Detroit Tigers: Javier Baez to sign six-year $140 million contract

The Detroit Tigers have agreed to sign free-agent shortstop Javier Baez to a six-year $140 million contract.

The soon-to-be 29-year-old was a key cog in the Chicago Cubs lineup that bucked a 108-year championship drought. He also finished second in the 2018 MVP race after posting career highs in nearly every offensive category.

Throughout his eight-year career, Baez has established himself as an elite and flashy defender. In 2020, his stellar play led to the Gold Glove award. Tigers fans can also expect Baez to continue wreaking havoc for the opponent on the bases.

He’s also, however, still a free swinger. In 2021, Baez led major league baseball in strikeouts while also ranking 3rd in strikeout percentage. The Cubs sent their star infielder to the New York Mets just before the July trade deadline, where a new approach led to a reduced strikeout rate and increased walk rate.

Javier Baez signed a six-year $140 million contract with the Detroit Tigers
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Tigers fans had been loudly clamoring for Carlos Correa since the 2021 regular season. Yet, this move should not come as a surprise. General Manager Al Avila and owner Chris Illitch have already been on record saying they do not wish to pay a single player $300 million, and they didn’t.

At $140 million, the Tigers are still in the market for another bat or arm. Utility extraordinaire Chris Taylor is still available, in addition to left-handed slugger Kyle Schwarber.

On a larger budget, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Nick Castellanos wouldn’t be the most unrealistic moves in the world for a team that once boasted Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Justin Verlander all making over $20 million annually.

This move sets the Tigers up to begin their next championship window. Young phenoms Riley Green and Spencer Torkelson are expected to be lineup mainstays for the 2022 campaign. Pitchers Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize will also be off of any pitching restrictions.

The current CBA is set to expire Wednesday, which will likely freeze any further free agency deals for the time being.

Detroit Tigers: Tigers Sign Eduardo Rodriguez

The Detroit Tigers have signed left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez.

The former Red Sox pitcher inked a five-year deal with a player option after the second year. With incentives, the deal is valued at up to $80 million.

Rodriguez has been a model of consistency in his big league career, coming off another 30+ start season. In 2019, he finished sixth in the Cy Young award race, where he posted a career-high 203.1 innings.

As a result, the Red Sox will receive a compensatory draft pick, in addition, the Tigers will surrender their third-highest draft pick in 2022.

Where does he fit in the Tigers rotation?

Even with the innings limits removed from Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize, Eduardo Rodriguez will likely find himself anywhere between 2-4 in AJ Hinch’s rotation.

His repertoire includes a fastball that will sit around 93 mph, which he compliments well with a changeup around 85 mph, a cutter at 88 mph, and a slider at 82 mph.

Rodriguez is a strikeout savant who is coming off posting his career-best strikeout rate (10.6 per nine innings) while also among the league’s best at limiting hard contact. In addition, he also had the lowest walk rate of his career (2.7 per nine innings).

The lefty is poised to be a veteran presence in the young Tigers rotation despite being only 28 years old. He and Matthew Boyd are the most tenured starters on the Tigers…for now cough Justin Verlander.

This move is the Tigers’ second of the offseason after they traded for two-time Gold Glove
catcher Tucker Barnhart on November 3rd.

Tigers’ GM Al Avila has previously identified the strong need at improving the starting pitching this offseason, even placing it as a top priority.

Despite Tigers fans’ strong desire to hand a blank check to Carlos Correa before any other moves are made, this should come as no surprise after witnessing the Tigers select eight pitchers in the 2021 MLB Draft.

BREAKING: Detroit Tigers Acquire Tucker Barnhart

Credit: Ross D Franklin AP

The offseason is underway, and the Detroit Tigers have struck first as they acquired Tucker Barnhart. The Detroit Tigers have sent minor league prospect Nick Quintana to the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange for two-time Gold Glove award-winning catcher Tucker Barnhart.

The Tigers made the move in part due to Jake Rogers scheduled to miss the entire 2022 season. He will recover from Tommy John surgery.

