Rosters are due to decrease and as the Detroit Tigers’ regulars get healthy, there will be significant turnover with the big league club
As a part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the player’s association and the league agreed to expand MLB active rosters from 26 to 28 players to allow their pitchers to stretch out and account for any injuries that might take place due to the shortened spring training. For the Detroit Tigers, though, it will likely mean more than a couple of roster moves.
At the same time rosters compress, they’ll likely have some help that will be ready to step into a role on the big league club. Andrew Chafin, who was signed to a two-year deal in the offseason, is making progress and is believed to be back toward the end of April. Additionally, Michael Pineda, who is also a new signee and had to start in Toledo to build up his arm strength due to visa issues, might only be another Triple-A start away from joining Detroit.
Those two will be surefire additions at some point, but there could be others, too. Wily Peralta was signed to a minor league deal and is taking Pineda’s same approach in the minor leagues right now. While he isn’t required to eventually come up, there is an argument to be made for Peralta in the bullpen over some of their current arms.
Likewise, Derek Hill will return at some point from his hamstring strain sustained in spring training, but it remains unclear if the Detroit Tigers would prefer to have Hill as part of their outfield depth over someone like Victor Reyes, who is with the club already and is off to a fine .286/.444/.571 start over five games.
Another option to squeeze Hill in would be to designate catcher Dustin Garneau, which would allow Haase to take over backup catching duties to allow for more Hill at-bats. This would come as a mild surprise, though, as the Tigers tendered Garneau a contract before the Hill injury, and Hinch likes the flexibility of having three catchers on the roster.
Surprisingly, though, this is only the first wave of possible additions they could make. Riley Greene might be a June or July addition, and the club has already announced that Greene will be the everyday center fielder upon his return from a fractured foot. Additionally, the club remains fairly quiet on relief arm Kyle Funkhouser, who is certainly out for the rest of the month with a shoulder strain. If Funkhouser can get healthy, he’s yet another addition to the bullpen.
Between the two-man compression and their two MLB additions, that’s at least four players currently on the active roster who may not be around by the end of the month. To find the odd men out, the bullpen is the first place to look. As it was originally planned, Jacob Barnes, Jason Foley, Drew Hutchison, Elvin Rodriguez, and Will Vest were on the outside looking in. Rosters are now limited to 13 pitchers and 13 position players, which would leave an eight-man bullpen.
It’s assumed that Tyler Alexander will shift to the bullpen once Pineda is ready. If Chafin is also ready around the same time, it would put seven in the bullpen: Gregory Soto, Andrew Chafin, Alex Lange, Michael Fulmer, Joe Jimenez, Rony Garcia, and, Tyler Alexander; leaving one spot for the aforementioned fivesome of Barnes, Foley, Hutchison, Rodriguez, and Vest — and that assumes the club wouldn’t prefer Wily Peralta over those five.
The bullpen has weathered the storm in many ways, still ranking 14th in the league in team-ERA according to covers.com; but this possible added depth would offer more options for manager A.J. Hinch late in games.
The Detroit Tigers could stand to improve in the pitching department. The good news is that most of the improvements can be made with a combination of eventual promotions and health — with more help on the way later this summer.