Offseason Options for the Detroit Tigers

Check out Daniel Pardi’s 2022 Season Review of the Tigers here.

Image: Kelley L Cox / USA TODAY Sports

House Cleaning

Longtime Tigers General Manager Al Avila was fired on August 11th, and for many Tiger fans, that was the only cleaning of the house that needed to be done. For nearly a decade, Avila produced lackluster draft classes and whiffed on expensive free agents. It was time for a change.

On September 19th, Detroit hired former San Francisco Giants General Manager Scott Harris as their new President of Baseball Operations. Even with many of Avila’s long-tenured buddies also having been shown the door, Harris has a lot of work to be done with about 50 players orbiting the 40-man roster.

Soon after this World Series is over, Detroit will quickly move players off the 60-day IL, tender or non-tender arbitration-eligible players, and those that are squeezed off the 40-man roster will be DFA’d. A lot of these moves will need to be made given the bloat that came with several late-season call-ups.

Free Agents

The lone position player free agent for Detroit, catcher Tucker Barnhart, played miserably in what should be his only season wearing the Olde English D. I did predict Tucker to be traded for by the Tigers, but I did not expect him to be as bad as he was. 

Not only did the bat fade in 2022, as he finished with a 64 OPS+, but his once elite defense fell off a cliff. He’s far from the two-time Gold Glover he was, and while he was previously in the top half of MLB framers, he’s now below average in that department, ranking in the 38th percentile, per Baseball Savant.

Lefty Daniel Norris, in his return to Detroit, fared okay with a 3.45 ERA and 4.68 FIP, but entering his age-30 season, and a new regime looking to clean out the old’s acquisitions, it doesn’t make sense to keep the Van Man around. 

Drew Hutchison somehow threw 105.1 innings of 4.53 ERA ball for the Tigers this year, even though he was granted free agency by Detroit twice during the middle of the season. They just can’t quit him! They should.

I thank pitcher Drew Carlton for his long service in the depths of the farm system, but there’s nothing he’s shown to keep him around.

Injured List Moves

Detroit currently has nine players on the 60-day IL, and seven are pitchers. They all have to be DFA’d, or placed on the 40-man, after the World Series. Spencer Turnbull and catcher Jake Rogers, who are both returning from Tommy John surgery, will be available for the start of the season, while former franchise savior Casey Mize, who just underwent TJ, will be missing for all of 2023.

Ace pitcher Tarik Skubal will most likely miss the start of 2023 after having flexor tendon surgery at the end of the season. It’s likely that Matt Manning will pitch at the beginning of the year, but there are no guarantees. 

Beau Brieske pitched well before being shut down towards the end of the year and will be back for Spring Training. Rony Garcia and Kyle Funkhouser should also be ready for 2023, but they could find themselves on the bubble with so many players involved with the 40-man roster construction.

Austin Meadows just had a rough time this year, suffering from COVID, vertigo, and Achilles tendinitis at different points in the season. He took September off for mental health recovery, and everyone is hopeful that he’ll be feeling better for 2023.

Options to be Executed

It’s been reported that second baseman Jonathan Schoop plans to opt in to his $7.5 million player option for 2023. It’s bittersweet for Tiger fans given that Schoop is one of the best defenders in baseball (and was robbed of a Gold Glove), but he’s also the worst offensive player in the league (literally).

It’ll be the last year of his deal that was signed after his third straight season (2021) with an OPS+ above 100. If he can just get close to that number in 2023, instead of being 40% below league average with the bat, Schoop could be the most valuable player for Detroit next season. It goes without saying that that is not a high bar to clear at this point.

With the option-filing deadline five days after the end of the World Series, nobody knows if Andrew Chafin will opt in or out of his $6.5 million player option. On the one hand, a reliever in his mid-thirties who lives only a few hours away from Detroit looking at that paycheck would opt in, right? Possibly not. 

