Detroit Tigers – MLB Trade Rumors Mon, 23 Apr 2018 03:04:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Daniel Norris To Stay In Tigers' Bullpen Sun, 22 Apr 2018 14:23:38 +0000
  • Tigers southpaw Daniel Norris has only made one start in three appearances this year. For now, the team will continue deploying Norris as a reliever in the majors, as opposed to having him start in the minors, manager Ron Gardenhire told Jason Beck of and other reporters. The former high-end prospect’s lone start so far came Friday, when he only allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings against the Royals. However, Norris’ fastball velocity – which was in the low-90s in previous years – averaged just 88.6 mph, per Beck. The 24-year-old’s above-average spin rate helped make up for it, Beck notes, and Norris expects that to serve him well if his missing velocity returns. “I haven’t thrown this slow since I was a sophomore in high school, so I’m figuring something out and I’m learning how to pitch,” Norris said. “And when it does come back, I’m going to be a lot better for it.”
  • ]]>
    V-Mart Hints At Retirement After 2018 Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:30:34 +0000 Tigers DH Victor Martinez hasn’t made any formal decisions on his future, but the five-time All-Star at least hinted at retirement following the 2018 season during an interview with’s Anthony Castrovince. The 39-year-old Martinez, who missed time last season due to an irregular heartbeat, talks with Castrovince about the frightening incident when he first felt symptoms  during a game — a sensation that was all the more troublesome given the history of heart issues that runs in his family. As Castrovince explains at greater length, Martinez lost his father to a heart attack at a young age, which only serves as further motivation for him to spend as much time with his own children as possible.

    “Honestly? I’m ready,” the longtime Tigers slugger tells Castrovince. “…I know I left everything in this game. I think the biggest problem for athletes is they don’t know what to do after baseball. That won’t be my problem.”

    Minor MLB Transactions: 4/17/18 Tue, 17 Apr 2018 17:34:15 +0000 Here are Tuesday’s minor moves from around the game…

    • The Tigers re-signed catcher Kade Scivicque to a minor league contract and assigned him to Double-A Erie yesterday, as Tom Reisenweber of the Erie Times-News first tweeted. The 25-year-old Scivicque was Detroit’s fourth-round pick back in 2015, but the Tigers shipped him to the Braves in the 2016 trade that netted them veteran infielder Erick Aybar. Scivicque hit .270/.326/.365 between the Braves’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates last season and threw out 27 percent of opposing base thieves while posting slightly below-average framing marks, per Baseball Prospectus. With Grayson Greiner and Jarrod Saltalamacchia occupying catching spots for the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate in Toledo, Scivicque will head to Double-A despite posting respectable numbers in Gwinnett last season.
    Frankln Perez, Dixon Machado Switch Agencies Sat, 14 Apr 2018 14:59:13 +0000
  • In some Tigers agency news, righty Franklin Perez is joining Beverly Hills Sports Council while infielder Dixon Machado is now with Octagon. You can track the latest representation information with MLBTR’s agency database.

  • ]]>
    Tigers Notes: Mahtook, Zimmermann, Draft Thu, 12 Apr 2018 14:02:26 +0000 The Tigers made the somewhat surprising move to option left fielder Mikie Mahtook to Triple-A Toledo following last night’s game, per a club announcement. Mahtook, a former first-rounder on whom the Tigers bought low late in the 2016-17 offseason, turned in a solid 2017 campaign in Detroit and opened the year as the Tigers’ primary left fielder. However, the 28-year-old got off to a brutal .129/.200/.161 start to the year through his first 35 plate appearances, prompting a move to be made. Manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters after the game that it was a “tough night” for the organization and called delivering this type of news the “worst part of being a manager” (link via’s Evan Woodbery). “Tough decision. Not fun at all,” said Gardenhire. “I really like Mikie. He’s kind of scuffling a little bit. I told him he needs to go down and get his swing together and get his confidence back and he’ll be right back up here.” Mahtook, who hit .276/.330/.457 last season, took the demotion in stride, voicing confidence that he can turn things around in Toledo and return in the near future.

    More out of the Motor City…

    • Wednesday was a frightening day for right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who exited his start after being struck in the face by a line-drive off the bat of Jason Kipnis. Remarkably, however, it seems as though Zimmermann not only avoided major injury but will be able to make his next start, as’s Jason Beck writes. Statcast measured the exit velocity of the comebacker that hit Zimmermann at a blistering 105.6 mph, but Zimmermann passed MLB’s concussion protocols, and X-rays came back negative. Zimmermann noted that it wasn’t the first time he’s endured that type of injury, as a comebacker in college broke his jaw. Beck’s column has quotes from Zimmermann, Gardenhire and Kipnis on the incident.
    • The Tigers will face a pivotal decision in their rebuilding effort this June when they have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. Per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (all Twitter links), Auburn right-hander Casey Mize is favored to come off the board first overall at the moment, but the Tigers are also looking at Jarred Kelenic — a high school outfielder out of Waukesha, Wis., as a possibility with the top pick. The interest in Kelenic, McDaniel adds, isn’t a smokescreen designed to lower the price on other players and seems to be quite legitimate. Kelenic saw the Tigers’ Spring Training facility back in early March, and McDaniel notes that he’s been hearing talk about the two sides since that time, though those rumors have increased recently.
    Tigers Notes: Draft Slot, Pena, Reyes, Iglesias Mon, 02 Apr 2018 03:11:59 +0000 The Royals have $12,781,900 in total to spend within their draft bonus pool, placing them just ahead of the Rays ($12,415,600) and Tigers ($12,414,800).  Detroit owns the first overall pick in the draft, which comes with a recommended slot price of $8,096,300.  Be sure to check out Callis’ piece for the full rundown of slot prices and the order of the draft’s first 10 rounds, though the draft order could still potentially be shifted if any of the Competitive Balance Round picks are traded.  These are the only such draft picks that are eligible to be dealt, and they can only be dealt once the regular season has started.

    • Brayan Pena is still hopeful of continuing his playing career, though Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters (including’s Evan Woodbery) that the catcher is also operating in a semi-coaching capacity.  Pena signed a minor league deal with Detroit in January but no longer has a spot at the Triple-A level after the Tigers’ signing of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  If Pena can’t find a playing opportunity elsewhere, he’ll transition into working with prospects at extended Spring Training camp and for the Tigers’ Gulf Coast League team.  The 36-year-old Pena is a veteran of 12 Major League seasons, hitting .259/.299/.351 over 1950 career PA from 2005-16 while mostly working in a backup catching capacity.
    • Victor Reyes and Jose Iglesias both came up worse for wear after the two Tigers collided in pursuit of a fly ball during the fifth inning of today’s game.  Reyes suffered a laceration in his forearm that caused him to leave the game and required eight stitches to close, while Iglesias suffered soreness in both his ankle and calf (’s Evan Woodbery was among those who reported the injury updates.)  Both players will be re-evaluated tomorrow.  It was a tough beginning to Reyes’ big league career, as the Rule 5 pick was making his Major League debut in the second half of Detroit’s double-header with the Pirates.
    Tigers Send Ryan Carpenter Back To Triple-A Mon, 02 Apr 2018 02:54:29 +0000
  • The Tigers announced that left-hander Ryan Carpenter will be assigned back to Triple-A Toledo.  Carpenter was called up as the 26th man for today’s double-header with the Pirates, and he made his Major League debut in the nightcap, starting the game and lasting three innings.  A seventh-round pick for the Rays in the 2011 draft, Carpenter has a 4.37 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 3.36 K/BB rate over 760 1/3 innings (128 of his 115 games as a starter) in the Tampa Bay and Colorado farm systems.
  • ]]>
    Tigers Release Derek Norris, Enrique Burgos Thu, 29 Mar 2018 21:26:32 +0000
  • Veteran catcher Derek Norris and right-hander Enrique Burgos were released by the Tigers yesterday, tweets Evan Woodbery of Both had previously been reassigned to minor league camp after being informed that they wouldn’t crack the Opening Day roster. Norris went 7-for-17 with a homer in camp for Detroit, while Burgos was tagged for six runs in 4 2/3 innings with the big league team. Both will look to latch on elsewhere and work their way back to the majors.
  • ]]>
    Rusty Staub Passes Away Thu, 29 Mar 2018 13:43:34 +0000 While baseball brims with excitement for the onset of the 2018 season, there’s also sad news for fans and industry folk alike to mourn on Thursday, as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports that six-time All-Star Rusty Staub has passed away just days before what would have been his 74th birthday. Staub had previously survived a severe heart attack in 2015, but as Madden notes, he’d been in the hospital for the past eight weeks battling a blood infection and kidney failure before experiencing multiple organ failure.

