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Detroit Tigers roster and payroll update as the MLB Winter Meetings approach

Let’s take a look at how things stand before what will hopefully be a busy week for the Tigers.

Detroit Tigers v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The 2018 MLB Winter Meetings begin on Sunday in Las Vegas, Nev. News, rumors, signings, and trades will all come together in the blink of an eye over the course of the five days. Detroit Tigers fans came to expect big things from their team during the meetings under former president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, but a change in organizational philosophy has the team shopping in a different aisle these days (we’re trying to be patient about that).

Whether the Tigers are big spenders or not, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a few moves at the Winter Meetings. The club has been busy this week under Al Avila in years past, including last winter. With holes at shortstop, catcher, and potentially elsewhere, it’s possible that the Tigers could find the players and deals they are looking for out in the desert this week.

Before we get to the busiest week of the offseason, now is a good time to take stock of the Tigers’ current assets. After a few under-the-radar additions and a couple key departures, the roster may look a little different than you remember.

First, the 40-man roster

The Tigers currently have 38 players on their 40-man roster.

Detroit Tigers 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters

Matthew Boyd (L)
Ryan Carpenter (L)
Michael Fulmer (R)
Matt Hall (L)
Matt Moore (L)
Daniel Norris (L)
Franklin Perez (R)
Gregory Soto (L)
Spencer Turnbull (R)
Jordan Zimmermann (R)


Victor Alcantara (R)
Sandy Baez (R)
Buck Farmer (R)
Jose Manuel Fernandez (L)
Shane Greene (R)
Blaine Hardy (L)
Eduardo Jimenez (R)
Joe Jimenez (R)
Zac Reininger (R)
Daniel Stumpf (L)
Drew VerHagen (R)

Grayson Greiner (R)


Sergio Alcantara (S)
Miguel Cabrera (R)
Jeimer Candelario (S)
Willi Castro (S)
Brandon Dixon (R)
Niko Goodrum (S)
John Hicks (R)
Dawel Lugo (R)
Ronny Rodriguez (R)


Nicholas Castellanos (R)
Mike Gerber (L)
JaCoby Jones (R)
Mikie Mahtook (R)
Dustin Peterson (R)
Victor Reyes (S)
Christin Stewart (L)

Many of these names are familiar, of course, but there are a few new faces. Lefthander Jose Manuel Fernandez was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on November 2, not long after he made his MLB debut for the Jays in September. The 25-year-old southpaw gave up seven runs in 10 23 innings with six strikeouts and four walks. His numbers in the minors were much more promising, however, with a 2.97 ERA and over a strikeout per innings between Double- and Triple-A last season.

You may remember lefthander Matt Moore from his days with the Tampa Bay Rays. He peaked there in 2013, with a 17-4 record and 3.29 ERA in 150 13 innings. The Tigers are hoping both you and he have forgotten some of the years he has had since then; following his Tommy John surgery in 2014, he has a 5.22 ERA and 4.64 FIP in 537 23 innings.

Infielder Brandon Dixon was claimed off waivers the same day as Fernandez. He played five different positions (six, if you include a pair of mop-up appearances on the mound) for the Cincinnati Reds in 2018. He did not fare well at the plate in those 74 games, hitting .178/.218/.356. It’s worth noting he was used primarily as a defensive replacement, though; he only managed 124 plate appearances in those 74 games. Dixon, 26, managed a .958 OPS at Triple-A Louisville last year.

The Tigers acquired outfielder Dustin Peterson back in September, but he did not appear in a game for the club down the stretch. He went hitless in two games with the Atlanta Braves last year, but hit .268/.324/.406 in 107 games for their Triple-A affiliate. The 24-year-old is currently the No. 11 prospect in the Tigers system according to MLB Pipeline — though with Isaac Paredes sitting behind him on that list, this ranking should be taken with a large grain of salt.

Next, let’s look at the depth chart

This is just an early guess of how things will shake out, with just a pair of openings in areas we are fairly certain the Tigers will address this offseason.