Chafin is one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball, and that number would be a bargain for Detroit. In a landscape where many top-tier relievers get paid above $10 million in open free agency, Chafin could see a bigger payday. Additionally, top relievers on bad teams are a weird fit, and he would probably want to be fighting for a playoff spot in September instead of a top draft pick.

This situation should be monitored closely because Detroit has a severe lack of quality left-handed pitchers throughout the organization, outside of Gregory Soto.

Arbitration Eligible Players

The Tigers have 12 arbitration eligible players this offseason (really only 11 after Drew Hutchison was waived), and they fall into three categories: guys you want to keep, guys you could live without, and guys who you can’t keep around much longer. Let’s start with some of the easier names.

Austin Meadows deserves to stick around as one of the only valuable bats in the Tigers lineup. He’s bad on defense, but with an arb estimate of only around $4 million, he’s worth it. Joe Jimenez finally returned to his All-Star form in 2022, and he can allow the bullpen to continue to be a team strength with Detroit committing to only $2.6 million. Finally, Gregory Soto, the Tigers’ lone All-Star this season (based on performance), has two more years of team control after this one, and the Tigers would be wise to keep the lefty flamethrower around for only $3.1 million.

The Tigers have a gaping hole at third base if they choose to let Jeimer Candelario walk, but it could be argued that they would still have an offensive black hole at the position in 2023 if he was retained. All indicators would point to a player who has gotten numerous chances with the organization being shown the door after this new regime has been ushered in, as well as the fact that Detroit would have to pay him around $7 million after a 2022 season triple slash of .217/.272/.261. The third-longest tenured active Tiger won’t return for a seventh season.

Two pitchers who Detroit is probably better off without paying include Rony Garcia and Jose Cisnero. Rony Garcia, a former Rule V pick from the Yankees, has always shown promise, but is constantly hurt, and wasn’t able to wow anyone in his extended audition in 2022, posting 0.1 WAR in 51.0 innings. 

Jose Cisnero being included in this discussion may be surprising to some, but entering his age-34 season after only throwing 25.0 innings in 2022, it doesn’t make sense to give the man $2.2 million given the current state of this team, and with so many younger right-handed ready to show what they’ve got.

Now we get to the maybes. Kyle Funkhouser didn’t pitch at all in 2022, but could be a good long reliever for Detroit based on his 2021 performance. Money is the primary driver in the decision to keep him around, however, as Funk is only projected to receive $800,000 in arbitration, which is slightly more than the minimum salary. I think the former first rounder deserves one last chance.

The Castros, both Willi and Harold, have been a fixture in the Tigers’ organization since Willi was acquired for Leonys Martin at the 2018 deadline. However, the fan favorite pair may be broken up this offseason. 

Harold Castro is probably my favorite player in MLB, but it’s not because he’s good. It’s because he’s stuck around the bigs being as bad as he is. He was one of the best offensive players for Detroit in 2022, hitting for a 98 OPS+, but he finished with negative overall value because he is simply one of the ten worst defenders in baseball anywhere you put him, finishing with an Outs Above Average in the lowest percentile for the second straight season. If the Avila regime was still in place, I could see Harold coming back, but I don’t see Scott Harris paying a defective player $2.6 million.

Willi Castro, on the other hand, should be kept. Finishing 2022 in the top five in team batter WAR after a disastrous 2021, Willi has shown enough with his cannon for an arm that it’s probably worth it to give him one more year to see if his bat can finally emerge. He can play nearly every position on the diamond, and entering his age 26 season, there’s certainly more room for him to grow. His estimate is only $1.7 million.

Victor Reyes is another offensive player that is up for arbitration, but if we’re keeping Willi, that probably makes him expendable as another switch-hitting corner outfielder. I think that Reyes is in the position that Castro will probably be in one year from now, as both players have been given the requisite number of chances to prove they’re big league material, but with the lack of Major League-ready talent in the organization, there’s unfortunately still a debate about whether or not to keep them. $2.2 million is too rich for a player whose OPS has fallen every season since his debut year.