    Staub spent nine of his 23 Major League seasons starring for the Mets, for whom he batted .276/.358/.419 in two separate stints, although his best seasons very arguably came with the Houston organization and the now-defunct Expos in his mid-20s. From 1967-71, Staub posted a terrific .302/.397/.472 slash with 94 homers — good for a 148 OPS+ and five consecutive trips to the Midsummer Classic.

    In all, Staub’s outstanding career drew to a close with 2,716 hits, 292 homers, 499 doubles, 47 triples, 1189 runs scored, 1466 RBIs and more walks (1255) than strikeouts (888). He batted .279/.362/.431 in 11,229 plate appearances across 23 seasons split between the Mets, Astros/Colt 45s, Expos, Tigers and Rangers.

    After his playing days, Staub set to work on helping those less fortunate than he’d been in life, establishing the Rusty Staub Foundation, whose mission to this day is to “give children the opportunity to live full, happy and productive lives and to give aid to the hungry.” Established in 1985, the RSF has established pantries around New York City and, to date, has raised more than $17MM for like-minded organizations, per the RSF’s web site. Staub also established the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, which, as Madden notes in his column, has raised more than $112MM in total contributions since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Madden’s column provides a terrific, heartfelt look at Staub’s legacy both on and off the field and stands as an excellent tribute to a beloved baseball figure.

    The Mets, for whom Staub suited up more than any team in his career, issued the following statement:

    “The Mets family suffered another loss earlier today when Daniel “Rusty” Staub passed away in a West Palm Beach Hospital after an illness. He was almost as well known for his philanthropic work as he was for his career as a baseball player, which spanned 23 seasons. There wasn’t a cause he didn’t champion. Rusty helped children, the poor, the elderly and then there was his pride and joy The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. A six-time All-Star, he is the only player in major league history to have collected at least 500 hits with four different teams. The entire Mets organization sends its deepest sympathy to his brother, Chuck, and sisters Sue Tully and Sally Johnson. He will be missed by everyone.”

    Tigers Add Niko Goodrum To Roster Thu, 29 Mar 2018 01:46:13 +0000
  • The Tigers announced that they’ve selected infielder Niko Goodrum’s contract, which puts their 40-man roster at capacity. Goodrum, who signed a minors deal with Detroit in November, spent 2010-17 with the Minnesota organization and batted .250/.333/.379 in 2,796 minor league PAs. He saw minimal big league action with the club (18 PAs, all of which came last season).
  • ]]>
    Tigers Sign Jairo Labourt Wed, 28 Mar 2018 15:32:12 +0000 The Tigers have signed lefty Jairo Labourt to a minor-league deal. He had bounced around the waiver wire this spring and will end up back where he started, in the Detroit organization.

    Labourt, 24, has long struggled with free passes, doesn’t excel particularly at generating swings and misses, and doesn’t draw a noteworthy volume of grounders. But he has traditionally succeeded in the minors at generating a hefty volume of infield fly balls while also allowing few home runs.

    Whether or not those skills will really translate to the majors is, of course, an open question. Labourt did reach the bigs briefly last year with the Tigers, allowing seven walks and throwing five wild pitches in his six innings. But he also turned in 66 1/3 solid innings over three minor-league levels, working to a 2.17 ERA with 10.7 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9.

    Tigers Likely To Keep Rule 5 Pick Victor Reyes Mon, 26 Mar 2018 14:56:27 +0000
  • Tigers outfielder Victor Reyes, the first pick in last December’s Rule 5 draft, is likely to earn a spot on the club’s bench, Evan Woodbery of relays. While Reyes has only hit .250/.291/.288 over 52 at-bats this spring, the 23-year-old has done enough to convince Tigers brass that he could be a long-term cog. “We’re very encouraged with Reyes,” general manager Al Avila said. “He’s not given us any reason to think that he can’t handle it. We’re pretty excited about him, actually.” 
  • ]]>
    Tigers Not Pursuing Fiers Replacement Mon, 26 Mar 2018 04:59:28 +0000
  • The Tigers aren’t planning to make a trade to account for Mike Fiers’ potential DL stint,’s Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  The team already has Daniel Norris as an in-house replacement, plus Fiers isn’t expected to miss much time recovering from the back problems that have hampered him all spring.
  • ]]>
    Tigers Outright Blaine Hardy Sun, 25 Mar 2018 17:52:40 +0000 The Tigers announced that left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Toledo. The move gives Detroit one open spot on its 40-man roster.

    Hardy debuted as a Tiger back in 2014 and has since amassed 159 1/3 frames of 3.62 ERA/3.74 FIP pitching with 7.57 K/9, 3.78 BB/9 and a 42.1 percent groundball rate. While that’s a useful career line, the 31-year-old hurt his stock last season with a dreadful campaign in which he logged a 5.94 ERA/5.38 FIP in 33 1/3 frames. With 7.56 K/9 and 3.51 BB/9, Hardy’s strikeout and walk numbers were normal, but his grounder percentage plummeted to 33.0. That helped lead to a personal-worst 1.89 home runs allowed per nine, a massive increase over Hardy’s career figure (0.68).

    Thanks to a shoulder impingement, Hardy wasn’t able to make a case for a roster spot in Detroit this spring. He ended up appearing in just one of the Tigers’ exhibition games before they cut him from their 40-man roster. Because of both that injury and his woeful 2017, no one claimed Hardy, even though he’s cheap ($795K), controllable through 2021 and has a minor league option remaining. Hardy’s 2018 salary would have become guaranteed in two days, making this move all the more painful for him, Evan Woodbery of notes.

    Central Notes: Indians, Naquin, Refsnyder, Reds, Miley, Cabrera Fri, 23 Mar 2018 02:27:29 +0000 Tyler Naquin and Rob Refsnyder are still competing for a potential spot on the Indians’ opening day roster, and Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets that manager Terry Francona has explained some details to them. Francona reportedly told the two players that the spot won’t simply go to the guy who gets the most hits over the last week, and that roster construction could be the biggest factor. For instance, if Brandon Guyer and/or Michael Brantley aren’t ready in time for opening day, Naquin and Refsnyder would stand a better chance to make the club out of camp. Whether the club chooses to carry seven or eight relievers will also affect their fates. It’s worth noting that Tyler Naquin has multiple options remaining, while Rob Refsnyder is an out-of-options player.

