Detroit Tigers: Four Potential Under-the-Radar Pitching Additions


The Detroit Tigers need pitching help. Of pitchers who played for the team last season, only four posted a WAR of 1.0 or above. Those four pitchers were David Price, Justin Verlander, Alex Wilson and Joakim Soria. The problem is that half of those pitchers are no longer with the team. 

In other words, expect all sorts of additions. The team has already added Francisco Rodriguez and has also been linked to both Joe Nathan and Brad Boxberger.  General manager Al Avila has already stated that the team will add two starting pitchers. Those players won’t come cheap, especially considering the Tigers will be looking to rebound quickly from such a disappointing 2015. Expect quality, but relatively pricey additions.

Because of the likely price of those two starting pitchers, Detroit may have to look for roster help in unconventional ways. This means taking fliers on players who hit the waiver wire or can be acquired for very little.

Thanks to the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, respective clubs around the league were busy protecting prospects from the draft by adding them to their 40-man rosters.

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Not everyone had open roster spots like the Tigers, so a number of useful players were designated for assignment.

Detroit has been down this road before, plucking the likes of J.D. Martinez, Blaine Hardy and Al Alburquerque from relative obscurity.

Here are five recently-available players who could help the Tigers in 2016.

Rex Brothers

Like a number of players who are cut, Rex Brothers comes with an excellent track record that only includes a minor blip. The reliever pitched to a 2.82 ERA with 218 strikeouts in 175.2 innings from 2011 to 2013.

Apr 30, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Things fell apart in 2014, as Brothers’ earned run average climbed to 5.59 and his strikeouts dipped. From ’11 to ’13 he averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings. In 2014, that number plummeted to 8.8.

Despite those struggles, the reliever put up better numbers in a small sample size in 2015. The now-former Rockies’ pitcher lowered his ERA to 1.74, allowing only two runs in 17 appearances.

He also did a significant amount of his pitching in Coors Field with the Rockies. Any time a reliever can put up a career ERA of 3.42 while pitching the majority of his games in Colorado, he’s worth a look. It should also be noted that Brothers’ career ERA on the road is 2.33 in 115.2 innings.

The 27-year-old former Colorado reliever still has a chance to be an impact player in the big leagues. If the Tigers take that chance, it could pay massive dividends.

A.J. Griffin

The Oakland Athletics recently designated starting pitcher A.J. Griffin for assignment after making eight minor-league starts in 2015. Griffin hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, but he’s worth a flier if healthy.

From 2012 to 2013, Griffin made 47 starts while posting a 21-11 record. While he did allow a big-league leading 36 home runs in 2013, he did post a 3.83 that season while pitching 200 innings.

If signed and healthy, the former Oakland pitcher could be a dependable, innings-eater for the right team. He will never wow you statistically in any category, but he’ll keep your team in the game and win somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 games.

Brandon Gomes  

Jul 31, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brandon Gomes (47) pitches during the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A former 17th-round pick of the San Diego Padres, Brandon Gomes carved out a respectable big-league career as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. In 173 relief appearances dating back to 2011, Gomes has compiled a 4.20 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 167 innings. His numbers don’t scream “impact reliever,” but given his past success, he’s the ideal pitcher to fill out a bullpen.

Gomes’ best season came in 2011 when he appeared in 40 games. Over those 40 appearances he only allowed 12 earned runs. That was good for a 2.92 ERA. He was solid again in 2015, providing the Rays with a 4.27 ERA in 63 games.

The right-handed reliever was extremely tough on lefties, holding southpaws to a .192 batting average and a .626 OPS. Opposing left-handed hitters posted a meager .354 slugging percentage when facing Gomes.

John Axford

Axford is probably known best for his days as the Milwaukee Brewers’ closer when he saved 105 games in three seasons.

However, after being demoted from the closer’s role in Milwaukee, Axford has found success. Since the start of 2013, the pitcher has made 197 appearances for five different teams. Over that span he’s struck out 190 batters in 175.1 innings while contributing 35 total saves.

In 60 appearances for the Rockies in 2015, Axford closed 25 games and posted a 3.57 FIP. He punched out 62 batters in 55.2 innings pitched. Just like with Brothers, any pitcher who can throw effectively as a member of the Rockies is worth a flier.

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The Detroit Tigers need pitching help. All four of these pitchers should be available on the relative cheap. Time will tell, but all would make quality additions to the Tigers.