The Detroit Tigers tendered contracts to 35 players prior to Friday’s 8:00 p.m. deadline, but the bigger story is who did not receive a contract. James McCann, the team’s starting catcher since 2015, was not tendered a contract on Friday, and will become a free agent. Alex Wilson was also non-tendered by the club, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.
This news may or may not come as a surprise, depending on who you ask. McCann had one of the worst seasons in his career in 2018, hitting .220/.267/.314 in 118 games. He also struggled behind the plate, and was worth -0.5 rWAR on the year. General manager Al Avila was not very supportive of McCann after the season, saying “I think there’s more potential in there but he’s getting to that point now where he’s getting close to free agency and starting to make a little bit more money — so we have to make a tough decision.”
McCann’s poor season came at a bad time for him, as he was eligible for a second arbitration raise this offseason. MLB Trade Rumors projected that McCann would be paid $3.5 million in 2019, a price the Tigers were not willing to pay for middling production behind the plate. They may look to re-sign him at a cheaper price, or let him look elsewhere for a new contract.
As McCann looks for a new home, he has just over four years of MLB service time under his belt. The next team that signs him (remember, it could still be the Tigers) will have him under club control for two more seasons, or possibly more if he spends time in the minor leagues.
Wilson is a bit of a surprise, though. The 32-year-old righthander struggled at times over the past two seasons, but produced a 3.36 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 61 2⁄3 innings for the Tigers in 2018, and has been one of the more consistent and durable arms out of their bullpen for the past half-decade.
Frankly, Wilson’s non-tender just seems cheap. He was projected to receive a modest $2.8 million salary for the 2019 season, a reasonable cost for a pitcher who has a 3.20 ERA in 264 2⁄3 innings in a Tigers uniform. He is entering his final season of club control before reaching free agency, which would have made him a prime target to be dealt at the 2019 trade deadline for a prospect or two. If nothing else, he offers a measure of consistency out of the bullpen that could help the Tigers get through the middle and later innings of what is almost certain to be a very bad 2019 season, unless they reverse course and actually decide to spend some money this winter.
The Tigers now have 38 players on their 40-man roster.