    More out of the midwest…

    • In a piece for The Athletic, Doug Gray details ten Reds prospects to keep an eye on for the coming season. The players in the article aren’t necessarily top prospects, but rather a group of under-the-radar players who Gray describes as “unheralded”. The list includes right-handers Nick Hanson and Ryan Hendrix, $10MM shortstop Jose Garcia, and Brandon Phillips’ cousin Montrell Marshall. Many of these players have significant upside and are worth the exploration by any Reds fan, or indeed any avid baseball follower.
    • Wade Miley’s opt-out date has been pushed back, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports on Twitter. The southpaw seemed likely to make the Brewers’ rotation before suffering a torn groin that’s expected to keep him out two to four weeks. Miley could have opted out of his contract tomorrow after being informed that he wouldn’t make the opening day roster, but GM David Stearns apparently worked out a deal with his agent. Miley’s opt-out date has been extended until the point at which he’s able to start pitching again.
    • Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera is stuck in “baseball purgatory”, says Scott Miller in an opinion piece for Bleacher Report. Miller describes Cabrera as “an island unto himself”, on a rebuilding Tigers team that will not likely be able to deal him and the $192MM remaining on his contract, particularly coming off the worst season of his career wherein he was plagued by back issues. For his part, Cabrera doesn’t seem to be focused on that aspect of his situation. “I’m here to play,” he says. “I’m not here to give my opinion of what’s going to happen. I’m here to do my job, to help win games and to help the process.” 
    Franklin Perez Out Three Months With Strained Lat Tue, 20 Mar 2018 00:28:29 +0000 Top Tigers prospect Franklin Perez has been diagnosed with a right lat strain, per a team announcement. Though he isn’t expected to require surgery, Perez is going to be sidelined for “a minimum of 12 weeks.”

    Perez, 20, was the centerpiece of the major, last-second swap that sent Justin Verlander from Detroit to the eventual world-champion Astros. He’s widely considered the Tigers’ top prospect and one of the fifty or so most promising pre-MLB players in baseball.

    Certainly, the near-term Detroit rotation won’t be any different as a result of this news. Despite his immense promise, Perez was not going to be on the major-league roster to open the season. And there’s no reason to expect that Perez’s anticipated timeline for MLB readiness will be drastically altered — let alone that this is an injury that could jeopardize his future.

    Still, the timing of the injury means that Perez will at least lose something like half of the coming season. With the Tigers sure to take an ultra-cautious approach to his rehab, and the need for a full reset of his throwing program, Perez may be sidelined for quite some time.

    It’s certainly possible, then, that Perez’s ultimate MLB debut will end up being pushed back somewhat owing to the lat problem, which the team says arose in a recent minor-league spring outing. Given that he reached the Double-A level in 2017, Perez might have profiled as a potential candidate for a promotion as soon as the middle of the coming season.

    While it would be foolish to guess at when Perez might now first be considered for a first appearance at the game’s highest level, the situation is now different for the rebuilding Tigers. That may not entirely be a bad thing — perhaps the club won’t face a service-time quandary this time next year, for instance — though surely the preference would be for the club’s prized farmhand to have a full and healthy season of development.

    Mike Fiers Could Open Season On DL Mon, 19 Mar 2018 17:21:50 +0000
  • Tigers righty Mike Fiersback issues could force him to start the season on the disabled list, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press relays. If so, both Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd would make a Detroit rotation whose only sure bets at the moment are Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and Francisco Liriano. The Tigers guaranteed Fiers $6MM over the winter with the hope that he’d grab a starting spot, but he hasn’t made a good case for himself this spring, having surrendered 12 earned runs on 10 hits and eight walks, with seven strikeouts, in 11 1/3 innings. Nevertheless, thanks to his veteran status, the Tigers are willing to give the 32-year-old Fiers “leeway,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. As such, if Fiers is healthy, he’ll be in their season-opening rotation.
  • ]]>
    Tigers Not Considering Relief Role For Daniel Norris Sun, 18 Mar 2018 04:42:51 +0000
  • Whether he begins the season in the majors or at Triple-A, Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris will continue to work as a starter, general manager Al Avila informed Katie Strang of The Athletic (subscription required). “Right now, I would say, for me that’s not in his future,” Avila said when asked if Norris could fill a relief role. “Because we all believe he is a starting pitcher.” The 24-year-old Norris is competing for a job in a Tigers rotation mix that lacks certainty beyond Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and Francisco Liriano. Mike Fiers, whom the Tigers signed in free agency with the idea that he’d occupy a starting spot, has “been bad” this spring, in part because he’s dealing with back issues, according to Avila.
  • ]]>
    Central Notes: Suarez, Mahle, Romano, Garrett, Kirby, Tigers Sat, 17 Mar 2018 15:02:26 +0000 Mark Sheldon of posits that the Redsextension of Eugenio Suarez is a sign that the club is making an effort to keep a young core of players together for the foreseeable future, alongside potential future Hall-of-Famer Joey Votto. In the companion video, GM Dick Williams speaks highly of Suarez, particularly in regards to his defensive capabilities. “This is one of the premier defenders in the league,” says Williams. “At third base he’s established himself as one of the best young players in the league… he’s an offensive force, defensive force, leader in the clubhouse, say no more.” It’s interesting that Williams so specifically refers to Suarez as a third baseman, given the speculation that the former shortstop might slide back to his old position to make room for top prospect Nick Senzel. The GM’s comments seem to suggest the possibility that the destination of Senzel’s path to the majors isn’t the hot corner.

    More from some non-coastal ballclubs…

    • In other Reds news, the starting rotation picture is beginning to gain some clarity beyond Homer Bailey and Luis Castillo, who appear to be the only locks following injuries to Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan. Per a tweet from C. Trent Rosencrans of The Athletic, manager Bryan Price says that Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle “may have separated themselves from the pack a little bit” in the rotation competition. A piece by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer contains quotes that line up with this tweet, perhaps also suggesting that lefty Amir Garrett is tabbed for a spot if Finnegan’s injury sidelines him to start the season. “With the way Romano and Mahle have thrown in camp, they’ve certainly put themselves in the lead,” Price said, via Fay’s article. “I think with the way Amir has thrown has created an opportunity to jump in there in the rotation and get a start against the Diamondbacks and get stretched out.”
    • Brewers prospect Nathan Kirby is finally healthy and determined to establish himself as a valuable pitcher, writes Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Rosiak describes Kirby as something of a “forgotten man” in Milwaukee’s system for the past two and a half years. The 24-year-old was drafted 40th overall by the organization back in 2015, but has since undergone two surgeries on his left elbow (a Tommy John operation and another for ulnar neuritis). Though Kirby ranked near the bottom on most Milwaukee prospect lists, he was a large part of the University of Virginia’s first College World Series title, and would seem to have the potential to rise through the Brewers’ farm system quickly if he can stay healthy this season.
    • Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets that the Tigers remain on the lookout for veteran insurance for their starting rotation. The organization is reportedly concerned about the dependability of its starting rotation as a whole; their current options include Michael Fulmer, Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers, Jordan Zimmerman, Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris. Alex Cobb tops the list of available free agent starters, while Scott Feldman, Trevor Cahill and Clay Buchholz are some other interesting arms that remain on the market.
    Offseason In Review: Detroit Tigers Fri, 16 Mar 2018 23:41:41 +0000 This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series.  Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.

    The rebuilding Tigers did much of their heavy lifting on the trade front last summer, when they shipped out Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, Justin Wilson and J.D. Martinez, leading to a relatively quiet winter for the team that holds the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. GM Al Avila and his staff made a handful of small-scale free-agent pickups and one notable trade as they continue to look toward the future.

    Major League Signings

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Trades and Claims

    Notable Losses

    Needs Addressed

    The primary need for the Tigers over the past year-plus has simply been to build up a farm system that was depleted by years of aggressive “win-now” moves that left the minor league ranks perilously thin. In that same vein, paring back the big league payroll to clear room for future commitments has been paramount.