Finally, in keeping with the theme of players who aren’t too good, but the Tigers could benefit from keeping them around because they have no one else, Tyler Alexander! The ideal Tyler Alexander would be great for the Tigers to see consistently, but it just hasn’t been there. For every quality start with a low number of hits allowed, he’ll get blown up in a long relief appearance. However, he’s a rare lefty in this organization, and he isn’t totally awful. That’s enough to stick around, and for $1.6 million, it’s worth the gamble.

All in all, I would tender half of the arbitration eligible players Detroit has, which makes sense after this abysmal season. These moves will open roster spots for those that need to be elevated or placed back on the 40-man roster, and it will shave off about $17 million from the payroll, which I know looks good to ownership.

Rule V Additions

Out of all the players in the organization eligible for the Rule V Draft this December, five players stand out as being worth it to promote to the 40-man roster, but only three are good enough for Detroit to invest in their protection. 

Parker Meadows, Austin’s younger brother, had not played above average offense since being drafted in 2018. In 489 plate appearances at AA Erie this season, Parker hit for a 123 wRC+ while playing above average center field defense. At 23, he’s too talented to be lost to another organization, but he doesn’t have an immediate path to the big leagues given Detroit’s glut of lefty outfielders. I think he still deserves to be protected.

The other eligible bat, Andre Lipcius, also hit well in the high minors, with a 130 and 124 wRC+ at AA and AAA, respectively. If he wasn’t right-handed, he probably would have a spot on the 40-man, but guys like Ryan Kriedler and Kody Clemens rank ahead of him. It would be okay to see him left unprotected, and if he stays with the organization, I would not be entirely surprised to see him up close to the end of the year.

The three eligible pitchers, Zack Hess, Brendan White, and Reese Olson, all share the same trait of throwing the baseball with their right hand, which is overwhelmingly common in Detroit’s system. Hess is the best Rule V eligible reliever on the farm, but he’s almost 26 years old. White and Olson are both starters at the minor league level, and are 24 and 23 years old, respectively. 

The two younger players are more valuable to the Tigers and to other teams, so they need to be elevated. Statistically, Olson and White also vastly outperform Hess given that their FIPs hover around three, while Hess’ last full season number in 2021 was closer to five. The calculus is fairly simple; Luis Castillo and Angel de Jesus should be waived to make way for these valuable youngsters.

Victims of the Roster Crunch

The players that will be designated for assignment are fairly straightforward, and to keep it brief, given the length of this project, I’ll be pretty cursory in my analysis.

Zack Short, Daz Cameron, and Miguel Diaz are all out of minor league options, and aren’t good enough to give guaranteed spots on the Major League roster. Elvin Rodriguez was one of the worst pitchers in MLB after only throwing 29.2 innings, and even though he’s young, I can’t justify keeping this non-lefty on the 40-man.

Brendon Davis and Josh Lester are both valuable organizational guys who were both given cups of coffee after their years of minor league service. Neither are good enough to take up 40-man spots.

Finally, three right-handed pitchers will be waived in this roster crunch. I’d love to keep Bryan Garcia, Luis Castillo, and Angel de Jesus around, so hopefully they stick in the organization.

After these DFA’s, and all the other moves, including the assumption that Andrew Chafin will stick around (since publishing, it’s been reported that Chafin will opt out), the Tigers would sit at 36 players on the 40-man roster, leaving room for four outside additions.

Potential Trade-aways

If I was leading this offseason for Detroit, I would field trade calls on Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez, the headliners of last season’s free agency class. Both players have had their problems on and off the field in their first year as Tigers, and it kind of seems that a change of scenery could already be necessary.

Both these players should be on the roster in 2023, both because they probably wouldn’t fetch any great return without Detroit eating substantial amounts of salary, and they should be given an opportunity to prove themselves in only the second year of their deals. Baez does have an opt-out after next season.

