Detroit Tigers (64-98)
Additions: SP/RP Francisco Liriano, SP Mike Fiers, SP Wilkel Hernandez, OF Leonys Martin, OF Troy Montgomery, SP Ryan Carpenter (minor-league deal, C Derek Norris (minor-league deal), SS Alexi Amarista (minor-league deal)
Subtractions: 2B Ian Kinsler, SP Anibal Sanchez, RP Edward Mujica, RP Bruce Rondon, OF Tyler Collins, OF Alex Presley, OF/RP Anthony Gose
While it has been a strange offseason to stay the least, there are some teams that have stuck to their original plans heading into the winter and managed to execute them.
One of them is the Tigers, whose three goals were to find what Detroit general manager Al Avila called “bargains” in free agency, trade veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler as part of their rebuilding process and shrink their payroll as much as possible.
The Tigers accomplished their first goal by signing six players to either a one-year deal or a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.
One of those players is versatile lefty Francisco Liriano, who is coming off winning a World Series with the Astros as a reliever. Liriano, who was acquired by the Astros from the Blue Jays, is going to be a starter on the Tigers’ staff and bring a veteran presence, along with fellow signee Mike Fiers, to a group that includes Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd, Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris.
In regards to the Kinsler situation, they traded the veteran second baseman to the Angels in December for minor-leaguers Troy Montgomery and Wilkel Hernandez. Kinsler would have ate up $11 million of the Tigers’ payroll this year had he not waived his 10-team no-trade clause to make the deal happen.
The Tigers also agreed to contracts with shortstop Jose Iglesias, right fielder/third baseman Nick Castellanos, right-handed reliever Shane Greene, lefty reliever Blaine Hardy, catcher James McCann and righty reliever Alex Wilson, avoiding arbitration with any player for a 17th consecutive year. Iglesias and Castellanos are the top players from this group, but Iglesias is bound to hit free agency next year since he is only making $6.275 million this season. The Tigers have a future successor at Iglesias’ spot in Dixon Machado, which makes it imperative for them to get a good return on Iglesias before the end of this season. As for Castellanos, he is looking to have a bounce-back season in 2018 after struggling in 2017. Castellanos revealed recently to Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press that he “wasn’t mentally” there with the team in 2017 because he was dealing with his father having brain cancer. Castellanos is also eligible for free agency next season.
Because of their rebuilding approach, the Tigers were able to reduce their payroll to roughly $135 million after having a $190.4 million payroll last year. The Tigers are not going to fall back to their past tendency of signing big-time free agents — even at a discounted rate like most players have signed for this offseason — so they can try to contend now. At least for this season, Avila and company want to stay well under the $195 million competitive balance tax threshold and look into the possibility of shopping their high-priced veterans like Zimmermann, Iglesias and Victor Martinez in the coming months.