short.

    As it turns out, though, Merrifield has more than doubled down on his 2017 effort. Entering play today, he was — *checks* — **double-checks** — 25th (!) among all position-players by measure of fWAR. With ample cheap control remaining, he’s a heck of an asset, even if he is already 29 years of age.

    Shortstop, though, remained an evident conundrum for much of the year. Enter (okay, re-enter) Adalberto Mondesi. The 23-year-old, whose first MLB action improbably came in the 2015 World Series, is presently carrying a .284/.311/.467 slash with nine home runs and 25 steals in 241 plate appearances. He’s grading as an elite baserunner and high-quality defender at short, making him a potential core piece.

    White Sox: Eloy On The Cusp

    With apologies to Daniel Palka, Omar Narvaez, and Matt Davidson — nice seasons, all — the most notable development this year for the South Siders has occurred in their minor-league system. Many fans would like to see Eloy Jimenez in the majors right now, finishing off his spectacular campaign in style. Instead, they’ll have to wait until early 2019, though that also means their favorite club will control him for one more precious season.

    Jimenez, 21, made good on his top-prospect billing, turning in a monster .337/.384/.577 campaign in 456 plate appearances split evenly between the organization’s top two affiliates. That makes him one of the truly elite prospects in baseball and, quite possibly, the much-needed superstar of the future.

    Of course, there was a real shot that this nod would have gone to the pitching staff, but the hurlers just came up short. Michael Kopech’s otherwise promising campaign ended in agony, with Tommy John surgery. Reynaldo Lopez has settled in as a solid, but hardly dominant starter. And while Carlos Rodon’s return has been excellent in terms of results, his peripherals tell quite a different story.

    Tigers: Landing Mize

    No kidding, having the first pick the draft is a good thing. But it’s not every year — far from it — that a player like Casey Mize is there to be taken. Not only was Mize considered the top talent, he was also likely the most advanced player on the board.

    Shades of Stephen Strasburg? The Tigers have reason to hope. He’s already sitting at the #20 spot on’s ranking of the top prospects in baseball, to cite but one account of the impact to a Tigers system that has had its share of questions in recent years. Of course, Mize is also now but one of several intriguing young hurlers percolating up toward the majors through Detroit’s minor league ranks.

    In a way, though, this is not quite the news you’d hope for. The Tigers’ MLB roster has obviously had its share of good news, including a strong year from Matt Boyd; continued success from Nicholas Castellanos (though he’s just one year from free agency); and the emergence of Niko Goodrum as a useful MLB asset. However, there hasn’t been much else to write home about otherwise at the major-league level. And a concerning season from Michael Fulmer and tepid output from Jeimer Candelario leave some cause for pessimism.

    Twins: Encouraging Arms

    In numerous ways, 2018 was quite a disappointment for a Minnesota organization that had designs on contention. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton not only failed to improve, but ended up on optional assignment. The team’s slate of short-term veteran signing fell way shy of delivering the anticipated value. Its leading hitter, Eduardo Escobar, was traded away months ago.

    But there was one area where things went just about as well as might have been hoped: the team’s group of controllable MLB rotation pieces. Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, and Jake Odorizzi have all been worth at least 2.5 fWAR and look to be quality values heading into 2019. Michael Pineda fully rehabbed from Tommy John surgery before being felled by a meniscus tear, so there’s good reason to think he’ll be at full health. And though well-regarded prospect Stephen Gonsalves struggled badly in brief MLB action, he just turned in a strong outing today and was rather dominant at Triple-A, working to a 2.76 ERA with 9.0 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9 (but only 5.7 hits per nine) in 120 2/3 innings. 23-year-old Fernando Romero, a highly regarded young right-hander, gave the team some reason for optimism as well, though his overall numbers are dragged down by one particularly catastrophic start (eight runs in 1 2/3 innings).

    It wasn’t all roses in the forward-looking portion of the pitching staff. Ervin Santana’s option doesn’t seem desirable. More worryingly, Adalberto Mejia was cut short due to injury in an otherwise promising season. And it’s not as if the showing from the above-noted hurlers was particularly exciting. More might have been hoped for from Berrios and Odorizzi.

    That said, it’s perhaps too easy to dismiss this kind of affordable productivity. Setting a sturdy baseline from the rotation is a notable development, particularly for an organization that must operate within spending limitations.

    Of course, finding star-level players is still of greater importance. And there were notable developments there for Minny. While the outlook on Sano and Buxton is nowhere near as promising as it once was, both still have future value. And there’s now a pair of elite prospects rising through the system. Both Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff both landed among the twenty top minor-league performers in 2018 and are graded among the top twenty prospects in the game (see, e.g., “The Board” at Fangraphs). They’d have represented a worthy recipient of my “silver lining” label, to be sure, but neither is expected to be ready until 2020, so I’m taking the immediate value in the staff.

