Detroit Tigers: Ranking Free Agent Signings of the Decade: Hitters

DETROIT, MI - MAY 20: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Comerica Park on May 20, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - MAY 20: J.D. Martinez #28 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates after hitting a solo home run against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Comerica Park on May 20, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Ranking free agent hitters in this decade for the Detroit Tigers

Today, we review the best Detroit Tigers free agent hitters that stood out in the decade. If you have not checked out the one we did on pitchers, you can click the link below.

As I mentioned in my last article, I broke it down by best, worst and underrated with an emphasis on what their numbers were and how they helped the team.  Best meaning they got what they paid for and did exactly was

what expected, underrated meaning they took a flyer and got more than they bargained for and misses, just did not work out in Detroit at all.

Also. Detroit Tigers Best, Underrated and Misses Pitching Free Agents In the Decade. light

Best Free Agent Hitters of the Decade:

J.D. Martinez (Signed March 2014)

Victor Martinez (Signed November 2010)

Justin Upton (Signed November 2016)

Torii Hunter (Signed November 2012)

Underrated Free Agent Hitters of the Decade:

Niko Goodrum (Signed November 2017)

Quintin Berry (Signed November 2011)

Johnny Damon (Signed February 2010)

Missed Free Agent Hitters of the Decade:

Josh Harrison (Signed February 2019)

Let’s start by looking at the best of the decade. It was going to be strange if I put J.D. Martinez in the “underrated” category.  Al Avila had familiarity with Martinez from playing high school baseball in Al’s hometown of Pembroke Pines Pines. No one excepted the production from Martinez but his numbers in Detroit show he was one of the best free-agent pickups not only for the decade but you can make a case for all time.  All the stats below are when he was in a Tigers uniform

  • 12.8 WAR (Using Baseball-Reference as a reference for his WAR)
  • OPS+ of 138
  • 2015 All-Star season of 38 home runs, 102 RBIs 319 total bases and a 5.0 WAR season

He went to Toledo after he was let go by the Astros towards the end of spring training. He proceeded to hit 10 home runs in 17 games before getting the call-up. One of my favorite J.D moments came against Chris Sale when he was the White Sox in 2016.  The Tigers were trailing the Indians in the division by 3 games in early August. Martinez, fresh off the DL, hit the first pitch off he saw from Sale in the 8th. That would help extend the Tigers winning streak to 8 games.

Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez was fresh off an All-Star season with the Red Sox before he signed with the Tigers on November 26th, 2010 for four years at $50 million dollars.

Despite Victor Martinez’s contract extension that came under fair by some Tigers fans, Victor was quite productive.

  • From 2011 to 2014, he posted wRC+ of 130, 113 and 168. His K rate in those seasons 8.6%, 9.3%, and 6.6%.  It is quite impressive considering the lowest rate among the 2019 season with at least 250 plate appearances belonged to Jordy Mercer at 21%.
  • What earned him that contract extension was a three-year stretch of .321/.381/.487 and OPS+ of 138.
  • In 2014, he finished second in the MVP race at the age of 35 with 32 HR and 103 RBIs and had his best season as a pro hitting .335/.409/.565 and OPS of .974

Justin Upton and Torii Hunter

Justin Upton signed a 6 year, $132 million dollar contract on January 18th, 2016. While he was only here for two years, Upton provided a veteran presence, solid defense with the occasional big glove play and a 5.3 WAR season in 2017 before he was traded to the Angels.

Torii Hunter signed on November 12th, 2012 and at the age of 37, and would make the All-Star team in 2013. He hit .304 with 17 home runs and 84 RBIs. While his defensive prowess wasn’t what it once was, he held his own in right field and provided a veteran presence in Brad Ausmus’s first year.

Underrated Signings

When Niko Goodrum was signed in November of 2017, Seth Strohs of said on the Tigers podcast I co-host with Chris Brown that the Tigers were getting an excellent athlete with great versatility. He was right so far as he had worn many gloves so far in his short time in Detroit. Whether he is the full-time shortstop in 2020 or playing the outfield, Goodrum’s contribution will continue with the many gloves he uses.

Now to Quintin Berry. Berry was a favorite of mine. Signed as a non-roster invite with an invitation to camp, he provided one thing very well and that was speed. He stole 19 bases and an on-base percentage of .368 in Toledo before his call up to Detroit to replace Austin Jackson, who went on the DL. This play right here against the Indians in which he doubles for a bunt, I still remember. Team speed was something the Tigers were lacking at the time and the ability to play anywhere in the outfield as a lefty bat, was helpful. His 21 for 21 steal attempts without getting caught to start his career would set an American League record.  He provided the boost the Tigers would need to win the AL crowd in 2012, going 3 for 10 against Oakland.

One of the reasons Johnny Damon stood out to me was that he gave his teammates custom bathrobes with the Olde English D with their names and numbers on the back and that was a cool gift. While he did this for other teams he played for, it was still a nice gesture.

But the numbers were showing a decline. The Tigers signed him for one year, $8 million dollars in February of 2010 but he was productive in his short time.  He was more of a DH than an outfielder as his defense was not what it once was but for the Tigers, however, he was a good teammate and an influence to the younger players.  It helps his cause when you are a 3.0 WAR player for the one season he was here. I almost put Damon under a “miss” but his numbers at the age of 36, you could do worse. I thought it was underrated because what they paid for a declining bat, paid off in the int

Slow Progression

I admit I wanted the Tigers to go after Josh Harrison last season. He had a pair of All-Star seasons under his belt but his K rate was steadily climbing and he was limited to 97 games due to injuries in 2018.  But he posted a 3.4 WAR season in his second All-Star season so I figured perhaps a change in scenery would help. I was wrong.

He was limited to 147 plate appearances in 36 games. His April in which he hit .156 with just one home run and BAbip of .181 was a cause of frustration for Tigers fans in which they had a decent start to the season.

If there are any players you would like to add, please leave a comment below.