The Tigers have signed left-hander Jose Alvarez to a minor league contract, per the transactions log at MiLB.com. He won’t pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, though Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press writes that the club will help Alvarez oversee his recovery and rehabilitation with an eye toward the 2024 campaign. Alvarez is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
The 33-year-old Alvarez is a known commodity to Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris, who was the Giants’ general manager during Alvarez’s two-year stint in San Francisco from 2021-22. He was outstanding for the Giants in ’21, pitching to a 2.37 ERA with a well below-average 15.8% strikeout rate but strong walk and ground-ball rates of 7.1% and 50.5%, respectively. His 2022 season was cut short by arm troubles that led to his subsequent Tommy John surgery, and prior to going on the shelf Alvarez was tagged for an ugly 5.28 ERA.
Alvarez actually made his Major League debut with the Tigers nearly a decade ago, in 2013, but he was tagged for a 5.82 ERA in 38 2/3 innings that season. The Tigers traded him to the Angels in exchange for Andrew Romine the following offseason, and Alvarez would eventually establish himself as a quality big league reliever in Anaheim.
From 2014-21, Alvarez racked up 366 2/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball with a 20.2% strikeout rate, 7.2% walk rate, 46.8% grounder rate, 70 holds and three saves. He’s held lefties to a .238/.288/.365 slash in his career, and while righties have posted a strong .270 average and .340 OBP against him, they haven’t hit for much power (.399 slugging, .129 ISO). Alvarez has always thrived in terms of limiting hard contact, yielding just an 86.3 mph average exit velocity and a feeble 30% hard-hit rate dating back to 2015, when Statcast first began tracking such measures. He’s never yielded an average exit velocity of even 87 mph. Last year’s league average was 88.6 mph.