On Tuesday, November 20, major league clubs must submit their 40 man rosters to MLB headquarters. Players on the list will be protected in the Rule five draft, to be held on December 6. Qualified players left off the roster may be lost to another club. The Tigers’ list of Rule five eligible players and the rules of eligibility were explained here.
By November 30, clubs will have to tender a contract offer to their unsigned players who are not yet eligible for free agency, or let them become free agents. The Tigers have at least two potential non tender candidates on the current roster, in Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch.
Both players have spent the majority of the past few seasons in the major leagues, but both produced at below replacement level for the 2012 season, and both are eligible for arbitration this off season. Both have shown flashes of great hitting to go with horrific performances that have lasted months at a time.
Brennan Boesch had the lowest OPS and on base percentage of any qualified right fielder in the league in 2012, and he was among the bottom two in average, slugging percentage, wOBA, and WAR. Defensively, his UZR/ 150 was dead last in the league and his DRS (defensive runs saved) was second worst.
Ryan Raburn was simply the worst player in the American league last season, no matter where the Tigers tried to put him in the lineup or in the field. Raburn’s batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OBP, wOBA, and WAR were all worst in the league among players with at least 200 plate appearances.
The club finally used up Raburn's last option at the end of May when they sent him to Toledo, at the urging of yours truly, but then inexplicably recalled him later in the season, even though he couldn't even hit minor league pitching in the interim.
While the club would ideally like to add a right handed bat to platoon with Andy Dirks in left field, it stands to reason that they will let Raburn go unless he is willing to accept a minor league contract or a split contract, and that is unlikely. If the club tenders him a contract by November 30, they’ll be headed toward arbitration.
Raburn’s two year contract which paid him $ 2.1 million has expired, but he will be eligible for arbitration for the third and last time this winter. He stands to make even more than that in arbitration. Frankly, he’s not worth the money or the grief. The real mystery is why he hasn’t been moved up off the roster by now.
Boesch is in a more favorable position in terms of being kept by the organization. He has had two very potent half seasons in the past three years, and he has options left, so he could be sent to the minors if the club doesn’t want to give up on him.
Boesch will be eligible for arbitration for the first time, after making just above the major league minimum last season. He stands to make between $ 1.5 to 2 million, considering he was a full time player who qualified for the batting title. Dave Dombrowski has said that Boesch will be tendered a contract, so we have to believe him.
We covered the list of eligible players, and which players the Tigers might protect in the article linked above. The Tigers have since signed Torii Hunter, leaving just two vacancies on the 40 man roster. The club will certainly add future closer Bruce Rondon to the roster. They may also add others, such as pitcher Melvin Mercedes, shortstop Dixon Machado, pitchers Michael Morrison or Jay Voss.
If the Tigers intend to make more than two more off season roster additions, including protecting Rondon, or signing Anibal Sanchez, and if they’d like to keep an open spot so that they may select a player in the Rule five draft, that means that other players will have to be removed from the roster to make room beyond the two vacancies that currently exist.
Rule five draftees must be kept on the roster for a full season, so it makes no sense to protect a player at this time, only to have to put him through waivers within a few weeks, when the player could be claimed and sent to the minors if he doesn’t make the major league roster.
There are other candidates to be removed from the roster, but none are yet eligible for arbitration. Dan Schlereth, Luke Putkonen, and Adam Wilk, could be on that list. If the club only wants to add Rondon and one more player to the roster in advance of the Rule five draft, there’s no need to make a move prior to November 30. But if the Tigers want to protect three or more players, corresponding moves are imminent.