Barnhart, an exceptional pitch framer, joins the Tigers after posting a 49.4% strike rate (Percentage of non-swinging strikes on the edge of the zone that were called ie: borderline) in 2021.

For comparison, Greyson Greiner led the Tigers with 48.5%. Notable higher than Eric Haase (44.7%), Jake Rogers (44.4%), and Dustin Garneau (43.3%).

Last season also saw Barnhart’s career-best in Runs from Extra Strikes, which converts strikes to runs saved, with a +5. No other catcher on the Tigers roster posted anything as a net positive.

Offensively, Barnhart won’t be a focal point of the order but will by no means be a hole in the lineup. At his position, his slash line of .247/.317/.368 as well as his 21 doubles and 100 strikeouts put him at league average.

What did exactly did the Tigers send away?

Nick Quintana was the Tigers second-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Quintana’s best-projected trait at the big league level was his power tool, notably to the pull side. Thus far in his pro career, Quintana found himself susceptible to high velocity and has found himself struggling to make contact.

It’s still very early in his pro career, but if the Tigers saw doubts in his development, they received an excellent return in getting a formidable backstop in Barnhart.

Trading for Barnhart is the first move of hopefully many for the Tigers, in what is going to be their most highly anticipated offseason in recent memory. Fans have been clamoring for Carlos Correa to reunite with his old manager, as well as bringing home beloved starter Justin Verlander.

2021-22 Detroit Tigers Offseason

Detroit Tigers Off-season
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Let’s take a look at the Detroit Tigers offseason. This offseason could be a huge one for the Tigers who have a core in place now with Greene, Torkelson, Mize, Skubal and Manning. They have some other interesting players and some solid veterans as well. They seem to be a step away from a winning season after taking a huge step in the right direction. After embracing a more analytical thinking along with a culture change under AJ Hinch and Chris Fetter. Here’s how I’d navigate their off-season if I were GM.

Free Agents

RHP Jose Urena

RHP Julio Teheran

LHP Derek Holland

RHP Erasmo Ramirez

RHP Wily Peralta

The Tigers are losing a bunch of veteran pitchers, which will be a position of need. None of these pitchers are good though. Yes Wily Peralta had a solid 2021, but his career has been inconsistent. There is a lot of better options out there. Urena and Holland supply some innings but overall are below average pitchers. And at this point in their careers without much room to go up. Teheran was a complete bust due to injury and only started one game for the Tigers. He was an All-Star once but he doesn’t have much going for him. His sinker as his only serviceable pitch at this point in his career. Ramirez was a roster filler and could be brought back on a minor league depth deal.

Trades/ Signings

Acquire OF Kevin Kiermaier from Tampa Bay Rays for 3B Isaac Paredes, OF Jake Robson

When you look at the Tigers, one thing they lacked big time last season was defense. In fact by many measures they were dead last. This includes defensive runs on FanGraphs which pegged the Tigers at over negative 60 runs. That is slightly more than 6 wins that the defense cost them. With a young pitching staff this should be a huge priority for the Tigers this off-season.

The Rays are looking to shed salary and Keirmaier is generational defensive outfielder that can mainly play center field. He can also play the corners with his great arm. He fits the park very well too as he has led the league in triples before and Comerica Park is the top park to hit triples in baseball. The Tigers wouldn’t have to give up a top prospect due to his $12 million salary. Paredes was at one point a borderline top 100 propsect and has shown good plate skills and done impressive things in the minors.

Paredes just doesn’t fit in the Tigers plans at this point it seems as Schoop will slide to second, Kreidler has seemingly passed him in favorability and Candelario was one of the best Tigers in 2020-21. He has an issue with bat speed and also has an inconsistent swing path which led to him having a very low average exit velocity, but he has power and plate discipline if he can do some bat speed training and work out the smaller intricacies in his swing and quiet down his hands.

Paredes would be a solid get for the Rays who could use him at third base with Joey Wendle as a trade candidate. Robson is a major league ready lefty that could step in and fill Kiermaier’s spot on the roster. He has good bat skills as well, with a more small ball and classic lead-off hitter approach. As he gets on base and he can flat out hit. I think for the salary relief the Rays would make a deal like this. The Tigers would improve their outfield defense overnight.