    With that in mind, the Tigers surprised no one when they moved their top remaining trade chip: Ian Kinsler. A saturated market for second basemen and a sub-par 2017 season at the plate held down Kinsler’s value on the trade market, and his limited no-trade protection tied Avila’s hands. Detroit ultimately landed outfielder Troy Montgomery (ranked 26th among Tigers farmhands by and righty Wikel Hernandez in exchange for the veteran, shedding $12MM in 2018 payroll in the process.

    Turning to the 2018 roster, while it certainly wouldn’t behoove the Tigers to spend heavily on rotation upgrades in a season where they’re likely to be one of the league’s worst teams, Detroit unquestionably lacked starting depth. Jordan Zimmermann has struggled enormously in his first two seasons with the Tigers. Michael Fulmer was coming off ulnar nerve transposition surgery. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have displayed flashes of potential but have not yet solidified themselves as long-term rotation cogs. Beyond that, the team’s options were thin.

    Affordable deals for Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano give the Tigers a pair of veteran stopgaps who could potentially become trade assets themselves this summer. In Fiers’ case, if he thrives in Detroit, he’s also controllable for the 2019 season via arbitration, making him all the more logical a piece. It’s cliche to call Liriano mercurial at this point, but the lefty has long shown a wide variance of outcomes on a season to season basis, and if the Tigers can get him to harness his control, he could net a semi-interesting piece this summer. Adding that pair could mean that Norris begins the year in Triple-A, whereas the out-of-options Boyd is a lock to make the roster.

    The Tigers faced a similar dearth of outfield options and, accordingly, made a similarly low-cost stopgap acquisition in signing Leonys Martin to a one-year pact. Like Fiers, he’s controllable through the 2019 season via arbitration and could either emerge as a trade piece this summer or an affordable option over a two-year term. The fleet-footed veteran gives the Tigers an above-average defender in center field who can provide value on the bases even if his bat doesn’t bounce back to its 2013-14 and 2016 levels.

    Detroit was undoubtedly pleased with the contributions of John Hicks at backup catcher last year, but given his lack of a track record in the Majors they brought in veterans such as Derek Norris, Brayan Pena and Jarrod Saltalamacchia as minor league depth options. The need for a utility infielder led to a comparable blend of minor league signings in Alexi Amarista, Pete Kozma and Niko Goodrum.

    Questions Remaining

    The list of remaining questions for the Tigers, as one would expect in the early stages of a rebuild, is plentiful. At present, the team lacks clear long-term options at both middle-infield positions and all around the outfield. Detroit’s system, at least, is stacked with outfield prospects, including Daz Cameron, Derek Hill and Christin Stewart, among many others. The infield, however, is murkier. While there’s some hope that Dawel Lugo (acquired in the J.D. Martinez trade) and Isaac Paredes (Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trade) could hold down infield spots in the long term, neither is considered a elite prospect by national outlets. That, of course, hardly means they won’t establish themselves as regulars, but it’s worth noting that the vast majority of Detroit’s top-ranked prospects are pitchers and outfielders.

    That’s all the more problematic with Jose Iglesias in his final year of control and likely to be traded this summer. Dixon Machado has yet to prove his mettle in the Majors but will be handed the keys at second base. The lack of infield depth made the Tigers a logical suitor for someone like Neil Walker from my vantage point, as he’d have pushed Machado to a utility role (until Iglesias was traded at the very least) and could’ve emerged as a trade chip himself. Perhaps Walker wasn’t interested in signing with a rebuilding club, or perhaps the Tigers simply felt it better to give Machado everyday at-bats sooner rather than later. Regardless, their lack of infield depth seems fairly glaring.

    Perhaps, then, that’ll be a potential area of focus as the Tigers look to do some further summer shopping on the trade market. Offseason pickups such as Fiers, Liriano and Martin all figure to be widely available, as do Iglesias and corner outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, both of whom were shopped this offseason but ultimately remained with the club. (The Tigers also reportedly explored extension talks with Castellanos, but it doesn’t seem as if the sides gained much traction.)

    The larger question facing Detroit this summer will no doubt be whether the time is right to cash in on larger chips such as presumptive closer Shane Greene and, much more significantly, ace Michael Fulmer. While Fulmer in particular could be viewed as a building block, he’ll also likely be considered a difference-maker to contenders looking to bolster their rotations leading up to a postseason push.

    The Tigers will be marketing a whopping four and a half years of control over Fulmer, which could lead to franchise-altering offers of young talent for the 2016 Rookie of the Year. Detroit, no doubt, would only move him for an otherworldly return given the lack of urgency to market him, but teams figure to line up with enticing offers. Scoring a big return in what feels like an increasingly likely trade of Fulmer — be it this summer or at some later point in the next 18 months — could rapidly accelerate the rebuild for Al Avila & Co.

    Beyond that, this is largely a season where the Tigers will need to find out what they have in some key young pieces. Can Daniel Norris and Boyd cement themselves as big league starters? (And, if so, could they also be marketed this July or next winter? Norris actually has less team control remaining than Fulmer.) Can Jeimer Candelario establish himself as a starting-caliber third baseman? Is JaCoby Jones an everyday option in the outfield or more of a utility piece? It’s a critical year for several young pieces around the roster as the Tigers evaluate who will comprise the core of their next contending roster.


    The Tigers brought in several stopgap options, as one would typically expect from a rebuilding club, but they held off on cashing in on some of their more appealing chips in Michael Fulmer and Shane Greene. Both could find themselves on the market again this winter, along with a host of other names, as Detroit still looks to be years away from once again emerging as a perennial threat. While last year’s deadline deals were as much about shedding salary as they were acquiring talent, their July maneuverings will take a different tone this summer, as they’ll be marketing more affordable and (in some cases) controllable assets.

    Those deals, paired with the expiration of Victor Martinez’s contract following the 2018 season, should help push the Tigers’ rebuild to the next stage, though the ultimate progress of that rebuilding effort will be largely dependent on whether their young assets that’ve already reached the Majors can break out in 2018. The Tigers have done quite a bit of maintenance on their long-term payroll since embarking on this rebuild, and their farm is in much better shape, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

    How do you grade the Tigers’ offseason efforts? (Link for app users.)

