- Tigers second-rounder Nick Quintana announced on Twitter that he’s signed a contract with his new team. His No. 47 overall slot came with a $1.58MM value, though bonus terms . Quintana played third base at Arizona and checked in 43rd on Fangraphs’ rankings heading into the draft. He placed 77th at MLB.com, 81st at BA and 85th at ESPN. He’s regarded as a plus defender at third with above-average raw power, but there are some strikeout concerns and he’s a below-average runner as well.
TODAY: Torres has officially been added to Detroit’s roster, as per a team announcement. Reininger was optioned to Triple-A, while Josh Harrison was moved to the 60-day IL to create a 40-man roster spot. Harrison hasn’t played since May 27, and is facing a six-to-eight week absence due to hamstring surgery.
SATURDAY: The Tigers are set to select right-hander Carlos Torres’ contract from Triple-A Toledo, Jason Beck of MLB.com tweets. The team will option fellow righty Zac Reininger to create a 25-man spot for Torres, but it’ll also need to make a corresponding 40-man move.
Sunday will mark the two-week anniversary since Torres joined the Tigers on a minor league deal. Since then, the 36-year-old has pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings at the Triple-A level with five hits allowed and three strikeouts against no walks. Torres previously notched respectable numbers as a member of the Padres’ Triple-A club, with which he logged a 2.49 ERA/4.18 FIP with 8.17 K/9, 3.55 BB/9 and a 50.7 percent groundball rate over 25 1/3 frames. Torres exited the organization when he opted out of his minors pact May 15.
A 15th-round pick of the White Sox in 2004, Torres has seen MLB action in every season but 2011 since he debuted in 2009. Torres owns a 4.04 ERA/4.21 FIP with 7.89 K/9, 3.43 BB/9 and a 44.4 percent grounder mark in a combined 500 2/3 innings with the ChiSox, Rockies, Mets, Brewers and Nationals.
The Tigers may have helped develop a front-line starter in left-hander Matthew Boyd, whom they acquired from the Blue Jays in a deal for David Price in July 2015. At the time, fellow southpaw prospect Daniel Norris was seen as the best part of the Tigers’ three-player return, but it’s Boyd who has since emerged as the superior major leaguer. Now, with the noncompetitive Tigers amid a rebuild and not likely to return to contention in the near future, they may have to consider trading Boyd this summer.
Boyd debuted with the Blue Jays the same season as the trade and wound up turning in 57 1/3 innings of 7.53 ERA/6.59 FIP ball between Toronto and Detroit. He was much better over the next three seasons, including when he totaled 4.3 fWAR in 305 1/3 frames from 2017-18, yet still didn’t look like much more than an average starter. But Boyd has found another gear in 2019 – his age-28 season.
Across 83 2/3 innings this year, Boyd has already put up a career-best fWAR (2.8) that trails only Max Scherzer among starters. Thanks in part to a lethal fastball-slider combo, Boyd’s also third in the league in K/BB ratio (6.93), sixth in K/9 (11.16) and BB/9 (1.61), eighth in FIP (2.93), 15th in ERA (3.12) and swinging-strike percentage (13.4), and 25th in contact rate (73.2). Furthermore, there’s almost zero difference between Boyd’s weighted on-base average/expected wOBA against (.272 versus .271).
Based on his production to date, the 2019 version of Boyd has been an ace – and a cheap one at that. Relative to his performance, Boyd is earning a pittance ($2.6MM) in his first of four potential arbitration-eligible years. Considering Boyd is breaking through as a top-flight starter who’s under control through 2022, it wouldn’t be remotely surprising to see the Tigers go forward with him. That said, there’s a case for Detroit to cash in its best trade chip this summer, when Boyd would outrank Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner and others as the most desirable starter on the block.
Even with Boyd in the fold, it doesn’t look as if the Tigers have nearly enough quality building blocks in the majors or minors to work their way back into contention over the next couple years. There’s hope in the Tigers’ starting staff in the form of Boyd, Norris and Spencer Turnbull. But the team’s premier reliever, Shane Greene, isn’t signed past this season and may find himself on another roster in the coming weeks. Switching to the offensive side, Brandon Dixon and Nicholas Castellanos have been the Tigers’ only league-average batters this season. The 27-year-old Dixon has struck out 37 times and drawn three walks in 98 plate appearances, indicating his bubble’s going to burst. We know Castellanos can hit, but he’s a free agent-to-be whose overall value is limited by his defensive shortcomings. Down on the farm, the Tigers do have prized righty Casey Mize – the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft – but Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs still don’t see a special system in place.