Acquire IF Euribiel Angeles, RHP Moises Lugo from the Padres for RHP Michael Fulmer

I was on the fence about what to do with Fulmer. He was brilliant in a relief role and he’s not going to be overly expensive for a setup man. If the Tigers go out and get defense and spend on a pitcher and position player in free agency though they will probably shed some payroll and Fulmer doesn’t fit into their long term plans. They also have a lot of relievers they could try out to see who sticks like Jason Foley, Angel DeJesus and Alex Lange among others and AJ Hinch already said Gregory Soto will be the closer in 2021 and Jose Cisnero and Kyle Funkhouser will be solid setup men.

This makes Fulmer expendable and I think he could bring back some prospects with decent potential as well as the Tigers still want to stay somewhat young. The Padres bullpen wasn’t really a strength despite their depth and Mark Melancon could leave in free agency. I see this as a solid fit as Fulmer has shown he can pitch high leverage and he also can go multiple innings if needed and has that starter background.  Angeles I got to see play with Fort Wayne and his bat looks legitimate along with the impressive reports on him with the bat.

Angeles’s stock is rising and eventually I could see him at second or third. The fact he reached high A at such a young age is promising too. Lugo could end up as a starter or reliever. He dominated in single A and had a good showing in a few AA games. He gets a lot of swings and misses with a high effort delivery that plays up his fastball. His fastball and slider combo helped him keep over a 30% CSW with Fort Wayne. He is a project a bit with his command needing refinement and a side effect of that may be fixing up his delivery but he’s the type of young arm the organization wants.

Non-Tender Drew Hutchison, Niko Goodrum and Ian Krol

The two pitchers were more placeholders last year. Krol has always had an electric arm but he’s never been able to command it for a whole year and while he did a solid job last year, I don’t trust him in 2022. Hutchison picked up some much needed innings but didn’t look good while doing so and there’s no reason to use a 40 man roster spot on him.

Goodrum is tougher one as he plays everywhere and has been a mainstay of the rebuild, producing some really productive seasons as a utilityman. It’s gotten to the point though where he just isn’t one of the 26 best players you could break with and not worth the salary as it was pretty hard to find a positive in his game last year and he battled constant injury issues. His hitting ability has declined really badly the past two seasons and there isn’t enough for me to think he will be above average in any aspect.

I also think Kody Clemens in AAA could fill his role with a much higher ceiling and roughly the same baseline expectation. I would also possibly try and sneak Grayson Greiner through waivers to open the 40 man roster spot and be able to keep him as depth. Garneau will likely serve as a third catcher and compete for a backup role in camp, which is fine because every team will carry 3-4 catchers on the 40 man.

Note: This payroll and Keirmaier’s acquisition payroll would roughly offset, I think the Tigers could add $50-60 AAV in free agency putting them just under $150 million, slightly above league average, don’t forget Miggy’s contract is up soon though…

Sign SS Carlos Correa to a 10-year, $350 million dollar deal

Correa being a free agent is like when A-Rod was in 2001. A potentially franchise altering deal and what the Tigers have keep their payroll over 60 million dollars below average for. It’s always harder to write these blips because who wouldn’t want one of the best shortstops in the game, he’s obviously really good and hits the ball hard. Let’s examine a few things though.

I don’t think this deal would handcuff the Tigers as Miguel Cabrera’s contract will come off the books soon and Correa will be signed through his age 36 season, to put this in perspective Miguel Cabrera’s last super productive season was at age 33, so you’d be paying for 7 great seasons and 1-2 so-so and only 1-2 bad seasons, he could still even be a league average hitter at age 36, Albert Pujols was.

Correa is a shortstop though and could easily age better as he should be able to eventually make the slide to third base, something he looked pretty good doing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic a few years ago. I firmly believe he will hit through that age. There’s also the injury concern but half of his injuries were contact play (hit-by-pitch, collision) type injuries so he really isn’t as injury prone as some make him out to be. He’s the safest of all the free agents because of his age and frankly the fact he has the highest ceiling. He can hit for power and has post-season experience as a leader of a team that made 5 straight CS’s.

