It’s already been reported this month that a number of expensive Tigers players — Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Upton, Anibal Sanchez — have gone unclaimed on revocable trade waivers, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports adds more names to the list. Third baseman Nicholas Castellanos also went unclaimed on trade waivers, per Heyman, while right-hander Michael Fulmer and shortstop Jose Iglesias were claimed but did not change hands.
As Heyman notes, it registers as a modest surprise that Castellanos wasn’t claimed, though perhaps other clubs simply assumed that Detroit would pull the 25-year-old back off the wire. Castellanos has seen his offensive production drop in 2017, as he’s hitting just .244/.302/.440 — down from last year’s impressive .285/.331/.496.
However, there are reasons to be encouraged when looking at Castellanos’s batted-ball profile. His 44.9 percent hard-contact rate ranks sixth in baseball among qualified hitters, trailing only Corey Seager, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Sano and Cody Bellinger. Additionally, Castellanos’s 24.8 percent line-drive rate is the game’s 11th-highest, and his 89.5 mph average exit velocity is 50th among hitters with at least 100 batted ball events (per Statcast).
Castellanos avoided arbitration for the first time this past offseason, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3MM. He’ll receive a raise on that figure in 2018 and can be controlled via the arbitration process through the 2019 campaign. There’s been no indication that the Tigers are looking to trade Castellanos, but Detroit did acquire an MLB-ready third base option from the Cubs in the form of Jeimer Candelario, so it’s at least plausible that they could explore interest in Castellanos and look to entrust third base to the somewhat younger — and certainly cheaper and more controllable — option. (Despite the gap in MLB experience, Castellanos is only 18 months older than Candelario; the latter, though, won’t be eligible for arbitration until at least 2020.)
As for the others named in Heyman’s report, it’s not in any way surprising to see Fulmer taken back off waivers. Detroit reportedly received plenty of interest in him leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline, but the reigning American League Rookie of the Year is in the midst of an excellent sophomore campaign and is controllable through the 2022 season. Perhaps the Tigers will again listen to offers this winter and see if any interested party will blow them away with a can’t-refuse offer, but such a package couldn’t realistically come together in the 48-hour waiver claim window.
Iglesias, meanwhile, is a definite trade candidate to keep an eye this offseason. The 27-year-old doesn’t bring much to the table with his bat, but his glovework at shortstop is outstanding. Defensive Runs Saved pegs him at +10 in 2017, while Ultimate Zone Rating is largely in agreement at +9.0. Iglesias has batted .255/.298/.352 over the past two seasons and will be due one more raise on his $4.1MM salary in arbitration before hitting the open market as a free agent next winter. That short-term window of control could accelerate trade talks for him this winter, potentially clearing way for the Tigers to give a lengthy audition to 25-year-old Dixon Machado.