Lineup After In-House Moves

Major League Lineup (10)

C – Jake Rogers (R), Eric Haase (R)

1B – Spencer Torkelson (R)

2B – Jonathan Schoop (R)

SS – Javier Baez (R)



CF – Riley Greene (L)

LF – Kerry Carpenter (L)

DH – Austin Meadows (L), Miguel Cabrera (R)

OF – Willi Castro (S)


There aren’t many surprises with this being the possible 2023 Opening Day lineup the Tigers would roll out, save for the open spots. Miguel Cabrera not retiring throws a wrench into whatever AJ Hinch has planned because it essentially subtracts a roster spot, given that Austin Meadows is as close to a DH-only as you can get.

I don’t see Detroit spending more money on the catcher position after the failed Barnhart experiment, and with Jake Rogers returning, Eric Haase can be an extra outfielder as well as the backup catcher after being one of the only plus bats on the team in 2022.

Hopefully Kerry Carpenter and Riley Greene can build on their promising debut seasons, while bounce back campaigns are needed offensively from Schoop, Baez, and Spencer Torkelson. The two Tiger first overall picks resulting from the mid-2010s tear down are coming dangerously close to busting if the next two years show them continue to scuttle.

The holes at third base, right field, and the additional utility spot will need to be filled by outside additions because there are simply not enough proven bats in this organization to field a quality major league team. The younger guys will need to prove themselves by outperforming veterans.

Players on the 40-man (7):  C Michael Papierski (S), INF Ryan Kreidler (R), INF Kody Clemens (L), INF Jermaine Palacios (R), INF Luis Garcia (R), OF Akil Baddoo (L), OF Parker Meadows (L)

Papierski, Palacios, and Garcia were all recent waiver claims by Detroit that fill depth needs at catcher and in the middle infield. Returning prospects, who are soon to be graduated, Ryan Kreidler and Kody Clemens will probably see a good bit of Major League action this season, with Clemens needing to produce to stay up. If Akil Baddoo cannot achieve the potential he flashed in 2021, I predict Parker Meadows to surpass him in the backup outfield pecking order.

Potential Lineup Additions

Third Base (1)

FA Jace Peterson

Not to bash him, but 32 year old Jace Peterson is far from what the Tigers need for this iteration of the team, but he’s possibly their only option to fill the hole at third base with a live body. They could sign Brandon Drury, but he’s a righty that would be plugged into an infield filled with them. Plus, whatever contract Drury signs will probably end up being a bad one, given the nature of his recent breakout at 30 years old.

Peterson has been an average offensive player in Milwaukee the past three seasons while offering well above average defense at third base. After a 2.2 fWAR season in 2022, I think that a one year deal at anything around $5-7 million would be a good contract for the Tigers to tender.

BOS Rafael Devers and HOU Alex Bregman

This is where we exit the realm of possibility to plausibility. The Tigers could trade for either of these players, but will they? These two guys’ resumes go without saying, so we’ll talk about why they’d be traded from Boston and Houston. They are both free agents after the 2024 season, and contract extension talks are soon to be underway. Rafael Devers is apparently far apart from the number Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom wants, and the Astros and Alex Bregman have yet to release any details about their potential talks.

After Miguel Cabrera’s contract comes off the books after this season, these two players’ salaries could easily replace that albatross. Not that either’s extension would be a bad contract, but that money would finally be available. The two young stars align nicely with Detroit’s core of prospects, and both Boston and Houston have shown they are okay with letting go of their own (see George Springer and Mookie Betts). Make the move to avoid the revolving door of mediocre third basemen!

