The Detroit Tigers ought to take a long look at the recently-designated Kyle Garlick, who was removed from the Dodgers’ roster to make room for Mookie Betts.
At the outset of the offseason, Tigers General Manager Al Avila proclaimed a message fans have been longing to hear for what feels like eons: going forward, the major league team will be getting better. That’s hardly a feat, it’d almost be impressive to see them field a worse team than in 2019. But what exactly does that mean? Was Detroit going to be in play for mid-major free agents, perhaps building the beginnings of the offense that would carry them to contention?
The theme of this offseason for the Detroit Tigers has thus far been clear, and it hasn’t been geared toward the future. Avila has focused a great deal of his attention on stockpiling depth in the high minors, buttressing his group of outfielders, pitchers, and catchers. Though it isn’t a flashy course of action, it was a vital one after the meltdown that resulted in a Bobby Wilson reunion and allowing Ryan Carpenter over 40 innings of 9.30 ERA baseball.
Another depth option became available to Avila in the aftermath of the virtual soap opera of a trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. In order to make room for their new acquisitions, Los Angeles designated first baseman Tyler White and outfielder Kyle Garlick for assignment. White wouldn’t be a terrible pickup – he’s only one year removed from a tremendous campaign with the Houston Astros. How much of that was a mirage is a completely valid question in light the sign-stealing scandal that came to light in recent weeks and just how bad he was in 2019. Garlick, however, may present more of an opportunity for the Tigers.
Being selected with the 852nd overall pick in 2015 by a tremendously deep organization provided the perfect backdrop for Garlick to sneakily be one of the more prolific hitters in the minors over the last four years. He was a mammoth force in Triple-A last season, batting .314/.382/.675 over 81 games. That perfomance was 45 percent better than average according to wRC+, even in the game’s most offense-friendly environment.
At last, he was given the call to the bigs in mid-May and served as the Dodgers’ fourth outfielder for three months before being shuttled back down to the minors. His MLB perfomance was certainly respectable enough – slacking .250/.321/.521 with three bombs over 30 games. It would have been enough to earn serious consideration for a starting role on most clubs, but the Dodgers offense was simply too full. Now, he’s been squeezed off the 40-man roster and will almost certainly be claimed.
There’s absolutely no reason why the Tigers shouldn’t be the team who jumps at the opportunity.
Once a player is designated for assignment, his fate will be determined within 10 days. The organization may trade him, or else he will go to the team who claims him. If no one places a claim within the 10-day allotment, he is assigned to the minor leagues. The Dodgers have very little leverage in this situation, though, if they are contacted for a trade. They’re probably losing Garlick no matter what, and will likely be happy to recoup any value they can get. In other words, it won’t be hard to acquire him. A waiver claim is essentially free, and even if Detroit has to work out a trade to get their hands on him, the outfielder will come at virtually no cost.
It’s also not as though he doesn’t cut the mustard among currently rostered players on the Tigers 40-man. Among others, the team still retains shortstop Sergio Alcántara on their 40-man, who is already 23 years old and coming off a completely uninspiring campaign in Double-A. Garlick could easily bump one of several players off the depth chart without much heartburn.
And what of the outfielders the Tigers are bringing to camp? Again, it’s not as though the team would shed many tears over failing to roster the likes of Troy Stokes Jr, Jorge Bonifacio, Jake Robson, or Danny Woodrow because of Garlick.
In short, Garlick is exactly the kind of player the Tigers should be looking to add this offseason. He has legitimate offensive potential – an area where the organization lacks sorely. He’d add some intruigue to a group of corer outfielders that has grown somewhat stale. He’s not going to cost the team any significant sum in either payroll or prospect capital. He’s controllable for the next six seasons. If he works out, they snagged a solid major league piece for free. If he doesn’t, they won’t have lost anything in the process.