Despite complaints that this has been one of the slowest baseball offseasons in recent memory, the Detroit Tigers have been quite busy. Sure, they haven’t signed any marquee names, but neither have 28 other teams (we see you, Milwaukee). With the Tigers looking to improve roster flexibility as the team enters a rebuilding phase, general manager Al Avila and his staff have looked everywhere for under-the-radar talent to acquire.
And by everywhere, we mean everywhere. From the World Series champion Houston Astros to multiple independent leagues, the newest Tigers have come from all over. Since you have probably missed one or two, here is everyone* the Tigers have acquired since the beginning of the offseason.
*I’ve probably missed someone too, and will happily update this post if anyone mentions a forgotten name in the comments.
IF Alexi Amarista
Amarista is a 28-year-old Venezuelan who came up through the Angels system. He appeared in 24 games for the Halos in 2012 before being traded to the San Diego Padres. It was there that he has spent the bulk of his major league career. In five seasons with San Diego, Amarista hit .233/.279/.323. While clearly not much of a hitter, Amarista has provided plenty of versatility with his glove. He played a career-high six positions with the Colorado Rockies last season, and had previously made a couple of appearances as a pitcher. If you’re looking for the next Andrew Romine, Amarista might be that guy.
RHP Phillippe Aumont
If nothing else, Aumont certainly has the best story of any player on this list. Originally drafted 11th overall by the Seattle Mariners in 2007, Aumont toiled in the minors for five seasons before making his MLB debut with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012. He announced his retirement four years later with just 43 2⁄3 career innings under his belt. Just over a year later, he changed his mind. He signed with the Ottawa Champions of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am League) last June, and threw a no-hitter three weeks later. His overall statistics were relatively underwhelming, though, with a 4.51 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 115 2⁄3 innings.
RHP Johnny Barbato
Acquired: 1/11/18 (off waivers from Pittsburgh Pirates)
I don’t know if any offseason acquisition had BYB’s collective approval quite like Detroit’s decision to claim Barbato off waivers in January. The 25-year-old righthander has a bowling ball of a sinker, but one with mid-90s velocity. That interesting combination, along with a couple of useful secondary pitches, could make Barbato a solid late-inning reliever in the future. His command will have to take a big step forward, though; he walked 18 batters in 28 2⁄3 MLB innings last year.
LHP Liarvis Breto
Breto makes this list because he’s left-handed and 24 years old, but expectations should be very low here. He spent four years in rookie ball after signing with the Seattle Mariners as a teenager earlier this decade. He has spent the past two years pitching in independent leagues, including the Can-Am League with the Rockland Boulders. Assuming the Tigers bring him stateside, this will be the first time in his career he plays affiliated ball in the United States.
RHP Enrique Burgos
On the other hand, Panamanian righthander Enrique Burgos could be a very interesting signing. He came up with the Arizona Diamondbacks, making his MLB debut as a 24-year-old in 2015. He had a solid rookie season, with 39 strikeouts in just 27 innings. The ERA climbed while the strikeout rate dropped in 2016, and Burgos spent all of 2017 in the minor leagues. His strikeout numbers were still fine — proving that there’s plenty of life on that 96-97 mile-per-hour fastball — but his command has been anything but. He’s a useful piece if he can keep the walks down.
LHP Ryan Carpenter
The Tigers were quick to pluck the 27-year-old Carpenter from the Colorado Rockies this offseason, signing him to a major league deal back in November. While Carpenter being the first major league signing of the winter — yes, for all of baseball — was rather ominous, his statistical profile is not. He struck out nearly 25 percent of batters at Triple-A Albuquerque last year while managing a walk rate of just 5.9 percent. This landed him on KATOH’s list of best minor league free agents available this offseason. He has not made his MLB debut yet, which means the Tigers could have him under team control for six-plus years if everything works out.