Right Field (1)

FA Andrew Benintendi

Andrew Benintendi has only ever played left field in his career, but he’s the only decent free agent option in the outfield the Tigers could afford, so he’s here. Benny authored a career resurgence in the cavernous Kauffman Stadium before being traded to the Yankees. The similar outfield dimensions at Comerica Park would be good for an outfielder defender with above average range and a decent arm. If he can hit like he did in Kansas City, he would be a welcomed offensive addition as well.

FA Jackson (Clint) Frazier

This is a complete dart throw, but Jackson Frazier (who I thought was Clint’s brother before finding out that they’re the same person) is the only dirt-cheap free agent right fielder that isn’t ancient. There isn’t much to this signing other than banking on Frazier’s previous success in 2019 and 2020 with the Yankees. He struggled in both AAA Iowa and with the Chicago Cubs this season. A Spring Training invite given to a right-handed outfielder with Major League experience is something the Tigers desperately need, though.

SFG Austin Slater

Trading for Austin Slater is the move that the Tigers need to make. Since writing about the San Francisco Giants this season, I have fallen in love with his profile as a complete right fielder. He patrolled center field at Oracle Park this season, but would be excellent in Kaline’s Corner with his 94th percentile Arm Strength.

Slater posted a 119 OPS+ in his second season being given more than 300 plate appearances in 2022. The Giants like to use him as a platoon player with lefty Mike Yastrzemski, but his splits aren’t too dramatic. The right-handed, multi-faceted outfielder is the number one player on my wishlist as a Tigers fan. He’s cheap, he’s only 30 years old, and he offers the defense, handedness, and steady bat that the Tigers’ outfield lacks. Hopefully the Giants sign Aaron Judge and are willing to ship Slater out.

Utility Player (1)

FA Carlos Santana

The Tigers need to add this first baseman/designated hitter on the wrong side of 35 who just posted a season with an OPS under .700. They already have one? His name is Miguel Cabrera? Santana is left-handed, though! The Tigers currently do not have any left-handed infielders outside of Kody Clemens and Brendon Davis. That’s not very good.

I’m going to write an extended profile of Carlos Santana later this Winter because he’s just been too good to post numbers this bad since the pandemic, but all you need to know is that he’ll be cheap, he’s a great leader, and there’s a good chance he bounces back with all of his peripheral batting metrics being in the top half of the league.

FA Rougned Odor

All these utility options I’m going to mention are lefty infielders who have underachieved with their bat. Rougned Odor fits snugly into that hole. The former Ranger fell off sharply from his 2021 resurgence (?) with the Yankees. He went from an Outs Above Average percentile at second base of 96th to ninth. 

Rougie’s had these types of regressive seasons before, and the optimism in his game lies in what he has shown on the field, as well as in the fact that he’s only 29. If he can return to form defensively, it would be very helpful to have Detroit field a platoon of Odor and Schoop at second base to extract an average player in the aggregate.

OAK Tony Kemp

Trading for Tony Kemp would be a little strange since the Tigers and A’s are both in similar positions, but the veteran can provide leadership and a steady glove wherever he fits in defensively. In his first season with more than 400 plate appearances, Kemp’s bat struggled. If he were to be acquired by Detroit, he would be the left-handed super utility to play only against right-handed pitchers.

Pitching Staff After In-House Moves

Major League Pitching Staff (12)

Starting Rotation

SP1 – LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

SP2 – RHP Spencer Turnbull 

SP3 – RHP Matt Manning

SP4 – LHP Joey Wentz

SP5 – RHP Beau Brieske


CL – LHP Gregory Soto

SU – RHP Joe Jimenez

SU – LHP Andrew Chafin

MR – RHP Alex Lange

MR – RHP Jason Foley


LR – LHP Tyler Alexander

LR – RHP Kyle Funkhouser

Without Mize and Skubal to start the year, Joey Wentz and Beau Brieske will slide up into the rotation. This wouldn’t be that bad, given how they both pitched last season. The return of Spencer Turnbull will give this rotation some veteran stability with Eduardo Rodriguez’s struggles and Matt Manning’s inexperience.