While the Tigers don’t boast an elite collection of farmhands, trading Boyd would change that to a certain extent. He’d command a massive return right now, though it would be an agonizing call on the Tigers’ part to let him go. However, with Boyd’s value perhaps at its zenith and Detroit seemingly not nearing a return to relevance, general manager Al Avila may have to think about putting his club’s ace on the block. What would you do in Avila’s position?
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Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Tigers and Miguel Cabrera received some tough news recently when four different medical opinions agreed that the future Hall of Famer is dealing with “chronic changes” in his knee that will impact the remainder of his career. The immediate ramifications of that diagnosis brought about a position change for Cabrera, who is now relegated to DH duty on a full-time basis and won’t be seeing any action at first base for the foreseeable future. As detailed at the time, Cabrera is owed more than $150MM through the end of the 2023 campaign on a contract that looks to be more onerous than ever before.
General manager Al Avila met with reporters Thursday to discuss the situation (all links to Twitter via Evan Woodbery of MLive.com). “The bad news is that it’s going to get worse as it goes along,” said Avila of Cabrera’s knee condition. “It’s incumbent on him to stay in good shape and it’s incumbent on us to make sure we get him the proper treatment and proper rest.” If both sides are able to hold up their end of the bargain, Avila added, the organization is confident it can “keep [Cabrera] productive on the field through the remainder of his contract.”
That’d be a tall order even for a fully healthy Cabrera (or any player signed into his age-40 season). This version of Cabrera, though, is not only dealing with the recently revealed knee issue but also multiple herniated disks in his back and the perhaps lingering effects of last season’s surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon. The 36-year-old surely enjoyed proving some doubters wrong for a night when he ripped a grand slam just hours after the extent of his knee troubles became public knowledge Tuesday. His overall line of .287/.357/.376, however, illustrates the manner in which his power has yet to materialize in 2019.
Given that substantial commitment to Cabrera for another four years beyond the current campaign, it’ll be all the more imperative for the Tigers organization to produce cost-efficient young talent. To that end, Avila discussed a number of intriguing young prospects Thursday, touching on the timelines of infield prospect Willi Castro and several of the club’s top-ranked pitching prospects.
Castro, a shortstop, is hitting .335/.413/.505 through 232 plate appearances in Triple-A while the Tigers’ entire infield flounders at the plate in the Majors. However, Castro has also committed 10 errors in just 44 starts at short (398 1/3 innings) after making only 15 errors in all of 2018. Scouting reports agree that he’ll eventually be a solid defender at the position, but it seems that consistency has eluded him. For a player who just turned 22, that’s not necessarily a shock. It’s worth wondering whether he’ll get a look later this month, as we’re right around the period of time at which teams can begin promoting players without worrying about Super Two status.
As for the pitchers, Avila suggested that although right-handers Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser have struggled, if they can return to “doing what they’re capable of doing,” they’ll likely get a look in the Majors later in the 2019 season. Tigers fans, though, are surely more interested in getting a look at last year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, Casey Mize. The former Auburn standout is among the game’s top 10 pitching prospects and has decimated minor league lineups in 2019, pitching to a comical 0.83 ERA with a 65-to-10 K/BB in 70 2/3 innings between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.
However, Avila wasn’t shy about the fact that promoting Mize in the near future isn’t all that likely. While the GM didn’t expressly rule out a promotion at some point in 2019, he plainly stated that there’s “no purpose” in promoting Mize to the Majors right now, citing a wariness of undoing some of the progress he’s made thus far. Perhaps if the Tigers were postseason contenders with a pressing rotation need, there’d be more urgency, but Avila was candid in his assessment of his big league roster as well. “Quite frankly it’s not going to make us into playoff contenders this year,” he said of a near-term promotion for Mize.
The MLB draft isn’t even over yet, but the Tigers announced on this morning’s draft conference call that they’ve officially signed first-rounder Riley Greene. Greene was selected with the No. 5 overall pick, which comes with a $6,180,700 slot value, although bonus terms are not yet known. He’s represented by Tripper Johnson of Sosnick Cobbe Karon.