RHP Kevin Comer
If you’re going to copy anyone, might as well steal from the best, right? The Tigers signed Comer away from the Astros, who helped develop Comer in their farm system over the past five-plus years. He has discovered quite the strikeout touch recently, fanning over 11 batters per nine innings in the past two seasons. This includes a 63 2⁄3 inning stint at Triple-A last season, where Comer allowed a 3.68 ERA with a 26 percent strikeout rate. Comer also appeared on KATOH’s list, and the Tigers worked quickly to get him signed. He doesn’t boast premium velocity, but sits in the low-90s with a solid fastball. I’m not entirely sure what has changed about him over the past couple years, but 2080 Baseball posted a full scouting report back in June 2016.
IF Edwin Espinal
Espinal was yet another minor league free agent beloved by FanGraphs’ KATOH system earlier this offseason. The 23-year-old Dominican is a first baseman through and through, though a few appearances at third base have popped up on his Baseball Reference page. He posted impressive numbers at Double-A Altoona last year, hitting .283/.322/.474 with 15 home runs and 25 doubles. He didn’t homer in 35 games at Triple-A Indianapolis, but maintained a .710 OPS after a midseason promotion.
RHP Mike Fiers
Fiers started 28 games for the Astros last season, but turned in the worst full season of his MLB career. He posted a 5.22 ERA and 5.43 FIP, both career-worsts (not including an injury-shortened 2013 season). Thanks to his poor performance and the addition of one Justin Verlander, Fiers did not appear in the postseason. One wonders if the Tigers will change his approach a little bit; Fiers was an extreme fly ball pitcher in his years with the Milwaukee Brewers, but induced more grounders in his couple seasons with the Astros. Returning to a fly ball profile may be risky given how bouncy the baseball is these days, but it might be worth a shot.
IF/OF Niko Goodrum
The Minnesota Twins took Goodrum in the second round of the 2010 MLB draft, but the Georgia native was never able to deliver on his promise. It took him five years just to progress to Double-A, and he did not make his major league debut until last September. He has posted above-average walk rates throughout each stop in the minor leagues. That solid plate discipline and his versatile glove could make him a solid candidate to make the team out of spring training. If he can translate his modest Triple-A numbers to the majors, he would be a solid pick-up.
RHP Wilkel Hernandez
Acquired: 12/13/17 (trade with Los Angeles Angels)
Hernandez was the younger prospect acquired in the Ian Kinsler trade back in December. Still only 18, Hernandez pitched in America for the first time last summer. He looked great in Rookie Ball, striking out 42 batters in 41 1⁄3 innings before a late-season promotion to the Pioneer League (that lasted one outing). He’s a lottery ticket, but one that is now up to 92-94 miles per hour with the fastball.
IF Pete Kozma
Kozma is your typical veteran utility infielder, albeit one who didn’t quite deliver on his draft stock. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted him 18th overall in 2007 and squeezed some postseason heroics out of him, but ultimately cut him loose after he was worth -0.7 rWAR in 2015. He made appearances with the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers last season, but finished with a .378 OPS in 51 plate appearances.
LHP Will Lamb
Another high-strikeout, high-walk pitcher, this time from the Chicago White Sox organization. Is not the right Lamb (read: Jake). Was originally mentioned as a solid relief prospect when coming up with the Texas Rangers several years ago, but still has yet to reach the major leagues. Assuming nothing awful has happened since people last wrote scouting reports about him, he can touch the low-to-mid 90s from the left side. Very hard to Google.
OF Leonys Martin
Another former Rangers prospect from back in the day, Martin is the kind of defensive center fielder the Tigers could have used last season. He was available at one point, but no team was willing to take on his $4.5 million salary, let alone the then-cash-strapped Tigers. Martin is an above-average defender in center field, with +46 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) on his ledger in nearly 4500 career innings played. UZR is slightly less optimistic, but he makes up for relatively average zone with a Howitzer of an arm.
He put up a wRC+ of 35 last season, though.
