Detroit Tigers News

Hitters Detroit Tigers Could Target in Free Agency

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - APRIL 15: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners at bat against the Houston Astros during the sixth inning at T-Mobile Park on April 15, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. All players are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - APRIL 15: Mitch Haniger #17 of the Seattle Mariners at bat against the Houston Astros during the sixth inning at T-Mobile Park on April 15, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. All players are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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No Major League Baseball team could have sustained the injuries the Detroit Tigers have in the first two months of the season and remained a viable playoff contender.

Those injuries have decimated the Tigers’ starting pitching rotation, and weakened the bullpen and the outfield. Even free agent star shortstop Javier Baez has missed significant time, which may have contributed to his putrid offensive start.

Detroit is 14-26 entering Monday’s game with the Minnesota Twins. With no clearcut timetable for the return of Casey Mize, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Manning, Michael Pineda, and Riley Greene, among others, a massive turnaround for the Tigers is unlikely at best.

Which leaves fans in the position of thinking about the 2023 season. The questions of how the Tigers should move forward will be shaped by what happens the remainder of this season.

By then, most of the injured should have returned and had a chance to play. If some don’t, say Mize’s injury requires Tommy John surgery, Al Avila or the new general manager will have some decisions made for him.

For the sake of this article, however, let’s assume the pitching staff returns intact for next season and even adds a healthy Spencer Turnbull. Improving the starting lineup would then become the focus and a combination of trades and free agent signings will be needed to kickstart things in the right direction.

Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners is the kind of productive hitter the Detroit Tigers so desperately need in their lineup.  (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners is the kind of productive hitter the Detroit Tigers so desperately need in their lineup.  (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

There’s good news and bad news about this off-season’s free agent crop as listed by MLB.com. Outside of Aaron Judge, there are no superstar hitters. But there are a number of position player free agents who could help, such as Seattle outfielder Mitch Haniger.

Let’s take a look at the Detroit Tigers position by position and see what the situation is:

Detroit Tigers Infield Targets

Tucker Barnhart is the current starter at catcher and will be a free agent at season’s end. As expected, his offensive output has been meager with no homers, only four runs batted in, and a slash of .262/.303/.298. Jake Rogers is expected to return next season and will likely claim the starting role.

At $7.5 million, Barnhart is too expensive for a backup catcher.  The Tigers will likely stick with an internal candidate, Eric Hasse, to fill the job.

Over at first base, Spencer Torkelson is the present and future of the position for the Detroit Tigers. Defensively, he has played well, saving Javier Baez numerous throwing errors by scooping throws out of the dirt.

The rookie has struggled at the plate, but appears to be coming out of his funk with a couple of doubles and a home run last week. Harold Castro and Jonathan Schoop are capable of filling in when Torkelson needs a break.

Theoretically, guys like Eric Hosmer (opt-out) and Anthony Rizzo (player option) could be brought in to play a little first base and DH. But the Tigers have needs elsewhere and it’s also very unlikely the club will push Miguel Cabrera out of his job at DH.

Unless he gets extremely hot between now and the trading deadline, Schoop will likely be back at second base. He has a player option for 2023 at $7.5 million and will no doubt exercise it.

The free agent market’s biggest potential names are at shortstop. Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts have opt-out options after the season. Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson are outright free agents.

As mentioned earlier, Baez is the Tigers shortstop for the foreseeable future. Sure, he could be moved to second base to accommodate one of the big names. But Correa, Bogaerts, and Turner all figure to make north of $20 million per year. It seems far-fetched that Detroit would pay close to $50 million for a keystone combination.

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario is arbitration-eligible in 2023. The free agent market for third is weak with players well past their prime, such as Justin Turner and Evan Longoria, and utility players.

Detroit Tigers Outfield Targets

Here’s where the Detroit Tigers will probably try to make a dent in free agency. Robbie Grossman is a free agent after the season and it’s likely the club will try for an offensive upgrade.

Assuming Austin Meadows and Riley Green claim two of the starting jobs, a corner slot will be open. By now, both fans and Tigers’ brass have seen enough of Derek Hill, Victor Reyes, and Daz Cameron to know they’re not viable candidates for a full-time job. Two free agent possibilities are Haniger and Andrew Benintendi. Both are making less than $8 million this season and will see pay bumps in the open market.

Signing Aaron Judge away from the New York Yankees is a tall, expensive order. Would Detroit Tigers owner Chris Ilitch break the bank for Judge? (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Signing Aaron Judge away from the New York Yankees is a tall, expensive order. Would Detroit Tigers owner Chris Ilitch break the bank for Judge? (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Haniger, 31, is off to a slow start this season but put up 39 homers and 100 RBI with Seattle a year ago, exactly the kind of production the Tigers so desperately need. Benintendi doesn’t hit for nearly as much power, but he profiles as a productive hitter with extra base power and a career OBP of .349.

If the Tigers really want to break the bank, Aaron Judge would be the guy. He almost assuredly with get a contract worth at least $350 million. It’s hard to envision owner Chris Ilitch making such a move, however.

dark. Next. Should Detroit Tigers fans be concerned about Javier Baez?

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