    Gardenhire On Fiers' Spring Struggles Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:16:06 +0000
  • Right-hander Mike Fiers’ struggles this spring haven’t yet put his rotation spot in jeopardy, though Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire suggested that the 32-year-old offseason signee would be well-served to show some positive signs in the final weeks of camp (via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press). “We’re planning on this guy being in,” Gardenhire said of Fiers, who has been torched for 12 runs (including four homers) in 11 1/3 frames this spring. “…But at the end of the day, when we get down to the end here, we have to make some decisions and we’re going to go with the guys that are getting it done and right now, he’s just gotta fight through it because he’s a veteran.” Gardenhire later added that Fiers’ veteran status will buy him a bit more leeway than the team’s younger arms. As Fenech notes, Fiers has been unequivocally outpitched by lefty Daniel Norris, but Norris has a minor league option remaining and could head to Triple-A to open the season.
  • ]]>
    TIgers Weighing Roster Spot For Victor Reyes Thu, 15 Mar 2018 03:34:30 +0000
  • The Tigers are deliberating over the fate of Rule 5 pick Victor Reyes, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. Skipper Ron Gardenhire says it’s “honestly a really big one” — decision, that is — for the rebuilding organization. It could come down to Reyes and fellow outfielder JaCoby Jones, who has had a strong spring but can still be optioned. Interestingly, Fenech says the Tigers tried and failed to get Reyes in the J.D. Martinez trade, despite the fact that he came available just months later via the Rule 5. Gardenhire discussed the matter at some length, noting that Reyes could be a functional player even though he’s clearly not quite as polished as would be hoped. “I know where we’re at as an organization,” said Gardenhire. “We’re talking about developing and all those things so I think I can use him.”
  • ]]>
    Francisco Liriano Vying For Rotation Spot With Tigers Tue, 13 Mar 2018 00:32:51 +0000
  • Francisco Liriano has been vying for a job in either the Tigers’ bullpen or rotation, and Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes that it seems like he’s set to open the year as the team’s fifth starter. Manager Ron Gardenhire spoke confidently of Liriano’s ability to hold down one of those five spots. “As a veteran, experienced arm, I fully expect him to be in our rotation if he’s healthy and doing what he can do,” said Gardenhire. With Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, and the out-of-options Matt Boyd all seeming likely to hold down rotation spots as well, that could very well be a signal that southpaw Daniel Norris is ticketed for Triple-A Toledo to open the season.
  • ]]>
    Tigers Notes: Liriano, Draft Mon, 12 Mar 2018 03:00:17 +0000
  • Health permitting, Francisco Liriano has clinched a spot in the Tigers rotation, manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters (including’s Jason Beck).  Liriano worked exclusively out of the bullpen down the stretch for the Astros last season after struggling in 17 starts for the Blue Jays.  Now that he’s regained a foothold as a starter, however, Liriano will join Michael Fulmer in Detroit’s starting five with the other three spots to be contested between Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd.  With Boyd out of options and Zimmermann and Fiers both under MLB contracts, Norris could be the odd man out, as he still has a minor league option remaining.
  • The Tigers are still scouting and evaluating several potential candidates for the first overall pick in June’s amateur draft, team director of amateur scouting Scott Pleis tells The Athletic’s Katie Strang (subscription required).  The process is still “wide open now,” Pleis said, and “after we get later into March and into April, we’ll have an idea — or narrow it down more, is what I should say.”  The interview contains lots of interesting tidbits about what Pleis and the Tigers value in a prospect, with a particular focus on the player’s makeup and character.
  • ]]>
    Al Avila: Tigers "Done" Adding Free Agents Sun, 11 Mar 2018 16:48:17 +0000
  • The rebuilding Tigers won’t be adding any more free agents prior to the season, according to general manager Al Avila. “No, we’re done for now,” Avila told Jon Morosi of MLB Network on Saturday. “We said we were going to try to sign two pitchers, and we signed two pitchers. As far as free agents, we’re done” (Twitter link). Unsurprisingly, it was a modest offseason for Detroit; aside from those two pitchers (Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano), its only other guaranteed contract went to outfielder Leonys Martin. Those three will earn a combined $11.75MM in 2018.
  • ]]>
    AL Central Notes: Escobar, Morrison, Robert, Merryweather, Mize Sat, 10 Mar 2018 17:00:21 +0000 Alcides Escobar returns to the Royals with a not-so-lofty goal in sight, Rustin Dodd writes in a piece for The Athletic. Kansas City’s long-time shortstop wants to finish the season with an on-base percentage above .300 for the first time since the 2014 season. He says that he’s working on “taking a lot of pitches each at-bat” and trying to avoid swinging at bad pitches, both of which seem like obvious things to work on. Escobar owns a career OBP of just .294, and his .272 figure last year was the second-lowest among qualified MLB hitters (Rougned Odor’s .252 was the lowest, for those keeping track). That .272 mark for “Esky” was the result of drawing just 15 walks, his lowest full-season total ever.

    A roundup of some other news items out of the AL Central…

    • Recent Twins signee Logan Morrison reportedly suffered a right glute strain while running the bases on Wednesday, according to Rhett Bollinger of He was held out of Friday’s game, and is expected to miss today’s matchup as well. However, the injury isn’t considered serious. Minnesota brought the former Tampa Bay first baseman into the fold with a $6.5MM guarantee that includes a vesting option. He hit .246/.353/.516 last season with the Rays while smacking a career-high 38 home runs.
    • The White Sox are dealing with a more significant injury. Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribute tweets that farmhand Luis Robert has a moderate thumb sprain. Daryl Van Schouwen provides further details on the situation with his own tweet, adding that GM Rick Hahn expects the young outfielder to be immobilized in a cast for six weeks, and to be held out of game action for ten. Robert hit a phenomenal .310/.491/.536 in Rookie ball last season; Baseball Prospectus ranks him as the South Siders’ fifth best prospect, and number 55 overall.
    • Continuing with injury news, Indians prospect Julian Merryweather will officially undergo Tommy John surgery after recently being diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, according to Jordan Bastian of The right-hander was a fifth-round pick by the Tribe during a 2014 draft in which the club also landed Bradley Zimmer, Triston McKenzie and Bobby Bradley. Merryweather had been solid at all levels of the minors before struggling to a 6.58 ERA across 16 starts at Triple-A Columbus last season, though his 3.89 xFIP suggests he dealt with some unfortunate homer/fly ball luck.
    • Auburn right-hander Casey Mize is “the name to watch” for the Tigers as we approach the 2018 June amateur draft, says Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. After skidding to a 68-94 record last season, Detroit owns the number one overall pick in the draft, and as Passan notes, the club loves big college arms. Mize threw a no-hitter last night and was throwing 96 MPH up through the ninth inning. Scouts in attendance say he was throwing a “filthy split” as well.
    Minor MLB Transactions: 3/9/18 Fri, 09 Mar 2018 19:37:45 +0000 Here are the day’s minor moves:

    • UPDATED: After previously indicating the Tigers had agreed with righty Donovan Hand on a minor-league deal, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston now tweets that the deal was only close to completion. Hand is still unsigned at this point. Now 31, he was a useful member of the Brewers staff in 2013 but hasn’t seen a significant MLB opportunity since. Hand pitched in the upper minors for the Mets last year, working to a 5.99 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 139 2/3 total frames.
    Tigers Agree To Minor League Deal With Jarrod Saltalamacchia Fri, 09 Mar 2018 15:25:42 +0000 The Tigers have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, MLBTR has confirmed.’s Jason Beck first tweeted that Saltalamacchia showed up at the Tigers’ Spring Training facility. Saltalamacchia is represented by ACES.

    This will mark the second go-around with the Tigers for Saltalamacchia, as the switch-hitting veteran also spent the 2016 campaign in Detroit. Salty got off to a fast start in ’16, carrying an OPS north of .900 through the month of April and managing to keep that mark at a solid .776 through the end of June. However, his offensive output cratered from that point forth, as he hit just .128/.237/.231 in his final 139 plate appearances of the season.

    Last year, Saltalamacchia spent time in the Blue Jays organization, appearing in 10 big league games and 33 games in Triple-A while struggling mightily at each level (.515 OPS in Triple-A). Those struggles continued into a stint in the Mexican Winter League. He’d been working out at the free-agent Spring Training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., prior to landing back with the Tigers.

    Detroit has plenty of catching depth on hand at present, with James McCann slated to start and John Hicks in line to be his primary backup. Derek Norris has also been competing for that job on a non-roster deal in Spring Training and has performed quite well at the plate in limited action thus far. Fellow veteran Brayan Pena is also in Tigers camp, giving them yet another option (and another former Tiger) who could serve as depth in Triple-A.

    It’s possible that one or both of Norris or Pena will ultimately land with another organization if he cannot crack the big league roster out of camp. In that instance, Saltalamacchia could occupy a spot in Triple-A Toledo to open the season. He could also simply use this opportunity with the Tigers as a means of giving other clubs a look at him for the next few weeks, at which point he, too, could land elsewhere.

    Rough as the 2016-17 seasons were for Saltalamacchia, the 32-year-old is not that far removed from a relatively productive five-year run during which he slashed .237/.309/.434 with 75 homers in 1966 plate appearances. While those numbers are hardly eye-catching, they did translate to a 101 OPS+, or roughly average production when factoring in league and home park. Relative to other catchers, in particular, Saltalamacchia was a more than viable offensive option during that stretch.