Detroit Tigers depth chart
Pitchers Hitters

1: Michael Fulmer (R)
2: Matthew Boyd (L)
3: Jordan Zimmermann (R)
4: Daniel Norris (L)
5: Matt Moore (L)
AAA: Ryan Carpenter (L)
AAA: Matt Hall (L)
AAA: Spencer Turnbull (R)
AA: Franklin Perez (R)
AA: Gregory Soto (L)


CL: Shane Greene (R)
SU: Joe Jimenez (R)
MI: Buck Farmer (R)
MI: Drew VerHagen (R)
MI: Blaine Hardy (L)
MI: Daniel Stumpf (L)
MI: Victor Alcantara (R)
AAA: Sandy Baez (R)
AAA: Jose Manuel Fernandez (L)
AAA: Zac Reininger (R)
AA: Eduardo Jimenez (R)

2: Grayson Greiner (R)


1B: Miguel Cabrera (R)
2B: Niko Goodrum
3B: Jeimer Candelario (S)
DH: John Hicks (R)
UTIL: Ronny Rodriguez (R)
AAA: Sergio Alcantara (R)
AAA: Dawel Lugo (R)
AAA: Brandon Dixon (R)
AA: Willi Castro (S)


RF: Nicholas Castellanos (R)
CF: JaCoby Jones (R)
LF: Christin Stewart (L)
OF: Mikie Mahtook (R)
OF: Victor Reyes (S)
AAA: Mike Gerber (L)
AAA: Dustin Peterson (R)

Catcher, in particular, seems like a safe bet to be addressed this offseason. For one, Grayson Greiner is the only catcher listed on the 40-man roster (John Hicks is listed as an infielder). Hicks also barely saw any time behind the plate last season, catching only 21 games. With an extra spot in the lineup now available after Victor Martinez’s departure, expect Hicks to spend even less time donning the tools of ignorance than ever before. Whether the Tigers view Greiner as a starter or backup remains to be seen, but here are a few potential players he may be splitting time with next season.

The other likely addition will come at shortstop, one of the couple positions the Tigers have been actively looking to address so far this winter. Ronny Rodriguez did not seize control of the job after getting the lion’s share of the playing time last September, and the prospects (Sergio Alcantara and Willi Castro) aren’t ready for MLB action quite yet. Castro may even find himself back at Double-A; he struggled there while in the Cleveland Indians farm system last season, and the Toledo Mud Hens infield is getting rather crowded with Dixon now in the mix.

As for how exactly the Tigers will construct their roster and bench... meh. We will get into that as the 2019 season gets closer.

Here’s how the Tigers’ payroll looks right now

Arbitration estimates are courtesy of Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors, whose model typically underestimates Tigers players’ salaries by a few thousand bucks.

Detroit Tigers payroll

Name Position Salary ($M)
Name Position Salary ($M)
Miguel Cabrera 1B $30M
Jordan Zimmermann RHP $25M
Matt Moore LHP $2.5M
Arbitration Estimates
Nicholas Castellanos OF $11.3M
Shane Greene RHP $4.8M
Michael Fulmer RHP $3.0M
Matthew Boyd LHP $3.0M
Daniel Norris LHP $1.4M
Blaine Hardy LHP $1.2M
Dead Money
Remaining roster spots - $8.8M
Justin Verlander RHP $8M
Prince Fielder 1B $6M
TOTAL - $105M

While it looks like Detroit only has three players currently under contract for the 2019 season — Miguel Cabrera, Jordan Zimmermann, and Matt Moore — the reality is that most of their roster has already been renewed for the 2019 season while still making close to the major league minimum. Cabrera and Zimmermann account for over half of the team’s estimated $105 million payroll, with money owed for Justin Verlander and Prince Fielder representing another $14 million chunk.

There’s not much to see here otherwise. Matthew Boyd just barely snuck onto the positive side (for him) of the Super Two ledger, so he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. Our previous estimates of a $110 million payroll included projected salaries for James McCann and Alex Wilson, who were non-tendered last week.

It remains to be seen how much the Tigers will spend this offseason. Avila’s earlier comments about the payroll being a “burden” were not well received by fans and media alike but one imagines they were mostly in reference to signing a big-name free agents in the coming years. Whether they aim for more talented, mid-tier free agents or just search for bottom-of-the-barrel value is still anyone’s guess.

(h/t our friends at Athletics Nation for the article idea)