If the Tigers don’t get him then Seager and Story wouldn’t be disappointing by any stretch and they are All-Stars as well, but Correa should be the main target and reuniting him with Hinch to become the clubhouse leader and core piece of the next playoff team in Detroit should be the goal. He’d fit right into the middle of the line-up and he may have his best years in Detroit, he’s just one of the best hitters, his power and everything will play anywhere. Correa also was always a slightly above average defender but he saved 20 runs and won the Fielding Bible Award this year, so he’d be another step in fixing the defense for the club. This would be right around the Lindor deal, slightly topping it and likely worth every penny. He’d make an instant impact.

Sign SP Justin Verlander to a 2-year, $30 million dollar deal

The Tigers could still afford one more mid-range deal. Verlander is coming off Tommy John Surgery and is almost 40, so this deal would be a win-win for both sides. This is also more than Corey Kluber got coming to the Yankees last year, so I think the AAV is fair. Verlander wouldn’t need to be an ace and could just provide a solid arm who will rack up 180-200 good innings and be a great mentor to the young pitching staff as well. He still looked to have it before his TJ and though there is some risk here ultimately you are bringing back a future Hall of Fame pitcher. There are some other veteran arms to look at if they don’t get Verlander. Eduardo Rodriguez who could fit in at Comerica, Steven Matz or Anthony DesClefani.

Sign C Manny Pina to a 1 year, $5 million dollar deal

Pina? 5 million? He has power but he’s 35 and has never been considered good, what gives? Without Jake Rogers and with Dillon Dingler at least a year away the Tigers will need a stopgap. Dustin Garneau will only go so far despite his impressive performance in 2021.  Pina is a great pitch framer, can handle a good, young pitching staff and has a really good arm. There’s a good platoon catcher when you need one and the Tigers should be all over him to split time with Haase this year.

Sign SP Mike Foltynewicz to a 1 year, $3 million incentive laden deal

This is mainly due to the fact the Tigers lost Spencer Turnbull and Matthew Boyd to surgeries for at least a decent chunk of 2022. With Alex Faedo and Joey Wentz needing more time before they debut due to their own TJ surgeries. Foltynewicz would be a solid innings eater and reclamation project attempt for Chris Fetter.

Foltynewicz has a really good slider and not much spin on his fastball, suggesting maybe he should try a sinker-slider combo with his changeup as an out pitch, a pitch that seems to tunnel off his fastball/sinker. He probably needs to throw the 4 seamer sparingly and ditch the curveball but Fetter knows best. Foltynewicz also has the highest ceiling of any innings eater type guy on the market that won’t be overly expensive. He seems to have solid command, limiting his walks but he’s leaving too many pitches in the happy zone, and that will be the biggest fix. He has been there before though as a former All-Star.

If I were to target a reliever, Corey Knebel seems like the best investment. He’s been mostly solid and a strikeout machine in his career. In wouldn’t invest too much in relievers though as it can pay off but is more often pretty risky with relievers being somewhat more unpredictable from year to year.

Note: This is roughly $58 million in added payroll

Line-Up after mid-April

  1. RF Robbie Grossman
  2. CF Riley Greene
  3. SS Carlos Correa
  4. 2B Jonathan Schoop
  5. 3B Jeimer Canderlario
  6. 1B Spencer Torkelson
  7. DH Miguel Cabrera
  8. C Eric Haase
  9. LF Akil Baddoo

OF Kevin Keirmaier

C Manny Pina

OF Derek Hill

IF Kody Clemens

SP Justin Verlander

Casey Mize

Tarik Skubal

Matt Manning

Mike Foltynewicz

CL Greogry Soto

SU Jose Cisnero

SU Kyle Funkhouser

MR Alex Lange

Jason Foley

Joe Jimenez

Rony Garcia

LR Tyler Alexander

Start in big leagues until mid-April: OF Victor Reyes, UT Harold Castro

Next Up: SS Willi Castro, C Dustin Garneau, UT Zack Short, OF Daz Cameron, P Paul Richan, P Logan Shore, P Drew Carlton, P Angel DeJesus, P Joe Navilhon

IL: C Jake Rogers, SP Spencer Turnbull, SP Matthew Boyd

Overall

The bullpen after the main 4 guys has some questions. But guys in the system pipeline will have to come up and fight for spots and earn them. Similar to what Funkhouser did in 2022. The Tigers should also look into stockpiling high upside arms on a minor league deals. As those usually have the best hit rate for guys who sign those kinds of deals. There’s still some holes and they may be a year or so away. This will put the Tigers in a good position to compete.

