The Tigers added six players to their roster and removed one player on Friday, bringing the total number of players on the 40 man roster up to 39. The most significant move was the signing of former Tiger catcher Gerald Laird to a one year, $ 1 million contract. The Tigers added five minor league players to protect them from December's rule 5 draft, most notably lefty pitcher Casey Crosby, and they removed one player, minor league shortstop Cale Iorg.
The total of 39 players means that the Tigers may, if they wish, choose a player in the rule 5 draft, although they’d have to keep that player on the 25 man roster for the duration of the 2012 season, or offer him back to his former club before sending him down to the minors. Iorg is the only player cut from the roster for the time being, but that does not mean that the club won’t cut more players as they acquire players through trades or free agency to fill other vacancies. There is no need to make any more cuts at this time, but more cuts are likely before players report to spring training in February.
The most notable of the roster additions is Gerald Laird. The Tigers decided after watching Alex Avila hobbling around on the field in September and October, with Victor Martinez unable to perform catching duties, that they’d better use up a roster spot and acquire another catcher to back up Avila. Laird should be expected to catch anywhere from 30 to 40 games during a season, mainly against left handed pitchers.
The acquisition of Laird makes it much less likely that Wilson Betemit will be back with the Tigers in 2012. With just four bench spots on the roster, one of the being a catcher, one outfielder such as Ryan Raburn, Brandon Inge and Don Kelly both able to play third base, that leaves just one roster spot open that would likely be used for a utility infielder to back up Jhonny Peralta and whomever the new second baseman happens to be.
The most significant of the first time additions to the roster is Casey Crosby. The Tigers drafted the six foot five, 23 year old lefty out of high school in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. Crosby has already had Tommy John surgery, and had a promising season with AA Erie last summer, at least in terms of his health, in 25 starts. If healthy, Casey is a top ten, maybe a top five prospect in the Tiger organization on most lists. Some project that he will wind up in the bullpen, but he remains a starter for now.
Righty Tyler Stohr is another that was added, to nobody’s surprise, after splitting time between Lakeland and Erie in 2011. One of the less heralded relievers taken in the sixth round of the 2008 "great relief" draft, Stohr has emerged as a potential major league reliever while higher choices such as Cody Satterwhite have been left unprotected. The 2008 draft has produced a haul that includes Ryan Perry, Alex Avila, Andy Dirks, and Robbie Weinhardt along with Stohr. Others such as infielders Gustavo Nunez, Brandon Douglas, and pitchers Thad Weber and Jared Gayhart will be exposed in the Rule 5 draft should another club wish to take a flyer on them.
Three young international signees have also been added to the roster. 20 year old outfielder Avisail Garcia is one of the Tigers top outfield prospects, and another 20 year old, infielder Hernan Perez are a few years away from any consideration for big league employment, but the Tigers thought enough of them to use up a roster spot to keep them in the organization. Lefty reliever Matt Hoffman may be the first of the bunch to actually see some time in the major leagues. The 22 year old was drafted out of high school in the 26th round of the 2007 draft and made 49 appearances in relief at Toledo last summer. Hoffman, Stohr, and Crosby all were sent to the Arizona Fall League to face some advanced competition.
There are no blue chip prospects among the newest Tigers. There is no Jacob Turner or Nick Castellanos in the group. At most, we might see another relief pitcher chip in for part of the season in Detroit. Just being on the roster means that all of these players will open spring training in Lakeland with the major league club, although they may be among the first roster cuts and it would be a surprise if any of them broke camp with the major league team in April.
This could be the beginning of the end for Cale Iorg, the once highly touted prospect who was given a seven figure signing bonus. Iorg is said to have a major league glove, but has not been able to hit with any consistency, so the Tigers got him through waivers and outrighted him to AAA Toledo on Friday. Any club willing to keep Iorg on their 40 man roster could have claimed him.
Friday’s roster additions fill roster spots that were vacated by departing free agent players. The Tigers continue to search for a second baseman, and possibly a third baseman or a veteran starting pitcher. Reports indicate that Dave Dombrowski has been exploring the trade market with more interest than the free agent market. Should the Tigers need roster space to add additional players, don’t expect any of Friday’s additions to be removed from the roster. It’s much more likely that players that have been on the roster at the end of the 2011 season will be removed at that time.