The Detroit Tigers have $25 million+ coming off the books for 2021. Assuming GM Al Avila can redistribute those funds, they can make some nice upgrades for next season
The Detroit Tigers have gotten their manager in AJ Hinch–a clear signal the club is going to make an effort to win more games in short order. Unfortunately, most of the prospect capital they’ve acquired over their rebuilding years under GM Al Avila has either underperformed or are not yet ready for the bigs, which leaves some holes on the roster.
The club will have several free agents on their way out, but most notably, Jordan Zimmermann. Signed in the 2015 offseason, Zimmermann never lived up to his expectations and track record he displayed with the Washington Nationals. Over his Tigers tenure, he would amass a 5.63 ERA and 4.83 FIP while averaging almost 11 hits per 9 innings pitched. Zimmermann earned $25 million in 2020 on his backloaded contract per Sportrac, so assuming ownership intends to continue the path of improvement, repurposing the roster is a requirement.
To be clear, this article is not designed to knock Zimmermann or argue he makes ‘too much money’ (whatever that means), but the fact of the matter is $25 million of salary in a free agent market which has been bearish on several players with options already may figure to play into Detroit’s hand. It is also a solid benchmark amount to which we can plausibly argue they will be able to spend. Last year’s free agents totaled about $20 million, so there is a chance they may even spend more this offseason, but let’s stick with Zimmermann’s number of $25 million for purposes of discussion.
Considering the plethora of needs of the club as well as the lack of a true crown jewel of the free-agent class save JT Realmuto, spreading the wealth seems like the most realistic route. MLB Trade Rumors typically does an excellent job with predicting dollars associated with free agents and their annual piece dropped just recently. For sake of objectivity, I will use their average annual value figures applied as a base to spend our $25 million.
Carlos Santana, $6 million
I wrote about the possibility of adding someone like Santana here; and the glaring need at the first base position continues to suggest someone like Santana will be signed as a one-year stopgap. His offensive profile is not what it once was, but he still takes a ton of walks and would provide some stability and reliability to a lineup that was decimated with injuries in 2020. At $6 million, Santana would be a bargain find.
Charlie Morton, $8 million
Counting on Matt Manning and Alex Faedo for 200 innings in a 162-game schedule is unfair considering the forearm strains they each dealt within 2020, resulting in a shutdown for both. Likewise, Michael Fulmer should not be penciled into a rotation spot himself. The AJ Hinch effect would be evident here, as Morton played for Hinch on the World Series-winning Astros in 2017. Although his brief 2020 numbers are a bit pedestrian, Morton would be a clear upgrade to what Ivan Nova offered last season for the Detroit Tigers.
Jackie Bradley Jr, $8 million
The stable of Christin Stewart, Victor Reyes, JaCoby Jones, and Travis Demeritte was not going to play on a team itching for a playoff spot. Bradley provides superb defense and above-average offensive production. At an $8 million price tag, it is a small price to pay. Jones’ injuries, although many times, not his fault, continue to suppress his impact. Having someone like Bradley with versatility in the outfield would provide insurance and legitimate versatility, not forcing players into roles out of necessity.
Mark Melancon, $4 million
Okay, so a broke my own rule of $25 million. But in my defense, there were no $3 million players listed! Melancon would offer a veteran bullpen arm to a club which has some exciting, but young players. Lifting the burden from the second-year guys like Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia is likely a good move, especially considering Joe Jimenez does not appear to be the closer of the future we had hoped for either.
While Melancon’s numbers were strong across 22.2 innings in 2020, his strikeout numbers were underwhelming, hinting at a possible regression next year.
Four upgrades for $26 million feels like a steal for the Detroit Tigers as the club would be able to address two positions of need as well as acquire some help both in the rotation in the bullpen. What would you do with $25 million this offseason? Let me know on Twitter @MCB_jakeboes.