The Tigers announced they’ve claimed reliever Sam Howard off waivers from the Pirates and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo. He’d been designated for assignment last week. Detroit had two vacancies on the 40-man roster, so no additional move was necessary.
Howard, 29, has pitched in the big leagues with the Rockies and Bucs in each of the past five seasons. The Georgia Southern product has shown the ability to generate plenty of whiffs, but he’s also battled notable control woes. He’s tallied 91 MLB innings across 103 appearances, pitching to a 5.34 ERA with a solid 27.2% strikeout rate but a 14.1% walk percentage. He had an even more extreme version of that batted ball-averse style last season, when he fanned 30.2% but walked 16.1% of opponents in a personal-high 45 innings.
Those strike-throwing concerns became problematic enough for the Bucs to move on, but the Tigers will roll the dice on Howard’s swing-and-miss capabilities. He generated whiffs on 15.8% of his offerings last season, the 16th-highest rate among relievers with 40+ innings pitched. His four-seam fastball, in particular, was excellent at missing bats.
Howard still has a couple minor league option years remaining, so the Tigers can keep him at Toledo as a depth option for a while if he holds onto a 40-man roster spot. He’ll be the third left-handed reliever on the depth chart behind offseason signee Andrew Chafin and primary closer Gregory Soto.