Detroit Tigers Roster: Nine Non-Tender Candidates

Sep 26, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd (48) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd (48) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Tigers have nine arbitration-eligible players who need to be tendered contracts by Wednesday at 8PM EST. Let’s take a closer look at them.

We’ll spare you the intrigue right now: unless there’s an injury we don’t know about, the Detroit Tigers are all but certain to tender offers to each of their nine eligible players.

That doesn’t mean their cases aren’t interesting to examine. On a purely statistical basis, one could argue that at least four of these players deserve to be cut.

But with a new coaching staff in town, and what will probably be a huge spike in games played in 2021, it behooves the Tigers to give these players another look. So let’s follow suit.

Matthew Boyd

Age on Opening Day: 30

Estimated Salary: $6.2 million

Matthew Boyd has been the Detroit Tigers’ most reliable innings-eater over the last four seasons, and that’s probably the biggest reason he’ll stay. He had that two-month stretch in 2019 when he looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he’s been awful ever since, and his career numbers are below-average. The Tigers are going to need innings, and perhaps Chris Fetter can help Boyd regain some of that magic from 2019.

Jeimer Candelario

Age on Opening Day: 27

Estimated Salary: $1.7 million

The most obvious “add” on this list, Jeimer Candelario was the best player on the Detroit Tigers last year. It’s probably not wise to expect him to continue producing at that level, considering the two years before. But if he comes close to his 2020 production, then the Tigers need to start seriously considering a contract extension.

José Cisnero

Age on Opening Day: 31

Estimated Salary: $900K

Another easy decision for the Detroit Tigers. Cisnero took a nice step forward with his control last year, and he ended up being the team’s most reliable reliever. Bullpen arms are notoriously unstable, and Cisnero is older than most arbitration-eligible pitchers, but he’s an absolute bargain.

Buck Farmer

Age on Opening Day: 30

Estimated Salary: $1.4 million

This one at least merits some consideration. Buck Farmer’s salary isn’t prohibitive, and he was the team’s most reliable bullpen arm in 2019, but there were some very concerning signs last year. Small sample issues apply, but Farmer’s strikeout rate took a huge tumble, and perhaps most concerning, his velocity dropped by nearly 2 mph. It’s probably not enough to cut him, but if there are underlying issues we may see the Detroit Tigers part ways with their 2nd longest tenured player.

Michael Fulmer

Age on Opening Day: 28

Estimated Salary: $2.8 million

If the Detroit Tigers were only making decisions based on 2020, then Fulmer would be an obvious non-tender. He was simply awful last year, ranking dead last in ERA and FIP among pitchers with at least 10 starts. But of course there’s a lot more to it. Fulmer returned from multiple surgeries and used a new delivery to reduce stress on the affected body parts. There are some reasons for optimism in 2021, and we can always hope Chris Fetter works some magic, but it seems likely Fulmer’s long-term future is in the bullpen.

Niko Goodrum

Age on Opening Day: 29

Estimated Salary: $1.6 million

Brian took a good look at Niko Goodrum’s case just the other day. The Detroit Tigers still don’t really know what kind of player Niko Goodrum is, which is odd considering he’s been with the team for three seasons. For two years he was a roughly league-average hitter who played all over the diamond, and then last year he stopped making contact, but graded out as one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. A.J. Hinch hinted Goodrum may return to his super-utility role next year, but perhaps the most confounding aspect of Goodrum’s game is that he grades out negatively at every position but shortstop. In any event, the Tigers and Hinch seem poised to help Goodrum find his identity in 2021.

Joe Jiménez

Age on Opening Day: 26

Estimated Salary: $1.4 million

Brian looked into Jiménez too. If the Detroit Tigers were serious contenders they would probably have to think hard about parting ways with Jiménez. He’s a great story, for sure. An undrafted free agent who carves his way through the minors and earns an All-Star nod in his first full season in the bigs? That’s almost movie material. But at some point production has to matter, and unfortunately Joe Jiménez has bad numbers. In fact, since his great first half in 2018, he owns the worst ERA among all MLB relievers with at least 100 IP, by a substantial margin. Jiménez is still young, his fastball shows great spin, and there’s always the Fetter Factor, but Detroit Tigers fans may soon need to accept Joe Jiménez isn’t a good MLB pitcher.

JaCoby Jones

Age on Opening Day: 28

Estimated Salary: $2.2 million

For the second year in a row JaCoby Jones had what looked like a breakout year cut short by an unlucky injury. Jones hit five home runs and four doubles in his first 13 games, but then just five extra-base hits in his next 17 outings before breaking his hand. Last year’s campaign may have been a mirage, but unfortunately Jones didn’t get the chance to prove it one way or the other. Jones seems to have settled in as an average defender in center field, and his speed numbers took a dramatic tumble last year. In a perfect world he’d probably be a 4th outfielder, but he sticks because the Detroit Tigers don’t have any better options.

Daniel Norris

Age on Opening Day: 27

Estimated Salary: $3.0 million

Daniel Norris is seemingly the poster boy for unfulfilled promise. He’s a tremendous athlete who was a highly touted prospect and showed terrific stuff early in his career. But since being traded to the Detroit Tigers in 2015 he got cancer, suffered multiple injuries, saw his stuff regress, and switched from the rotation to the bullpen several times. He finally seemed to settle in as a reliever last year, eventually becoming a valuable member of the bullpen. And yet, with so many innings to cover next year, and the new coaching regime in town, we may see Norris get another chance to start.