Also the defense is looking better and the line-up as well. They will need a few more prospects to hit. Eventually we will see Dingler, Faedo, Wentz, Kreidler and some high octane relief arms. Also, this will be a big season for Daz Cameron and his future with the club. It be impressing in Toledo or Detroit with the chances he gets. I think this team best case could challenge the White Sox and worst case would be around .500.

Detroit Tigers: Four Tigers Named All-Rookie Second Team

Detroit Tigers pitcher Casey Mize
Photo credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The driving force of what made the 2021 season so refreshing was the explosion of a young rookie core. Furthermore, it came from a balanced group of pitchers and position players, giving the Detroit Tigers potentially a look at a well-rounded and talented future. As a result of their breakout seasons, Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Akil Baddoo, and Eric Haase were selected to MLB Pipeline’s 2021 All-Rookie Second Team.

Casey Mize

Mize, the former number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, should be no surprise to Tigers fans, as his blue-chip status was confirmed in his first full season in the bigs, holding opposing hitters to a .234 average in 150 innings pitched.

He also notched 118 strikeouts, including punching out seven in five innings against the Yankees on May 28th. Next season Mize will be off his rookie innings limit and contend to surpass 200 k’s in a season.

Tarik Skubal

Left-handed strikeout artist Tarik Skubal joined Mize from the 2018 draft class to provide effectiveness the Tigers have not seen from the left side since Dontrelle Willis and the only good five innings he ever pitched in Detroit. Skubal, also on an innings limit, racked up 164 strikeouts in 149.1 innings pitched. His mid 90’s fastball and sharp breaking ball were dominant all season, including an eleven punchout performance in only five innings against the White Sox on June 5th.

Next season with the training wheels off, expect to see the young Mize and Skubal make a massive leap forward in their continued development.

Akil Baddoo

The next player receiving all-rookie acknowledgment was arguably the most exciting player on the Detroit Tigers, Akil Baddoo. Baddoo, a rule 5 draft steal from the Twins, captured the attention of Tigers fans in his very first major league plate appearance when he homered to left field on the very first pitch he saw.

The five-tool outfielder continued his electric momentum the entire season, providing a spark with his bat, legs, and defense. In only 124 games, Baddoo clubbed 13 home runs with seven triples, second-best in all of baseball. He also swiped 18 bags, providing another asset that has been unfamiliar in Detroit.

Detroit’s outfield is projected (by me) to be the strength of both the Tigers’ defense and offense, and Baddoo is a major reason why.

Eric Haase

Rounding out the Tigers All-Rookie squad is hometown hero and catcher Eric Haase. An injured Jake Rogers provided the opportunity for the 28-year-old Dearborn native to finally showcase his major league power. Haase had been with the Cleveland Indians big league club since 2018 but had never appeared in more than ten games. Ninety-eight games with the Tigers, however, and the catcher slugged 22 home runs, including a game-tying grand slam against the Twins on July 27th.

The catcher position has been a revolving door for the Tigers for the past several seasons. Detroit has refrained from a long-term commitment to anyone not named Alex Avila. Jake Rogers’ health — and his mustache — will remain a concern for the foreseeable future, but the Tigers are in a great position otherwise with Eric Haase behind the plate.

MLB Pipeline aside, the argument could be made for several of these rookies to receive Rookie of the Year votes. Had the Tigers been a contender, they certainly would have. However, without the contributions of this core, fans would have been counting down the days to Lions training camp in June.

Al, you have assembled a great unit of young and talented players. Break out the checkbook and don’t be stingy.