    Tigers Release Travis Wood Thu, 08 Mar 2018 13:41:25 +0000 The Tigers announced this morning that they’ve given lefty Travis Wood his unconditional release. Wood, 31, had been in camp on a minor league contract trying to make the big league pitching staff, but those hopes were dashed when he suffered a torn ACL while executing a rundown in his first start of the spring.

    Wood signed a two-year, $12MM deal with the Royals last offseason but struggled mightily in Kansas City and was traded to the Padres alongside Matt Strahm in the summer trade that netted the Royals Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer and Ryan Buchter. His fortunes didn’t turn in San Diego, though, and the Padres wound up releasing him this offseason despite the fact that the Royals are on the hook for the entirety of his 2018 salary. In all, Wood logged a disastrous 6.80 ERA and allowed 19 home runs in just 94 innings between the two teams in 2017.

    Grisly as those numbers were, the veteran lefty logged a tidy 2.95 ERA in 61 frames in 2016, and he was a generally useful arm in a five-year stint split between the Cubs’ rotation and bullpen, working to a cumulative 3.94 ERA through 691 1/3 innings from 2012-16 — including a 200-inning campaign for the Cubs in 2013.

    The ACL tear means that Wood will require surgical repair and miss the upcoming 2018 campaign, though he can likely find his way into big league camp with a club next spring once he’s recovered from the injury. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweeted recently that if and when Wood was released, Detroit could potentially re-sign him to a new minor league pact.

    No Trade Interest In Miguel Cabrera Mon, 05 Mar 2018 00:08:39 +0000
  • Trade interest in Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera has been nonexistent, even though they’re “willing to assume some of the financial burden” of his contract, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Given that Cabrera owns one of the majors’ most onerous deals, doesn’t play a premium position and posted a shockingly poor 2017, his age-34 season, it’s no surprise he’s immovable. The future Hall of Famer is guaranteed a whopping $192MM through 2024, thanks to the eight-year, $248MM extension he signed in 2014. Cabrera was an MVP-caliber player when Detroit gave him that ill-fated pact, but he’s now coming off a season in which he batted a meager .249/.329/.399 with a noticeable power outage (16 home runs, .149 ISO) in 529 plate appearances.
  • ]]>
    Reds Claim Jairo Labourt From Tigers Fri, 02 Mar 2018 19:06:25 +0000 1:06pm: The teams have announced the claim. Cincinnati transferred right-hander Rookie Davis to the 60-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list to clear space on the roster and has already optioned Labourt to minor league camp. Davis underwent hip surgery back in October.

    12:54pm: The Reds have claimed left-hander Jairo Labourt off waivers from the Tigers, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports (via Twitter). The Tigers designated Labourt for assignment earlier this week to clear a roster spot for Francisco Liriano.

    Labourt, 24 next week, made his big league debut with Detroit last season, appearing in six games and allowing three runs with four strikeouts against seven walks in six innings. Initially acquired from the Blue Jays in the trade that sent David Price to Toronto, Labourt posted excellent numbers in Class-A Advanced and in Double-A last season before stumbling when he reached Triple-A. He tossed 22 innings with the Tigers’ Toledo affiliate, and while his 2.45 ERA was strong he also issued 23 walks in those 22 frames.

    Control has long been an issue for Labourt, who has averaged 5.1 walks per nine innings pitched over the course of seven minor league seasons. But, he’s a fairly hard-throwing southpaw with a fastball sitting around 93 mph who averaged a career-best 10.7 K/9 in the minors this past season. The Tigers organization used Labourt exclusively as a reliever last year, though he’s made 87 starts in the minors as well. He’ll add another interesting young arm to a collection of unproven but promising pitchers in Cincinnati as he looks to hone his control and carve out a spot in the Majors. Labourt does have an option remaining as well, so he needn’t be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t break camp in the Reds’ bullpen.

    Travis Wood Diagnosed With Torn ACL Fri, 02 Mar 2018 14:16:00 +0000 The Tigers announced this morning that veteran left-hander Travis Wood, who is in camp on a minor league deal and competing for a roster spot, has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and medial meniscus in his left knee. Wood suffered the injury yesterday when executing a rundown in his Tigers debut. He’s weighing surgical options at present, per’s Jason Beck (Twitter link).

    The 31-year-old Wood inked a two-year, $12MM contract with the Royals last winter but struggled enormously both in Kansas City and in San Diego in 2017, working to an overall 6.80 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and a 1.8 HR/9 mark in 94 innings. He’s still owed $6.5MM in 2018, but the Royals agreed to pay the entirety of that sum when he was traded to San Diego, so the Tigers aren’t on the hook for any of that salary. Considerable as his ’17 struggles were, Wood totaled 161 2/3 innings with a 3.51 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9 between nine starts and 122 relief appearances for the Cubs from 2015-16.

    The injury takes him out of the equation for a roster spot in Detroit, though, and could very well end his 2018 season entirely before it truly begins. The Tigers currently have Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Fiers in their rotation, with Alex Wilson, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Francisco Liriano vying for the two remaining spots. The bullpen is even murkier, with Shane Greene locked in as the club’s closer but little certainty beyond that point. Wilson would return to the ’pen if he doesn’t win a rotation spot, and he’s likely to be joined by Daniel Stumpf and Joe Jimenez, though there’s a fairly wide-open competition for multiple relief jobs in Detroit.

    Travis Wood Suffers Knee Sprain In Tigers Debut Thu, 01 Mar 2018 19:58:20 +0000 The Tigers announced that lefty Travis Wood, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, left his debut with a sprained left knee today. Wood suffered the injury in a rundown and, per’s Evan Woodbery, was “writhing on the ground” before eventually managing to limp off the field (Twitter link). Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets that Wood was on crutches in the clubhouse following the injury. Wood, who was released by the Padres this offseason, was in competition either for a rotation or bullpen spot, though today’s injury certainly doesn’t bode well for his chances of doing so. More information on his status figures to be available after the game.

    Francisco Liriano Discusses Signing With Tigers Sun, 25 Feb 2018 05:04:18 +0000
  • Familiarity with the Tigers’ coaching staff and an opportunity to start helped lead lefty Francisco Liriano to sign with the club, he told Evan Woodbery of and other reporters on Friday. The 34-year-old Liriano is now reunited with Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, whom he played under as a Twin from 2005-12. “I feel playing for Gardy makes it easier for me, and also having the opportunity to start here,” said Liriano, who, for the first time in his career, is coming off a season in which he totaled more relief appearances (20) than starts (18). After working to a 5.66 ERA/4.64 FIP across a combined 97 frames with Toronto and Houston in 2017, Liriano will attempt to revive his career on a $4MM salary in Detroit.
  • ]]>
    AL Central Notes: Santiago, Merritt, Liriano, Aybar Sat, 24 Feb 2018 22:47:58 +0000 Hector Santiago, who came back to the White Sox this offseason on a minor-league deal, has come up with a strategy to combat the  fastball decline that often comes with aging, James Fegan of The Athletic writes. The southpaw plans to bring back the screwball he threw in his days as a rookie. “I have not gone a day this offseason or in spring training where I have not thrown a screwball,” he said. “I’ve thrown a screwball in both my BPs and my only bullpen. It’s almost taken over my changeup. Lot of people say it’s gone, but nah, I just substituted my changeup for my screwball and I throw a lot more screwballs than changeup.” Notably, his arm motion for the screwball is similar to that of his changeup, which could help with deception in his delivery as he uses both to play off his fastball. Fegan notes that Santiago could be at the “top of the heap” of the White Sox’ MiLB free agent arms, if he can return to health and effectiveness.

