Detroit Tigers: 1 contract extension to make and 1 to avoid

May 16, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene (31) celebrates his
May 16, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene (31) celebrates his / Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
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Extension to avoid: Tarik Skubal

We aren’t necessarily picking on just Tarik Skubal here as, to be blunt, giving long-term deals to pitchers in general are notoriously risky. The Braves went ahead and did that with Spencer Strider last year, so it isn’t unprecedented to give a young pitcher an extension. However, pitchers are a lot more likely to get injured and/or have their production drop-off suddenly. Case in point, just ask the Nationals how they are feeling about the deals they are currently locked into with Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg.

Skubal is a clear example of this problem. He had Tommy John surgery while in college which isn’t immediately disqualifying given the recovery rates we have seen from TJS in recent years and his stuff when he is on the field is genuinely exciting. However, he then had to undergo surgery on his flexor tendon in 2022 and he is only now rehabbing from the injury. The laws of physics are decidedly not kind on pitchers’ bodies and given enough time, almost all of them have something come up.

You don’t have to look far for other examples just with the Tigers alone. Casey Mize is a former No. 1 overall pick and he dealt with shoulder inflammation in the minor leagues and had Tommy John and then back surgery last year that will keep him out until at least this fall. Matt Manning is also on the injured list after getting his foot broken by a comebacker. While that is a fluke thing, he also dealt with shoulder issues last season.

At the end of the day, all teams have to assume some level of risk here because you can’t just not have any pitchers of value. However, many of these guys, including Skubal, have a ton of team control left and it is probably best to see if any of them can demonstrate that they can navigate multiple major league seasons and stay healthy before considering signing up for more.

One way that a Skubal extension could make more sense from the Tigers’ perspective is if it was a very team friendly deal. However, with Scott Boras as his agent, that is extremely unlikely for that to happen.   

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