Greene, 18, will forgo a commitment to the University of Florida in order to begin his professional career with the Tigers. An outfielder out of Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Fla., he was a consensus top-tier talent in the 2019 draft, with Baseball America ranking him fifth overall while ESPN, MLB.com and Fangraphs all ranked him as the draft’s No. 6 prospect. Scouting reports on Greene laud his hit tool, with BA’s report labeling him the “best pure hitter in the prep class.” He’s a hit-over-power prospect at present, although BA and Fangraphs suggest that his raw power could eventually turn into above-average game power as well. The consensus on him from a defensive standpoint seems to be that he’ll land in an outfield corner.
Greene is obviously several years away from being a factor at the big league level, as is the case with most high school draftees, but he’ll nonetheless add a high-upside bat to the top of a Tigers farm system that is currently headlined primarily by pitchers. Right-handers Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Franklin Perez, Beau Burrows and Alex Faedo are among the most highly regarded prospects in a rapidly improving Detroit system.
- And the Tigers were thrilled to find high school outfielder Riley Greene waiting for them at #5, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. With ample rotation talent already filtering up the ranks of the Detroit farm, it’s no doubt gratifying for the club to find such a highly regarded position player in that spot. The youngster obviously isn’t even close to the MLB radar at this point, but he’ll immediately become a player to watch for the organization’s fans.
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera will be limited to DH work for the foreseeable future after being diagnosed with “chronic changes” to his knee, the team told reporters Tuesday (Twitter links via Evan Woodbery of MLive.com and The Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen).
Dr. James Andrews was among the four surgeons from whom Cabrera sought an opinion, and while season-ending surgery was discussed as an option, it was not recommended in the end. Beyond the news on Cabrera, Woodbery tweets that second baseman Josh Harrison will undergo surgery to repair his partially torn hamstring later this week and is expected to miss six to eight weeks of action.
The outlook on Cabrera is certainly troubling, even though he is not being placed on the injured list. One of the generation’s great sluggers, Cabrera missed most of the 2018 season due a biceps tear and hasn’t been himself at the plate in 2019. While he’s hitting for average and still drawing walks, Cabrera’s power has completely disappeared, and the resulting .284/.356/.356 line is rather light for a full-time designated hitter — solid average and OBP marks notwithstanding.
Furthermore, it doesn’t seem as if this is an issue with much hope of improving. Tigers trainer Doug Teter told reporters that the changes are the “natural result of attrition” from a lengthy career, adding that Cabrera will deal with this issue for the rest of his career. As for the prospect of future surgery, Cabrera indicated today that he simply doesn’t consider it an option at present. Woodbery notes that while Cabrera acknowledged he is “sad” to be moving away from first base, he was also firm in his stance on undergoing another operation: “Forget about that. I’m done with that.”
Beyond the mere fact that a healthy Cabrera is a joy for any fan to watch, his knee issues further underscore the misstep made by the Tigers in extending Cabrera back in 2014. He was already signed for two more years at that point (through age 32), but the Tigers tacked on an additional eight years and $248MM to keep him in Detroit for the remainder of his career. Not only is Cabrera earning $30MM in 2019, he’ll be paid that same sum in 2020 and 2021 before receiving a $32MM salary in both 2022 and 2023. There’s also an $8MM buyout on the Tigers’ club option over Cabrera for the 2024 season.
All told, Cabrera is owed a staggering $151MM from today through the end of contract in 2023. It was always assumed that he’d have to move to DH eventually, but this is probably sooner than the team had hoped. And if this year’s lack of power is in any way a lasting development, the remaining salary owed to Cabrera will prove all the more problematic for the organization. That, of course, remains to be seen. Perhaps Cabrera’s power outage is tied, at least in part, to lingering effects from last year’s biceps tear.
If that’s the case, one would imagine he’ll rediscover some pop as he further distances himself from that surgery. A return to his peak output clearly can’t be expected — we’ve yet to even mention the multiple herniated disks with which he was diagnosed in 2017 — but Cabrera’s average and discipline should allow him to at least be a productive hitter if he can regain some of that extra-base ability. Even in that scenario, though, his salary will be generally viewed as an albatross on the team’s books and will hamper the team’s maneuverability when it is fully ready to emerge from the current rebuilding state.
As for Harrison, he’s playing on a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $2MM and now figures to be out until after the All-Star break. Detroit signed him and his former Pirates double-play partner, Jordy Mercer, to fill out the middle infield in the offseason but haven’t received value from either deal. Harrison was hitting just .176/.219/.265 when he landed on the injured list. His absence will open more playing time for veteran Gordon Beckham and younger options like Dawel Lugo, Niko Goodrum and Ronny Rodriguez.
