Detroit Tigers free agency primer: Luke Gregerson is worth look as late-inning option

ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 4: Luke Gregerson #44 and Evan Gattis #11 of the Houston Astros celebrate following the Astros game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on June 4, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. The Astros won 7-2. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 4: Luke Gregerson #44 and Evan Gattis #11 of the Houston Astros celebrate following the Astros game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on June 4, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. The Astros won 7-2. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager Al Avila could do with more bullpen options. One potential fit is Luke Gregerson.

Detroit Tigers fans saw the bullpen struggle once again in 2017.

After the Tigers’ bullpen ended 2016 ranked a respectable 12th in collective fWAR, the unit reverted back to its struggling ways last season.

Detroit finished 2017 ranked 30th in fWAR, ERA, FIP xFIP and SIERA.

Although much of that was likely due to factors like the team’s general implosion in September, not to mention early-season struggles from the likes of Francisco Rodriguez, Anibal Sanchez, Blaine Hardy and others.

Detroit Tigers
DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 1: Pitcher Blaine Hardy #36 of the Detroit Tigers is pulled by manager Brad Ausmus #7 of the Detroit Tigers as catcher John Hicks #55 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during the sixth inning of game two of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on September 1, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Hardy gave up three runs and five hits in less than three innings of relief. The Indians defeated the Tigers 10-0. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Still, the bullpen is a definite need heading into 2018.

Ideally, the likes of Joe Jimenez, Jairo Labourt and Bryan Garcia will take up prominent roles with the team next season.

However, the reality is that Detroit needs a veteran presence or two to pair with Shane Greene or Alex Wilson.

Regardless of rebuilding, contending or what have you, the Tigers could do with some experienced options to help ease Jimenez, Labourt, Garcia and others transition into the Majors.

One such experienced option could be Luke Gregerson.

The veteran right-hander is 33 and will hit free agency this offseason after three seasons with the Houston Astros.

2017 performance

At first glance, Gregerson had a bit of a down year this season. The reliever posted a 4.57 ERA and a 4.62 FIP in 61 innings.

That being said, he did strike out 10.33 punch outs per nine innings, a 3.45 xFIP, a 3.30 SIERA.

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The veteran also turned in a strong 15.6 swinging strike percentage, good for the third-best rate of his career.

It didn’t necessarily match his 2016 rate of 20.1, but it did rank 18th in the league, just ahead of the likes of Felipe Rivero, Wade Davis and Cody Allen.

His spike in terms of run prevention stats probably had something to do with the fact that he allowed 1.92 home runs per nine innings, easily a career-worst.

Up until Opening Day 2017, Gregerson hadn’t posted a home-runs-per-nine-innings rate north of 1.00.

Conceivable fit with the Detroit Tigers

Gregerson could conceivably be a closing candidate given his track record.

That being said, with Shane Greene established as Detroit’s ninth-inning option, the veteran could slot in as a setup option.

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Ideally signed to a one-year or short-term deal, the ex-Padre could help stabilize the Tigers’ bullpen. Then, once July rolls around, the reliever could be flipped for a premium return at the trade deadline.