The Detroit Tigers have a lot of arms competing for a spot in the bullpen next season. They would be smart to add recently released Mauricio Cabrera to that list.
The Detroit Tigers have signed nearly a full bullpen’s worth of pitchers to minor league deals this offseason. Enrique Burgos, Phillippe Aumont, James Russell, Johnny Barbato and Travis Wood all represent potential bullpen options in 2018. They will compete alongside returners Chad Bell, Warwick Saupold and Artie Lewicki to join a bullpen that will be headed by Shane Greene, Blaine Hardy, Daniel Stumpf and flame-thrower Joe Jimenez.
However, having depth for the bullpen is never a bad thing. The Tigers have an opportunity to add to that depth by signing a pitcher who’s fastball averages a blistering 101.2 miles per hour. That pitcher is right-hander Mauricio Cabrera, who the Braves just designated for assignment.
One season can make all the difference in a young pitchers career. Cabrera’s 2017 season did quite a bit to impact his future. Considered a huge part of Atlanta’s bullpen after a stellar 2016 season, Cabrera suffered through injuries and major control issues in 2017, leading to his designation.
In 2016, Cabrera made his long awaited big league debut. He threw 38.1 innings with a 2.82 ERA and a blazing 101.2 mile per hour fastball. His 7.5 K/9 was slightly underwhelming, but his 11.7% swinging strike rate was above average, as was his 49.1% ground ball rate.
Cabrera was expected to compete for a high leverage bullpen role for the Braves in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries slowed him down during spring training, and his season never got off the ground. Cabrera walked 45 batters across 43 innings spread between High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. He did not make it back to the big leagues.
Now, Cabrera is on waivers and the Tigers should take a chance on the young right-hander.
I know Tiger fans are reading this post and undoubtedly thinking: didn’t we just get rid of a guy like this? And while Bruce Rondon‘s blazing fastball and control issues may seem to mirror Cabrera’s plight, there have not been any reports of effort or attitude issues with Cabrera. Additionally, he’s proven that he can succeed at the big league level. His 2.82 ERA from 2016 tops Rondon’s career best, and Cabrera is still only 24.
There’s certainly a chance that Cabrera never regains his control and is unable to reclaim any success in the big leagues. However, he also could benefit tremendously from a change of scenery, and end up as a big part of Detroit’s late-inning relief corps.
The potential reward is worth the risk, as Cabrera would likely cost very little to sign. For a team that is not planning to compete, taking a chance on a flame-throwing reliever who has control issues and is only 24 years old is the exact type of move the Tigers should be making.