    A few other small items out of the AL Central…

    • Much has been made of the fact that young Indians lefty (and 2016 postseason hero) Ryan Merritt is out of options and faces an uphill battle to make the club’s rotation out of spring training. But the 26-year-old isn’t focused on that right now, writes’s Jordan Bastian. “I’m really not going to get caught up in what’s going to happen a month from now,” he said. “I can control today. And, when I show up tomorrow, I can control what I do that day.” Merritt has a career 1.74 ERA (albeit in just 20 2/3 major league innings), but is most famous for starting Game 5 of the 2016 ALCS for the Indians, allowing zero runs across his 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays. Cleveland would go on to win that game, punching their ticket to the World Series.
    • New Tigers lefty Francisco Liriano will compete for a spot in the club’s rotation during spring training, GM Al Avila says (via Jason Beck of However, if he’s unable to make the club in that capacity, he’s willing to pitch out of the bullpen. It’s possible that the 34-year-old’s best days are behind him, as he’s posted consecutive seasons with an ERA north of 4.60. Even as a reliever with the Astros last season, he posted a 4.40 ERA down the stretch with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Still, if he can show some flashes of his peak performance with the Pirates from 2013-2015, he’d represent a solid option for a Tigers club that is largely devoid of secure rotation options outside of Michael Fulmer.
    • Erick Aybar recently signed with the Twins, but Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that the infielder had received interest from the Reds and Rangers as well. He reportedly chose the Twins because he liked their opportunity best. In a later tweet, Berardino reports that Aybar will make his spring training debut on Monday (though Aybar told manager Paul Molitor that he was ready to play in today’s matchup).
    Tigers Designate Jairo Labourt Fri, 23 Feb 2018 22:56:40 +0000 The Tigers have designated lefty Jairo Labourt for assignment, per a team announcement. His roster spot will go to just-signed southpaw Francisco Liriano.

    Labourt, who’ll soon reach his 24th birthday, reached the majors briefly for the first time in 2017. That was quite an achievement in and of itself, as he had never pitched above the High-A level entering the season.

    Moving to the pen on a full-time basis seemed to unlock some potential for Labourt, who posted intriguing K:BB numbers at High-A and Double-A before ascending to the highest level of the minors. While he recorded a 2.45 ERA in 22 frames at Triple-A, though, he also recorded more walks than strikeouts — a less-than-promising development that continued in his six MLB innings.

    With such a mixed bag in 2017, it’s far from clear whether other organizations will decide it’s worth occupying a roster spot to gain control over Labourt. He did show a 93 mph fastball in the majors, but went to his slider on two-thirds of his deliveries in his short time at the game’s highest level. Given the walk tallies and a pedestrian 7.2% swinging-strike rate, it seems quite a lot of refinement is still needed.

    Tigers To Sign Louis Coleman Fri, 23 Feb 2018 22:42:09 +0000 The Tigers have agreed to terms on a minors deal with righty Louis Coleman, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Additional terms of the accord are not yet known.

    Coleman, 31, has spent parts of six seasons in the majors, most recently in 2016 with the Dodgers. Though he struggled in his 48 frames with Los Angeles, Coleman was at least able to show again that he could stay healthy after missing the bulk of 2015. He posted velocity and swinging-strike (12.4%) figures in line with his career norms, but ended the year with a 4.69 ERA and 8.4 K/9 against 4.5 BB/9.

    It came as no surprise when Coleman settled for a minor-league agreement with the Reds last winter, but it also seemed reasonable to expect he could earn his way back to the majors. After all, prior to landing with the Dodgers, Coleman owned a lifetime 3.20 ERA through 177 1/3 MLB frames.

    As it turned out, though, Coleman failed to crack the Reds’ dreadful pen and also could not earn a shot upon signing with the Diamondbacks in the middle of the 2017 campaign. But he did rack up quality innings at Triple-A through the year, ended with 64 frames of 2.25 ERA pitching over fifty outings. Coleman averaged a solid 10.8 K/9 on the year, though he also surrendered 4.5 BB/9, reflecting a longstanding propensity to hand out a few too many free passes.

    Now, Coleman will join the mix at Tigers camp in hopes of earning a spot in the pecking order — if not a MLB job out of camp. The organization is not exactly loaded with sure things in the relief corps. Unsurprisingly, the Tigers have brought in a few non-roster players already, including pitchers such as Travis Wood and Enrique Burgos, to boost the depth and provide competition this spring.

    Tigers Sign Francisco Liriano Fri, 23 Feb 2018 21:08:46 +0000 3:08pm: Liriano is officially a member of the Tigers.

    12:44pm: The Tigers have agreed to a one-year, $4MM contract with lefty Francisco Liriano, reports FanRag’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). The deal also contains another $1MM in available incentives tied to significant awards, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. Murray had recently tweeted that the market for Liriano, a client of the Legacy Agency, was picking up some steam.

    Liriano, 34, enjoyed a resurgence as a key member of the Pirates from 2013-15, somewhat quietly reestablishing himself as a considerably above-average big league starter.

    Francisco Liriano | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    The past two seasons, though, have been another story. Liriano has bounced from Pittsburgh to Toronto to Houston, working to a combined 5.05 ERA through 260 innings as the control issues that hounded him earlier in his career resurfaced (4.8 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9). Accordingly, Liriano’s swinging-strike rate dropped to 11.4 percent in 2016 and 9.6 in 2017 — the worst marks of his career.

    Liriano still averages better than 92 mph on his fastball and can induce grounders at an average or better rate. He also held lefties to a fairly feeble .247/.300/.355 slash last season, though one would typically prefer to see a bit more dominance against same-handed opponents when considering a pitcher as a left-handed specialist. It’s not clear at this time whether he’ll function as a starter or a reliever with his new club, though in his run with the Astros last season, he worked exclusively out of the bullpen.

    At present, though, the Tigers certainly seem like a team that could use some rotation depth. Ace Michael Fulmer is coming off surgery to re-position the ulnar nerve in his pitching arm, while Jordan Zimmermann battled neck and back injuries in what was a dismal overall season in his second year with Detroit.

    Young lefties Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd have yet to cement themselves as quality big league options, even though each has flashed potential on more than one occasion. And righty Mike Fiers, signed earlier this winter to be the fifth starter, is coming off a poor season himself, which led to a non-tender from the Astros. Longtime setup man Alex Wilson is being stretched out as a potential starter this spring as well, and veteran non-roster invitee Travis Wood could also vie for a starting spot.

    If Liriano is used in relief, he’ll join Blaine Hardy and Daniel Stumpf as southpaws in a bullpen, where Wood could also compete for a spot. The current composition of the Tigers’ bullpen is thin beyond closer Shane Greene, to put things delicately. Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource currently projects Wilson (assuming he doesn’t start), Drew VerHagen, Hardy, Stumpf, Joe Jimenez and Buck Farmer to round out the relief corps behind Greene. Johnny Barbato, Zac Reininger and Jairo Labourt are all 40-man options in Triple-A, while Wood, Enrique Burgos and Victor Alcantara headline the non-roster invitees competing for jobs this spring.

    Liriano is a known commodity for much of the Tigers coaching staff, as first-year Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire served as his skipper from 2005-12 with the Twins. Tigers bullpen coach Rick Anderson was Liriano’s pitching coach during his Twins days, while bench coach Steve Liddle and quality control coach Joe Vavra were also on Gardenhire’s staff when Liriano was with Minnesota.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Chris Tillman Threw For Tigers On Saturday Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:51:13 +0000 The Tigers remain on the lookout for a starter, which could lead to a Chris Tillman signing, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. Tillman threw for the Tigers on Saturday, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun adds (via Twitter). Both Heyman and Encina note that Tillman is deciding among three teams and likely to sign within the next day or two, and they agree that a return to the Orioles is a legitimate possibility.