RHP Mark Montgomery
Are the Tigers on par with the rest of baseball in terms of analytics? Possibly. Do they read FanGraphs? Most definitely. Montgomery is yet another minor league free agent who their KATOH system identified as a potential breakout candidate. The 27-year-old righty spent last season with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, where he struck out 27.7 percent of batters faced compared to a 5.7 percent walk rate. Back when he was a prospect, his slider was the signature pitch everyone was quick to praise. Also praise-worthy: this snot rocket GIF.
OF Troy Montgomery
Acquired: 12/13/17 (trade with Los Angeles Angels)
Montgomery is a 23-year-old outfielder who the Angels selected in the eight round of the 2016 draft. An Ohio State product (ew), Montgomery hit well in High-A ball before running into more resistance in 20 games at Double-A to close out the year. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen projected him as a potential bench outfielder, and one that can swipe a few bases at that.
C Derek Norris
Norris missed most of last season after being suspended for a domestic violence incident with his ex-fiancee. He was not very good in the 53 games he played with the Tampa Bay Rays prior to that posting a 68 wRC+. It has been a couple years since Norris was a productive player, but he has a trio of two-win seasons and an All-Star appearance under his belt. His pitch framing numbers have generally been positive, but his throwing numbers have not. He’d be a better fit if he weren’t the same type of hitter as all of Detroit’s other catchers.
C Brayan Pena
I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed another play in baseball history more than this one.
The finesse. The hustle. THE SMILE. Welcome back, Brayan.
OF Victor Reyes
Acquired: 12/14/17 (Rule 5 draft)
Tigers fans weren’t too happy when the team announced they had taken Reyes as the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, but I’m willing to give him a shot. Scouts are mixed on how good Reyes’ hit tool is, but there are a few believers out there. He is good enough defensively to stash on the team as a fourth or fifth outfielder all season long — perhaps an easier ask than keeping a bullpen arm on this 25-man roster all year. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I see “poor man’s Ender Inciarte” from this statistical profile.
IF Ronny Rodriguez
Rodriguez put together a productive 2017 season for the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. He posted a .778 OPS and hit 17 homers, no small feat in a somewhat pitcher-friendly International League. It was a nice breakout for Rodriguez, who made it to the high minors quickly but struggled to produce offensively. His plate discipline (or lack thereof) hasn’t helped. He’s another versatile defender, and played all four infield positions for Columbus last year. Given how much the organization has talked him up this offseason, he might be the favorite to win a utility infielder spot this spring.
LHP James Russell
There are too many of these dang guys and I’m tired. Russell is a relatively generic lefty who doesn’t throw all that hard. He was decent a few years ago, but has not been since then. He has a much better beard than others on this staff give him credit for.
LHP Caleb Thielbar
Thielbar is a 30-year-old lefthander who has spent most of his career with the Twins. He has average-ish strikeout and walk rates, and doesn’t have the kind of velocity that some others on this list do. Our friends at Twinkie Town called him “Meat Raffle,” a tradition we are more than happy to carry on if he makes the team.
He probably won’t make the team.
IF Yomar Valentin
A former 20th round pick by the Boston Red Sox, Valentin is still only 20 years old. The Sox cut him loose after three unimpressive seasons in the lower minors, and he latched on with the Tigers this offseason. He played 47 games at Low-A Lowell last season, and hit .200/.310/.240.
RHP Matt West
The 29-year-old West has bounced around a few organizations throughout his career, but only has five major league appearances to his credit. He was drafted as a third baseman by the Texas Rangers back in 2007, but moved to the mound in 2011. From there, he slowly made his way through Texas’ minor league system, finally making it to the majors for a few appearances in July 2014. He spent most of 2015 and 2016 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. For far more on West than you ever could have hoped, check out a full profile from our friends at True Blue LA.
OF Kenny Wilson
Wilson was a second round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2008, but the 27-year-old has spent time with four different organizations without reaching the majors. He put up solid numbers in a short stint at Double-A Midland (an Oakland A’s affiliate) last year, but has a .583 OPS in 199 career games at the Triple-A level.