Detroit Tigers: Analyzing 2023 arbitration salary projections

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 28: Third baseman Jeimer Candelario #46 of the Detroit Tigers throws a grounder hit by Hunter Dozier of the Kansas City Royals to first but cant make the out during the sixth inning at Comerica Park on September 28, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 28: Third baseman Jeimer Candelario #46 of the Detroit Tigers throws a grounder hit by Hunter Dozier of the Kansas City Royals to first but cant make the out during the sixth inning at Comerica Park on September 28, 2022, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Tigers have several players eligible for salary arbitration in 2023

Yesterday, MLB Trade Rumors released its salary arbitration projections for the 2023 season. The Detroit Tigers have 12 players eligible for arbitration, making for even more tough decision for Scott Harris.

Salary arbitration usually kicks in for a player after about two years of MLB service time. The team and the player have until early December to agree to terms on next season’s contract. If they don’t, they head to arbitration, where the player’s salary is left up to a judge.

Arbitration gives the players an opporunity to make closer to what they think they’re worth, but the team can also opt to not offer a player a contract for the following season, often called “non-tendering.”

For this piece, we’ll go over every player and their projections from MLB Trade Rumors and see whether or not we think it’s realistic, or if the Detroit Tigers will even tender a contract for that player. We’ll go in alphabetical order by last name. So without further ado, let’s get started.

Tyler Alexander- $1.6 million

This seems about right for Alexander. He’s bounced around between the bullpen and the rotation the last couple of years, and has become a valuable part of the Tigers pitching staff. He can eat up innings in a pinch.

There’s been some talk that the Tigers could non-tender Alexander, but I think he’s too valuable as an innings eater to let go. Plus he fits the Scott Harris mantra of “dominating the strike zone” as a low-walks guy.

Jeimer Candelario- $7 million

Oh boy, we’re getting this one out of the way early. Candelario is projected to be the Tigers most expensive arbitration-eligible player. This is his last year before he becomes a free agent, so it makes sense that his number is higher than the rest. But still, $7 million is a lot for a guy that was a below-replacement level player this season by fWAR.

I could see Scott Harris keeping Jeimer around for another year because he has fit the profile in the past. A gaps-hitter with good plate discpline to the tune of a 10-11% walk rate would do quite nicely at the hot corner.

But he wasn’t either of those things in 2022. He was a shell of what he once was, and it transferred over to the defensive side of the ball as well. I think it would be best if the Tigers simply non-tendered Jeimer Candelario and explored other options at third base.

Harold Castro- $2.6 million

Of all the fringe-MLB guys the Detroit Tigers have been trotting out the past couple years, I think Hittin’ Harold has the best chance to stick around simply because he can put bat to ball. He may never walk and chase a ton, but his contact skills are second-to-none. Plus, A.J. Hinch seems to like him.

Harold also has the benefit of having an option left after this season. I think the Tigers would go ahead and pay the $2.6 million in this case.

Willi Castro- $1.7 million

As for the other Castro, I really hope we’re done with pretending that he’s good, despite the fact that he had a higher WAR than Harold in 2022. He can’t hit, and doesn’t have a defensive home. I know that Hinch seems to like him too, for whatever reason, but the Willi Castro experiment needs to end. Non-tender.

Jose Cisnero- $2.2 million

Cisnero is an interesting case. He missed roughly half the season due to injury, but has been one of the more reliable bullpen arms for the Detroit Tigers over the past couple years. This will also be his last year before free agency, during which he will turn 34.

Cisnero struggled with his command in 2022, as his walk rate skyrocketed. Still, he had just a 1.08 ERA in 25 IP, though his xERA of 3.91 an xFIP of 5.09 suggest there was a lot of luck involved.

If he can get that shoulder healthy, he can still be a huge piece out of that bullpen. Give him the $2.2 million and call it a day.

Kyle Funkhouser- $800k

Oh yeah, Kyle Funkhouser is still here. I’ll keep this one short. Last year was plagued by injuries for him, and $800k is a drop in the bucket. Give it to him and hope that he comes back healthy.

Rony Garcia- $1 million

Another somewhat interesting one, Garcia has also bounced around between the bullpen and the rotation. Because he lacks a consistent third pitch, I don’t think he’s a starter long term.

However, he showed some promise as a reliever. I think they can keep him around in a middle relief role.

Drew Hutchison- $1.8 million

You have to tip your cap to Drew Hutchison. It seemed like his career was all but over, being DFA’d multiple times during the season. But he kept coming back, and he did an admirable job in 2022. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but with so many uncertainties in the rotation next year, I don’t think it would be that far-fetched to see the Tigers bring him back as an insurance policy.

Joe Jimenez- $2.2 million

Joe Jimenez completely reinvented himself in 2022, limiting the walks and becoming a force on the mound. They should absolutely pay the 27-year-old—maybe even extend him.

Austin Meadows- $4 million

Let me start this section by saying this: Austin Meadows will be fine. 2022 was a disaster for him, but it was a disaster for the entire team. There’s no reason for fans to think the Detroit Tigers should cut bait with him. His at-bats were still very solid prior to everything going south. There’s nothing in his history that suggets he can’t go back to being the 25-homers-a-year guy he was in Tampa.

Victor Reyes- $2.2 million

I’m sorry, $2.2 million is too much for Victor Reyes. I know it sounds like I’m penny-pinching, but Akil Baddoo offers more upside at a far cheaper price as a fourth outfielder.

Gregory Soto- $3.1 million

We end with a spicy one. This is Soto’s first year of arbitration, and he’s due for a hefty raise. He made just $722k in 2022, and this would take him over the $3 million mark. Given this, and Soto’s struggles with control, I think he’s a prime candidiate to be traded this offseason.

Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter have to have tried everything with Soto to try to get him to throw strikes consistently. He’s an incredibly live arm with a violent delivery and menacing presence on the mound. If he could just throw strikes, he could be one of the most dominant closers in the game.

But he can’t. He doesn’t dominate the strike zone. So while I think he’ll be tendered a contract, I also think he’ll be on the move this offseason.

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