    Tigers Prospect Bryan Garcia To Undergo Tommy John Surgery Thu, 15 Feb 2018 03:01:07 +0000
  • Tigers right-handed relief prospect Bryan Garcia has suffered a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow, the team announced (hat tip to’s Jason Beck).  Dr. James Andrews will perform the procedure.  Garcia was a sixth-round pick for Detroit in the 2016 draft and was making a rapid rise through the organization, pitching at four different levels in 2017 including 13 1/3 innings at Triple-A Toledo.  Over 73 2/3 pro innings, Garcia posted an impressive 2.20 ERA, 12.2 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB rate.  Unfortunately, the 22-year-old now faces a recovery period of 12-15 months.
  • ]]>
    Tigers Will Reportedly Attend Lincecum Showcase Wed, 14 Feb 2018 04:55:29 +0000
  • More than 10 teams are set to attend Tim Lincecum’s showcase on Thursday, it seems. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, Rhett Bollinger of and Roch Kubatko of respectively report that the Tigers, Twins and Orioles will have scouts in attendance (all Twitter links). Heyman adds another handful of clubs, listing the Rangers, Phillies, Dodgers, YankeesRed Sox, Brewers, Padres and Braves as attendees (links to Twitter for the last three), in addition to the previously reported Giants. If anything, it’s perhaps more notable which clubs have elected not to attend the showcase, as there’s no real downside to at least taking a look and the showcase is shaping up to be reasonably well-attended. To that end, the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan wrote over the weekend that the Mets aren’t planning to have a scout in attendance.
  • ]]>
    Quick Hits: Van Hekken, Free Agent Spending, Rockies Sat, 03 Feb 2018 22:41:00 +0000 38-year-old former Tigers starter Andy Van Hekken is attempting to earn a job with an MLB club, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. Anyone calling it a comeback attempt should note this bit of context: Van Hekken hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2002 and only has five career starts at that level. Still, the Holland native is reportedly training back in his home county, and a late-thirties push for MLB has been in his plans for a while. “I’ve been thinking about it over the last few years,” he said. “I always wanted to come back and give it another try to get back to the big leagues and see if I could do it. I would love an opportunity and hopefully there will be one.” As Fenech aptly points out, Van Hekken’s timing couldn’t be worse… there are well over a hundred free agents who have yet to sign during what has been a phenomenally slow hot stove season. The left-hander is best known for throwing a complete game shutout against the Indians in his major league debut. He’s mixed a high-80’s fastball with a forkball to great success in Korea during the past half-decade or so, posting solid ground ball and strikeout rates.

    Some other items from around the league as we inch closer to spring training…

    • Have fans been conditioned to accept half-hearted attempts at contention? Travis Sawchik attempts to answer this question in a piece for Fangraphs. Sawchik writes that while it’s typically for business owners to take great care in running their businesses efficiently and at a profit, baseball is not a typical business. Fans invest in ballclubs both emotionally and fiscally (with their taxes), so owners have a civic duty to put a competitive product on the field. He references former Tigers owner Mike Illitch, who at times spent irrationally on his club. He even kept a General Motors advertisement above the center field batter’s eye when the company could no longer afford it, in similar spirit of upholding the city’s identity. Sawchik then turns his focus to Nutting, who has gutted the club’s core to slash payroll by $20MM this season without paying for a single free agent. Sawchik suspects that the club could cover its current payroll without selling a single ticket, and points out its $50MM BAMtech payment from Disney (that also hasn’t been reinvested in the team). He posits that fans have been trained to accept the “small-market” excuse for not spending as a reality, when in fact it may not entirely explain a given club’s low payroll.
    • The Rockies have built a contending club in part by betting on its youthful rotation, Daniel Cramer of writes. Back in spring training of 2016, GM Jeff Bridich apparently told young right-hander Jeff Hoffman that the club wasn’t seeking any veteran upgrades. Fast forward to today, and the organization hopes to build on a “blossoming pitching culture with the potential for sustained success”. Cramer describes Colorado’s blueprint for pitchers as “a power arm supplemented with a mental confidence to pitch at Coors Field.” For their part, a group consisting of German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Tyler Chatwood, Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, Antonio Senzatela, Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis combined for 11.8 fWAR last season (good for 11th in the majors), and that entire group minus Chatwood is set to return for 2018.
    Greene Confident He'll Be Tigers' Closer Thu, 01 Feb 2018 05:02:24 +0000
  • Shane Greene expects to be the Tigers’ closer in 2017, writes George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press“I feel like I’m the closer and I’ve earned that job and it’s my job to lose,” said the 29-year-old Greene, who pitched to a 2.66 ERA with 9.7 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 and a 47.4 percent ground-ball rate in 67 2/3 innings for Detroit in 2017.  New pitching coach Chris Bosio spoke positively of Greene’s stuff and makeup, and Sipple notes that the team’s decision to allow setup man Alex Wilson to compete for a starting job this spring only enhances Greene’s grip on the ninth inning. Speculatively, young Joe Jimenez will eventually be the biggest on-paper threat to Greene’s chances, but he was torched for a 12.32 ERA in 19 innings last year. Jimenez, though, turned 23 just two weeks ago and has a career 1.56 ERA with 13.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in the minors. He’ll need to prove himself in the Majors, though he could find himself in high-leverage situations sooner rather than later if he’s able to do so early in the year.
  • ]]>
    Tigers Sign Travis Wood To Minor League Deal Mon, 29 Jan 2018 20:24:30 +0000 The Tigers announced Monday that they’ve signed left-hander Travis Wood to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training. Wood was released by the Padres earlier this offseason. He’s represented by Frontline.

    Wood, 30, signed a two-year, $12MM contract with the Royals last winter but struggled enormously both in Kansas City and in San Diego this past season. The former Cubs lefty posted an ERA north of 6.70 with both teams last year, working to an overall 6.80 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and a 1.8 HR/9 mark in 94 innings. He’s still owed $6.5MM in 2018, but the Royals agreed to pay the entirety of that sum when he was traded to San Diego, so Wood represents a lottery ticket for a Tigers staff that could use him in either the rotation or bullpen if he shows signs of returning to form in Spring Training.

    Brutal as his 2017 campaign was, it wasn’t that long ago that Wood was an effective big league arm. From 2015-16, Wood totaled 161 2/3 innings with a 3.51 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 1.1 HR/9 between nine starts and 122 relief appearances for the Cubs. Overall, he logged a 3.94 ERA in just shy of 700 innings in parts of five seasons in Chicago. For a Tigers club that is short on depth in both the rotation and the bullpen, Wood is a reasonable enough roll of the dice.

    The Tigers’ rotation currently projects to contain Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Fiers, though Wood could certainly seize a spot in the event of an injury or some early struggles from the yet-unproven Norris and Boyd. In the bullpen, manager Ron Gardenhire has lefties Daniel Stumpf, Blaine Hardy and Jairo Labourt to choose from, but Wood can certainly push that trio for innings if he shows well in Grapefruit League play.

    Alex Wilson To Stretch Out As Starting Pitcher Sat, 27 Jan 2018 15:43:58 +0000
  • Alex Wilson will stretch out as a starter in the Tigers’ spring camp, the right-hander tells Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.  Just one of Wilson’s 231 MLB appearances has come as a starting pitcher, and even that was a three-inning emergency outing in 2015.  Still, Wilson has been a durable multi-inning reliever and feels a transition is possible.  As McCosky notes, it’s essentially “a no-risk experiment” for the Tigers since Wilson can always return to his previous bullpen role if the rotation move doesn’t pan out.  Wilson posted a 2.47 ERA over 171 1/3 IP from 2014-16, though an inflated homer rate boosted his ERA to 4.50 over 60 frames last season.  The righty also said that he is fully recovered from a broken right leg suffered last September.
  • ]]>