- Jordan Zimmermann threw a simulated game on Friday as he works his way back from a UCL sprain. He has another bullpen session on Sunday, followed by a rehab start with High-A Lakeland on Wednesday, per Chris McCosky of The Detroit News. The Tigers are likely disillusioned of any notions for contention in 2019, but getting Zimmermann back in action could still provide dividends, either as a veteran influence in a young locker room, as an innings eater in the rotation, or the best case scenario, as trade bait. Zimmermann is owed $25MM next season, but that’s likely a sunk cost even if they could drum up some interest in the veteran righty. Given the 5.29 ERA that marks Zimmermann’s Detroit tenure, there may not be a “return to form” for the 33-year-old, but if there’s anything to spark hope in a Zimmermann revival, it would be good health.
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera left the team’s game against the Braves on Friday with right knee soreness, manager Ron Gardenhire told Chris McCosky of the Detroit News and other reporters. Cabrera will undergo an MRI.
“I felt it at the plate the last three games — I didn’t use my legs too much,” Cabrera said (via McCosky).
Thanks in part to his knee pain, Cabrera failed to reach base in any of his three plate appearances Friday. The future Hall of Famer, 36, has trudged through an uncharacteristically difficult season to this point. Cabrera owns a .284/.356/.356 line, good for a 93 wRC+, through 219 trips to the plate. The longtime 30-home run threat has shown almost no power along the way, with two HRs and the majors’ third-worst ISO (.072).
While Cabrera’s performance has been a letdown, the durability he has shown thus far has been encouraging. After missing all but 38 games a year ago because of a ruptured left biceps tendon, he has come back to appear in each of Detroit’s 54 contests this season. This injury could snap that streak, though, and would leave the Tigers to choose among Brandon Dixon, Niko Goodrum and John Hicks to handle first.
The Tigers’ offseason pickups of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer (in addition to reuniting the longtime Pirates’ middle-infield tandem) were supposed to help stabilize the middle infield and perhaps give the team a pair of affordable summer trade chips. To this point, though, that hasn’t been the case. Neither infielder has been productive, and now both are faced with notable absences.
Harrison hit the injured list with a hamstring strain yesterday, and Chris McCosky of the Detroit News now reports that the 31-year-old has a partial tear and is could be out anywhere from four to six weeks (Twitter link). Surgery hasn’t been ruled out, but it’s not considered likely at this time. Harrison, who signed a one-year deal worth $2MM this offseason, has batted just .176/.219/.265 with a homer and four steals through 146 plate appearances.
Mercer, meanwhile, has already been out since early May, but his prognosis took a turn for the worst today. Per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links), Mercer’s minor league rehab assignment has been halted due to what manager Ron Gardenhire termed an acute-on-chronic strain in his right quadriceps. He’s receiving a second opinion, after which point his timeline for a return will become more clear. Mercer has been limited to 19 games this year and managed a tepid .206/.275/.317 slash in 69 plate appearances.
With the injuries, players like Ronny Rodriguez, Niko Goodrum, Gordon Beckham and Dawel Lugo have seen increased opportunities in the infield (Lugo solely at third base, but he’s played second in the past). Unfortunately for the organization, the most productive of that bunch has been the journeyman Beckham, who isn’t a long-term piece in Detroit.
Rodriguez roared out of the gates to a blistering start upon his initial promotion, but his lack of contact has proved glaring, and he’s now hitting .231/.262/.504 in 130 plate appearances. The power has been impressive, but a .262 OBP is tough to overlook. Goodrum was a nice surprise in a super utility role last season and still makes plenty of hard contact (46.8 percent, per Statcast), but he’s hitting .207/.300/.345 in 200 trips to the plate. Lugo has batted .226/.265/.323 in a much smaller sample of 34 plate appearances.
The Tigers can continue to hope for production out of the current options on the roster — Lugo, in particular, has had only a minimal look after a solid showing in Triple-A — but the longer the unit’s struggles continue, the more there’ll be questions about looking to other prospects. Willi Castro, ranked seventh among Detroit farmhands at MLB.com and at Fangraphs (plus ninth at Baseball America), is tearing through Triple-A pitching at a .349/.426/.527 pace. He’s played only 48 games at that level and has benefited from a BABIP north of .400, so there’s some reason to be skeptical, but it’s easy to envision him getting a look at some point this summer. Further down the line, Isaac Paredes is widely regarded as the organization’s best position prospect, and he’s hitting .276/.356/.350 as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He won’t be as near-term an option as Castro, however.