Feb. 15: Petzold reports that Wisler will make $1.5MM if he makes the team, with $750K in incentives available.
Feb. 13: The Tigers and right-hander Matt Wisler are in agreement on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, reports Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press.
Wisler, 30, is coming off a strong season of results with the Rays, posting a 2.25 ERA over 44 innings. Despite keeping earned runs off the board like that, he was designated for assignment in September and cleared waivers.
Despite that low ERA, there were some concerning elements that led to Wisler losing his roster spot. He struck out a huge 32.1% of batters faced in 2020 and 2021, but that number dropped to just 19.9% last year. That coincided with a drop of his velocity, as his fastball averaged 89.7 mph last year, a dip from 91.5 mph in 2021 and 94 mph back in 2015. Perhaps more important than the fastball is his slider, since Wisler has been increasing its usage throughout his career, throwing it 91.5% of the time last year. His velocity on that pitch was 79.8 mph last year, after being at 81.5 mph the year prior and 83.5 mph in 2019. With that diminished stuff and fewer punchouts, it’s likely his .198 batting average on balls in play last year was helping him seem more effective than he actually was.
It appears that the teams around the league recognized those facts, which led to Wisler going unclaimed on waivers last year and now settling for a minor league deal here with Spring Training getting started. For the Tigers, they’re taking a no-risk look at Wisler by bringing him aboard on the minor league deal, given them a chance to see if he can recapture his strong form in 2020-2021 or perhaps continue finding success without the strikeouts.
The club has subtracted from its bullpen mix this offseason, trading away established arms like Joe Jiménez to Atlanta and Gregory Soto to the Phillies. That has left a relief corps that’s fairly open, as many of the remaining arms are young and have limited experience. Wisler will be looking to have a strong spring and earn himself a job in that mix, alongside other non-roster invitees such as Chasen Shreve and Trey Wingenter.