The baseball world is starting to rumble a bit as the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is today. It’s not from a big guy like Jesus Aguilar running the bags either but it’s time for the Detroit Tigers to make a move. The general sense is a fair amount of solid players will be cast adrift here in the first few weeks of baseball’s COVID-punished Hot Stove Season starts in earnest.
The Detroit Tigers are in a position to possibly take advantage of this opportunity at a discount price. These players will hit free agency once non-tendered and the paper-thin Tigers will have positions available to entice some players with the chance to gain a full-time job.
It won’t be known until 8 pm EST on Wednesday exactly who will be cut loose but there is widespread speculation that certainly seems to bring up the same candidates. There will some surprises most likely as well.
Players want to start. The Tigers have holes to fill. There are matches to be found. Will the following players get non-tendered and find Motown as a safe landing spot? Let’s see:
Jesus Aguilar, 30, 1B, RHB
Aguilar is a big slugger who was an All-Star in ‘18 with a 135 OPS+. Following a down year, he rallied in ‘20 to post a 120 OPS+. He’s a solid player who has done thump in his bat missing in Detroit. Aguilar might have the skill set however that Miami isn’t looking to invest $4M in which is what may help him back on the market. Detroit has first-base playing time available which could lead to a match.
Nomar Mazara, 25, RF, LHB
Mazara might get jettisoned mostly due to the scary-good lineup being assembled on the South Side.
If he does get cut loose, Mazara would become a starting player in Detroit. Getting Mazara would be a straight-up bet that his age allows him a chance at significant improvement. The Tigers’ outfield is very weak. A lefty batter like Mazara would be given a good chance at success. He’s young enough to breakthrough. He’s had more MLB playing time than most 25-year olds. Detroit could use a dose of the long ball and Mazara has shown the odd ability of consistent homer production with a run from ‘16-‘19 of homers like this: 20, 20, 20, 19. Worst case he’s going to hit .260 with 20 HR. In Detroit, since JD Martinez left a typical Mazara season is a big step forward.
Carlos Rodon, 27, RHP
Rodon is basically the left-handed Michael Fulmer. He looked like he had stud-potential after being drafted 4th overall but has had a terrible time staying healthy. Like Fulmer, Rodon’s comeback from Tommy John Surgery wasn’t good. Given his injury track record, the White Sox might not view his $5M possible deal in arbitration as worth keeping around. The Tigers should just bet on the pedigree, his age being well under 30, and hope new pitching coach Chris Fetter is a Svengali figure Rodon needs to unlock the ace-level potential he had at NC State. This is a low risk/high reward move.
There are other potential pitchers who will also be given their walking papers. Detroit should certainly consider Reynaldo Lopez, Jon Gray, Hansel Robles, and Corey Knebel if any of these guys are floating around at bargain prices.
There is also a chance of more established players being non-tendered such as the news breaking on Wednesday of Twins slugger Eddie Rosario hitting the market. Rosario would instantly be better be one of the Tigers’ top three or four offensive players. MCB’s Roger Castillo broke it all down on Rosario.
The Tigers should still be placing themselves firmly in the mix for the upper tier of the free-agent market. Their payroll is going to low enough for them to add a premium talent like George Springer and/or JT Realmuto to AJ Hinch’s roster. But the list of non-tendered players should also give them very economical chances to fill open spots as well. The Tigers should be identifying their targets and aggressively pursue them.