For years, we as Detroit Tigers fans haven’t had much to look forward to when rosters expand on September 1 — well, besides that whole “playoffs” thing. This year’s Tigers won’t be playing in October, but they have a much more interesting group of prospects to choose from when adding players to their active roster next month.
Unfortunately, the Tigers probably won’t get too creative with their additions. Outfielder Christin Stewart might get the call, according to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, but we’d like to see the club get even more aggressive than that.
Before we introduce our ideal version of the September Tigers, a couple of rules. First, we’re not cutting anyone, as much as you might like to see Daniel Stumpf or James McCann get the ziggy. Second, we are still going to be somewhat predictive. Relievers who aren’t Rule 5 eligible until next winter probably won’t get the call. Finally, we’re not setting an actual lineup. Yell at Ron Gardenhire about that.
There’s nothing to see here, unfortunately. Catcher of the Future (TM) Jake Rogers was drafted in 2016, and isn’t Rule 5 eligible until after the 2019 season. While he has come on strong in the second half of 2018, there’s little reason to call him up to the majors this September. Even in the case of injury, we will probably see the Tigers call in a veteran like Jarrod Saltalamacchia to close out the year. One-time Tigers draftee Kade Scivicque would also likely be ahead of Rogers in the pecking order if the club wants a third catcher.
The Tigers could call up as many as three recently acquired infielders, but they historically have not challenged those playing at Double-A for most of the year. Plus, there are already plenty of mouths to feed at the major league level in terms of playing time, and the Tigers are still going to start Candelario and Iglesias most days on the left side of the infield. That leaves Dawel Lugo, who will probably get a few starts in September. He’s already on the 40-man roster, and was called up for a hot second earlier in the year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sergio Alcantara or Willi Castro added either, but they’re largely redundant and would mostly just ride the bench.
The Tigers have as many as three outfielders they need to add to the 40-man roster prior to this winter’s Rule 5 draft, but Christin Stewart is likely the only one to get called up in September. Derek Hill will likely be added at some point after the season — don’t be surprised if he gets sent to the Arizona Fall League — while Cam Gibson might be left unprotected. If there were more room on the 40-man roster, I might consider bringing up Gibson just for kicks, but the Tigers can only really clear room for three players (including Daniel Norris).
Here’s where things get fun. Francisco Liriano has been awful for over a month now, and at this point is just taking up innings that could go to younger players. Instead of watching him walk the world for another month, we’d rather see the Tigers reward Matt Hall for a hell of a season in the minor leagues. The 25-year-old lefthander is Rule 5 eligible after the season, and probably won’t go unclaimed after striking out 125 batters in 104 1⁄3 minor league innings this year. He’s probably still only a left-handed reliever going forward, but there’s no better time to experiment than over the next month.
There are a lot of names here, but few surprises. The Tigers likely won’t move Liriano to the bullpen, but we’d much rather see him there (or in mop-up duty) than starting games that could go to younger pitchers. Most of the other names on this list are players we’ve seen before, save for lefthander Josh Smoker and righthander Spencer Turnbull. The former is a pitcher the Tigers claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in late July, while the latter is Detroit’s second round pick from 2014. Frequent readers know we have been optimistic about Turnbull’s abilities for a while now, but the big righthander once again missed time with an arm injury in 2018. He is healthy now, though, and the Tigers might want to challenge him with a big league stint rather than send him to the Arizona Fall League for the third year in a row. Watching him air it out over an inning or two might be one of the more exciting things we Tigers fans get to see this fall.
The arithmetic: Detroit currently has an open spot on the 40-man roster. To make room for Stewart, Hall, and Norris, they could transfer John Hicks and Artie Lewicki to the 60-day disabled list.