The bullpen will be headlined once again by Gregory Soto, Joe Jimenez, and hopefully Andrew Chafin. I wouldn’t be mad if Michael Fulmer somehow ended up back here as well, but given the surplus of righties, it would be a luxury pick-up.

The backend of Detroit’s bullpen will be interesting. Alex Lange and Jason Foley were both great surprises in their first full seasons, and will hopefully continue to be steady arms in 2023. Tyler Alexander and Kyle Funkhouser will return to their roles as swingmen, but they could easily be replaced by an addition, or by someone overperforming in the minors.

I’ve left a gap because this bullpen needs another lefty, and there is simply not one in the minor leagues to call up. They’ll need to sign someone to fill this role with the Tigers, as well as fill out Toledo with veterans on minor league deals.

Injured Players on the 40-man (2): RHP Casey Mize, LHP Tarik Skubal

Active Players on the 40-man (5): RHP Will Vest, RHP Alex Faedo, RHP Garrett Hill, RHP Reese Olson, RHP Brendan White

Mize and Skubal will both be placed back on the injured list once Spring Training begins, and they’ll be replaced on the 40-man, but for these five healthy pitchers left, there exists a common theme. How will you separate yourself from your teammates to be the go-to guy that comes up from Toledo after the first injury? To start the season, it will probably be Faedo, but he is far from a sure thing.

Potential Staff Additions

Left-handed Reliever (1)

FA Matt Moore and FA Joely Rodriguez

Matt Moore pitched well for Detroit in the ten innings he threw in 2019 before getting injured. The aging lefty is prone to giving up the long ball, so the deep outfield of Comerica Park suits him well. He could also provide long relief, with him being a former starter, in addition to being a traditional three-out reliever. 

Joely Rodriguez has long had the underlying metrics to be a dominant reliever, but has never seen it consistently be a reality. The Tigers could do worse than to take a shot on him. He’s really just an older Gregory Soto.

MIL Brent Suter, SFG Jarlin Garcia, and ARI Caleb Smith

Brent Suter is cool because he’s the new king of the fastpitch in MLB, throwing a pitch about every 13 seconds with the bases empty. He also does well inducing soft contact while throwing some of the league’s softest pitches. I really like him and want his kind of unique player on my team.

Caleb Smith is similar in profile to Suter, but not as effective. Another perk with these two guys is that they are also former starters that could pitch more innings than your regular reliever. Jarlin Garcia is aggressively average. He wouldn’t be in MLB if not for being left-handed.

What’s Going to Actually Happen?

First things first, I don’t expect the Tigers to swing for the fences and get Rafael Devers or Alex Bregman, though it would be funny to end up with the both the players offered in trade propositions for Michael Fulmer after his 2016 Rookie of the Year season (Baez and Bregman).

Until Scott Harris proves otherwise, I will operate under the assumption that the same constraints that Al Avila had will be levied against Harris. This team probably isn’t going to spend like they did in the 2005-2015 World Series window ever again.

However, I do expect Harris to be able to put together better free agent classes than Avila did. How could you fare worse than signing Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Pelfrey, Justin Upton, Jordy Mercer, Josh Harrison, and Tyson Ross, among others.

Shrewd, sabermetrically-informed deals are the way to operate for small market teams in this day and age, and that’s what I expect in the first offseason for Scott Harris. He’ll get his feet wet, but he won’t dive in until he lays his own foundation for this organization.

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4 replies

  1. This was a very good article! Just wanted to let you know that it was reported that Andrew Chafin will be declining his option.

  2. I have no respect for Scott Harris if he doesn’t release Miguel Cabrera. Yes, he is a legend in Detroit, but a terrible player in ALL aspects of the game at this stage of his career. Is he afraid of fan reaction ? I think fans would be supportive.
    We seem to disagree strongly about the merits of Cody Clemons. There is no way that he would be on my 40 man roster. He is awful.

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