    Tigers, Athletics Complete Mike Fiers Trade Wed, 19 Sep 2018 19:43:52 +0000 The Tigers and Athletics have announced the completion of the mid-season trade that sent starter Mike Fiers to Oakland. Righty Logan Shore will head to the Tigers in the deal, making him the second player to be named later.

    About one month back, the sides announced the first PTBNL: young righty Nolan Blackwood. In the meantime, Fiers has continued mostly to pile up good innings for the A’s.

    Shore, a 2016 second-rounder, is a rather notable prospect to be on the move. The 23-year-old turned in four strong outings at the High-A level before bumping up to Double-A. He has struggled to a 5.50 ERA there in 13 starts, but still seems to be a quality asset to add to the Detroit system. He’s just over two years removed from being selected in the second round of the 2016 draft and, in 2017, turned in a 3.68 ERA with an exceptional 87-to-16 K/BB ratio in 80 2/3 innings of work.

    At last look, Shore sat in the No. 14 spot on the ranking of the A’s farm. He’s known more for “pitchability than stuff,” as that outlet puts it, so he’s valued more for his floor than his ceiling. Of course, even a perceived floor requires health, and that’s one area that has been a problem in Shore’s brief time as a professional; he was slowed by a lat issue earlier this season and had a pair of trips to the disabled list last year in an otherwise encouraging campaign.

    As for Fiers, the 33-year-old has been quite a boon for an otherwise injury-ravaged Athletics pitching staff. He’s taken the mound eight times since donning the green and gold, pitching to a sterling 3.09 ERA with 44 punchouts against just 10 walks in 43 2/3 innings of work. He’s still been far too homer-prone in that time (10 homers allowed), but Fiers has generally been one of Oakland’s most effective starters since joining the team. Oakland can control him through the 2019 season via arbitration.

    Michael Fulmer Diagnosed With Meniscus Tear Tue, 18 Sep 2018 21:24:05 +0000 Sept. 18: Fulmer has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus, the team now tells reporters (Twitter links via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press). He’ll undergo surgery if and when the diagnosis is confirmed by Dr. Andrews on Wednesday.

    Sept. 17: Fulmer’s MRI revealed damage to his meniscus, manager Ron Gardenhire tells reporters (Twitter link via’s Jason Beck). The results of the test are currently being reviewed by Dr. James Andrews.

    Sept. 16: Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer exited yesterday’s game after making just five pitches (and allowing two homers), and he’ll now undergo an MRI to further evaluate the right knee that forced him from that game, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News (Twitter link). A return in 2018 seems like a long shot, McCosky adds. Manager Ron Gardenhire said after yesterday’s game that Fulmer initially tweaked the knee when trying to field a bunt (Twitter link from’s Evan Woodbery).

    Fulmer, 25, has struggled through the least-productive season of his big league career so far in 2018, pitching to a 4.69 ERA over the course of what would be a career-low 132 1/3 innings. His strikeout percentage is right in line with his levels from the 2016 season that won him American League Rookie of the Year honors, and his 10.5 percent swinging-strike rate and 33.6 percent chase rate on out-of-zone pitches are both career-bests by a slight margin.

    However, Fulmer’s walk rate has spiked this season, and he’s allowing home runs, line drives and hard contact at career-high rates. By measure of Statcast, the average exit velocity of a ball hit against Fulmer is up nearly three miles per hour from 2017 (85.6 mph in ’17, 88.3 mph in ’18), and he’s allowed a career-worst 19 home runs despite a career-low number of innings pitched and games started.

    The injury to Fulmer is particularly notable given his status as a player who now perennially frequents the rumor circuit during periods of heightened trade activity. If the injury proves to be nothing more than inflammation, it’s unlikely that it’ll have any major impact on Fulmer’s appeal to pitching-hungry teams. If it’s more serious in nature, though, he’ll see a second consecutive season come to an end due to a notable health issue; Fulmer’s sophomore season in 2017 was cut short when he underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery in his right arm. He also missed nearly a month of action due to an oblique strain earlier this summer.

    Detroit will control Fulmer for another four years beyond the current season, though he’ll reach arbitration for the first time this winter as a Super Two player (meaning he’ll be arbitration-eligible four times, as opposed to the standard three, based on his service time to date). The rebuilding Tigers have dramatically improved their farm system and feature a number of high-upside rotation candidates atop their prospect rankings — Casey Mize, Franklin Perez, Beau Burrows, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning — so perhaps their rebuild could come together a bit more quickly than initially expected. However, it still seems like a long shot that they’ll be playing competitive baseball in 2019, so Fulmer figures to once again draw his fair share of trade interest from teams around the league this offseason. Fulmer may have had a down year in 2018, but young pitchers with multiple years of team control are still the most coveted assets on the trade market.