It looks like the Detroit Tigers will be playing baseball soon.
Negotiations have been a bit of a roller coaster, and owners and the players have seemingly come close to agreement a few times before, but earlier today the MLBPA voted to accept the latest proposal from Major League Baseball.
Things began moving in a positive direction after the sides agreed to table talk of an international draft until late July. The owners still need to approve the deal, but that seems like a foregone conclusion. After that? Things could get absolutely wild:
We could see frenzied activity in all areas of the sport, but for our purposes the focus will be on free agency and trades. We expect the Detroit Tigers will be rushing to fill out their roster.
Their view of what they need probably doesn’t match ours, but here are three calls we would make immediately.
Detroit Tigers Call Number 1: Garrett Richards – RHP
The Detroit Tigers need more pitching. Adding Eduardo Rodriguez helps the pitching staff, but the organization’s starting pitching depth is woefully thin on experience, and the bullpen isn’t expected to be a strong suit for the club.
That’s where Garrett Richards comes into play. Richards turns 34 at the end of May, and last year marked the first time he hit the 80-inning mark in a season since 2015. Long noted for his elite spin rates, Richards was adversely affected by the crackdown on sticky stuff last year, and to compensate he tried to alter his pitch mix in the middle of the season.
That’s tough for anyone to do, and Richards’ performance understandably suffered. He owned a 3.23 ERA through 10 starts in April and May, but his ERA over the next 10 outings was an ugly 6.65, and the Red Sox moved him to the bullpen.
Moving to relief seemed to do the trick for Richards. As a starter his ERA was 5.22 and he struck out 17.3% of the batters he faced, but, in 18 relief outings covering 26.1 innings, his ERA dropped to 3.42 and his strikeout rate jumped to 24.8%.
There’s obvious risk here given Richards’ injury history and struggles as a starter last year, but for the Tigers he would represent an inexpensive investment — likely less than $8 million for one season — with a moderately high ceiling and a safe floor. Richards could be given the chance to start, where he still has mid-rotation ability, but if it doesn’t work out there he could easily move to the bullpen.