The Detroit Tigers went into full scale rebuilding mode starting in July, as the club unloaded many of their best players and, eventually, their manager. The team now has a new manager, but the teardown is not finished. Here is a look at which remaining players are most likely to be moved out before Opening Day 2018.
Most likely to be traded
Ian Kinsler has just one season remaining on his contract at a reasonable $11 million salary. The second baseman is a leader on the team and still a premier defender, but he is coming off the worst offensive season of his career. The Tigers have attempted to deal him over the past year, but the market was not there. It makes sense that the club will want to get something for him rather than let him walk for nothing, but they could also wait until July and see if he can rebuild some trade value.
Jose Iglesias is the other Tigers starter who has just one season remaining before he can become a free agent. In his final season of arbitration eligibility, he is projected to earn $5.6 million for the 2018 season. He features elite defense and one of the highest contact rates and lowest strikeout rates in the majors, but his offense is mediocre. There may not be much surplus value in his contract to warrant a trade.
Shane Greene took over as the Tigers’ closer when Justin Wilson was traded to the Chicago Cubs in July. The Tigers didn’t have to trade Wilson at the time, and they don’t have to trade Greene, who has three seasons remaining under club control. But general managers love to over pay for “proven closers,” so the return for a relief pitcher can be quite high close to the trade deadline.
Most likely to be non-tendered
Bryan Holaday was traded by the Tigers in 2016 because he was out of minor league options. He was re-signed to a minor league contract in 2017, and earned a call-up in September. He is currently on the 40-man roster and eligible for arbitration, but so are James McCann and John Hicks. Grayson Greiner, a former third round pick who has climbed the minor league ranks, is eligible for the Rule 5 draft and will need to be added to the 40-man roster. Holaday could again be the odd man out.
Bruce Rondon has teased the Tigers with a triple-digit fastball and promises of becoming a future closer for the past several seasons. The club has relied on him multiple times to fill a major bullpen role, and paid a heavy price for doing so. After being sent home early in 2015 and not being recalled to the majors last September, Rondon is arbitration eligible for the second time. He is also out of options with a projected salary of $850,000. Clubs hate to give up on promising talent, but the Tigers might decide to move on.
Alex Presley was signed to a minor league contract before the 2017 season, called up to Detroit in May, and stuck on the roster for the remainder of the season. To his credit, he hit .314/.354/.416 in 265 plate appearances. Presley is not a long-term answer to the Tigers’ needs, but the organization is not exactly stacked with major league ready outfielders, so they would have to acquire someone like him if they were to let him go. He is eligible for arbitration with a projected salary of $1.1 million.
Blaine Hardy spent much of the 2017 season in Triple-A Toledo as the Tigers gave lefthanders Daniel Stumpf and Chad Bell opportunities out of the bullpen. Hardy may be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player. If so, he is projected to earn $850,000 in his first of four arbitration-eligible seasons. He is still a serviceable reliever with an option remaining, so the Tigers would not necessarily be stuck with a major league salary commitment.
Andrew Romine displayed his versatility by playing all nine positions in one game as the 2017 season ended, but the handyman has just one more season of arbitration eligibility. He is on target to earn $1.9 million for the 2018 season, and is out of options. The Tigers also have Dixon Machado, who can play three infield positions, looking for playing time. Whether Romine returns could depend on whether Kinsler and/or Iglesias return. The club needs two starters and has always carried two backup middle infielders on the roster.
Just plain not coming back
Anibal Sanchez will have his $16 million option declined for the 2018 season, and the Tigers will pay him a $5 million buyout.
Most likely to be released
Victor Martinez was -1.1 wins below replacement level for the 2017 season. He is a year removed from batting .289 with a .355 on-base percentage, along with 27 home runs and 86 RBI. Those days seem to be in the distant past, however. With a salary of $18 million in 2018, it’s not easy to just let go, but Martinez may have sealed his fate with his behavior in the clubhouse down the stretch.
Jim Adducci is another of the Tigers’ cadre of outfielders signed to minor league contracts who were pressed into duty during the 2017 season. After hitting the disabled list and being optioned to Triple-A Toledo, he never regained the early hitting prowess that earned a ticket to the show. He was even passed over when rosters expanded in September. He could be let go if a 40-man roster spot is needed.
Tyler Collins, John Hicks, Drew VerHagen, and Buck Farmer are all out of minor league options, so it’s do-or-die time for them. Several more players have been riding the elevator between Detroit and Toledo over the past few seasons, but never gaining enough traction to remain in the major leagues.