2:51pm: The Tigers sent cash to the Rays in exchange for Witherspoon, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Detroit will still need to open a 40-man roster spot before tomorrow to accommodate the additions of Shreve and Wingenter.
2:06pm: The Tigers have acquired minor league outfielder Grant Witherspoon in a trade with the Rays, reports Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Tampa Bay’s end of the deal remains unclear as of yet, though it’s worth noting that the Tigers need to open a 40-man roster spot to accommodate the expected addition of relievers Chasen Shreve and Trey Wingenter. They already opened one spot by outrighting Rony Garcia to Triple-A Toledo not long ago. That doesn’t ensure that the Tigers are sending a player from the 40-man roster, though it’s certainly possible.
Witherspoon, 26, was the Rays’ fourth-round pick back in 2018. He split the 2022 season between Double-A and Triple-A, slashing a combined .266/.343/.467 with 17 home runs and 15 stolen bases. The bulk of that production came against right-handed pitching, as the lefty-swinging Witherspoon mustered a rather tepid .237/.313/.404 slash against fellow lefties. The Rays split Witherspoon’s time in the outfield rather evenly between all three spots last year, though he’s primarily been a center fielder to this point in his professional career.
He’s not on the 40-man roster but was in big league camp with Tampa Bay. He struggled to a .154/.291/.231 output there, but that came in a tiny sample of 31 trips to the plate. With the Rays, Witherspoon was behind Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot, Jose Siri, Josh Lowe and Luke Raley on the depth chart, at the very least, as all are on the 40-man roster. Tampa Bay has also played infield prospects Vidal Brujan and Greg Jones in the outfield of late.
With the Tigers, there’ll be a less crowded path to playing time. Detroit is lacking in established big league outfielders, and while they’re hopeful of an Austin Meadows rebound and steps forward from players like Riley Greene, Kerry Carpenter and Matt Vierling, there’s more room for a productive upper-level minor leaguer like Witherspoon to force his way into the mix with the Tigers than with the Rays.