After several seasons of success with no World Series titles to show for it, Tigers fans have seen that championship window come to a close. Detroit will look to trade away their remaining pieces as well as take flyers on some low risk-high upside players in free agency on one year deals.
Current State: Rebuilding
Tigers Sign SP Tyson Ross
The Tigers have signed starting pitcher Tyson Ross to a one year, $5.75 million contract. Ross, 31, broke back onto the scene last season. With the Padres and Cardinals, he put together a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 4.39 FIP. Part of this was due to an improve fastball, which had a career best runs above average of 4.6 last season. While Ross is no longer the elite power pitcher he used to be, he still is able to induce a lot of ground balls,, as his ground ball to fly ball ratio was 1.66 last season. He still gives up too much hard contact (37.9%), but he could have a impressive season similar to Mike Fiers last year. Fiers was traded to the A’s for prospects, and Detroit will hope Ross can bring them a similar prospect return next season. There’s no guarantee Ross succeeds next season though; he had put together two seasons with a ERA above 7 the previous two seasons. It’s a gamble worth taking for a rebuilding team, but Ross won’t give Detroit the innings eater they need (just 149.2 IP) and could end up netting the Tigers no value if 2018 was a fluke.
Tigers Sign SP Matt Moore
To continue to bolster their pitching depth, the Tigers have signed starting pitcher Matt Moore to a one year, $2.5 million deal. Moore, 29, has had a career filled with disappointment. A former top prospect, Moore had two promising seasons to start his career and looked like a future ace. Then, he had to undergo Tommy John Surgery in 2014, and since then he’s struggled. Last season for the Rangers, Moore had a 6.79 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, and a 5.25 FIP. While one may be quick to blame how hitters friendly Globe Life Park is, it’s important to remember he also had a 5.52 ERA in arguably the most pitchers friendly stadium in AT&T Park. Detroit is taking a gamble that Moore can regain his old form, but that’s also what the Giants and Rangers previously did. At this point, despite his potential, it may time to recognize that Moore won’t ever turn into the pitcher that he was supposed to be, whether it was from the surgery or not.
Tigers Sign SS Jordy Mercer
To fill their need at shortstop, the Tigers have signed shortstop Jordy Mercer to a one year, $5.25 million deal. Mercer, 32, has been a consistently average to below average player throughout his career. Since a solid 2013 campaign with a .772 OPS, Mercer has consistently had an OPS between .613 and .733. Just last year, he had an OPS of just .696 and had a WAR of just 0.1. Mercer’s cup of tea used to be his defense, as he had a defensive runs saved of 9 in 2014. However, just last year, he had a defensive runs saved of negative 9. Mercer doesn’t get on base, isn’t a power threat, and is now a defensive liability. The Tigers may not be trying to win, but if they think Mercer can play everyday at shortstop, they’ll likely be disappointed with the results.
Tigers Sign 2B Josh Harrison
Reuniting with Mercer in the middle infield, the Tigers have signed second baseman Josh Harrison to a one year deal worth $2 million with $1 million in incentives. Harrison, 31, had been a fan favorite in Pittsburgh ever since he posted a 4.8 WAR during the 2014 season. However, he was borderline awful this past season; he had just a .656 OPS and a 0.3 WAR. Harrison is a flawed hitter. His walk rate was amongst the league’s worst at just 4.8%, and he’ll never be a slugging threat. He’s a slap hitter at best, which lowers his ceiling offensively, but his hard contact of 32.9% was around his career high and his .286 BABIP is on the low side. Harrison also increased his line drive rate to 25%, which is important for him considering his lack of power. His main value comes from his versatility, as he’s played three infield positions and two outfield positions in his MLB career, but he’s nothing more than an average fielder at any position. Harrison is a solid veteran presence who provides flexibility that the young Tigers need. Furthermore, $2 million is less than I thought Harrison would sign for, so Detroit is getting him at solid market value. Still, Harrison’s best days may be behind him, as players who rely on athleticism are the ones who tend to decline the most as they reach their 30s.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Tigers Make
Stats Courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Savant
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