The Detroit Tigers are canvassing the free agent market for bullpen help and reliable back end starters. Three names have emerged as potential targets for Detroit: Chris Tillman, Mike Fiers and Yoshihisa Hirano.
The Detroit Tigers finally broke the ice and signed veteran outfielder Leonys Martin to a major league contract. Martin and starting pitcher Ryan Carpenter are the only two major league additions the team has made in what has been a snail-paced offseason across the MLB.
However, with the Winter Meetings starting next week teams are beginning to identify targets for the 2018 season. The Tigers are looking at two veteran starters: former Oriole and 2013 All-Star Chris Tillman and Mike Fiers, the former Astro who threw a no-hitter back in 2015.
The Tigers have been connected to Tillman for about a month now. We wrote about Tillman’s potential impact on the Tigers back in November.
The 29-year-old had a rough 2017 season, posting a 7.84 ERA in 93 innings. However, his numbers across the five previous season were much stronger.
From 2012-2016, Tillman posted a 3.81 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP while averaging 169 innings per season.
It is reasonable to expect a bounce back from Tillman heading into 2018. He is unlikely to reach the 16-win, 3.77 ERA season he had in 2016, but he is exactly the type of veteran starter the Tigers should be looking to plug into the back end of their rotation. Plus, at just 29 years old, there’s reason to believe Tillman has a few solid, if unspectacular, seasons left in the tank.
32-year-old Mike Fiers struggled in 2017. He posted a 5.22 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP for the Astros and was left off their postseason roster.
He was victimized by the long-ball, surrendering a career-high 32 home runs. Interestingly, FanGraphs notes that opposing hitters actually posted a lower hard-hit rate off Fiers in 2017 (30%, down from 35% in 2016).
Fiers has averaged 167 innings across his last three seasons, all spent in Houston. Like Tillman he is a durable back end starting pitcher who is capable of eating innings and giving the Tigers a veteran presence in the rotation.
Neither Fiers or Tillman are expected to be an ace next season. Each can provide solid production for cheap on a one year contract. Additionally, they provide veteran leadership to a rotation that will have four pitchers 26 or younger competing for a rotation spot next season.
The Tigers join a list of teams interested in acquiring Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano. Hirano, 34 in March, has spent the last 11 seasons pitching for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. He has been their primary closer since 2013 and locked down 143 saves with a 2.62 ERA in that time.
Hirano could slide into a high-leverage role with the Tigers right away, easing the pressure on last year’s closer Shane Greene.
Hirano would not be a long-term piece for the Tigers. In the short-term he adds stability to the bullpen while the Tigers continue to develop their farm system.
Neither Tillman or Fiers would be the most exciting free agent signing. However, either of them would provide veteran depth for the Tigers in 2018.
Hirano would be a great piece to add to the Tigers bullpen if they are able to sweep him up.