The Detroit Tigers aren’t doing anything right now, and it’s hard to blame them. While they still have a few things they need to address this offseason, it’s only January 7. There are still nearly six weeks until spring training, and 80 days until the regular season begins. We’re impatient, of course, but we are fans. We’re irrational.
Despite the lack of news, we still have plenty of things to talk about when it comes to our favorite baseball team. Not only have we been busy breaking down what we want to see from the Tigers this year, we’re also knee-deep in our 2019 prospect profiles.
Best of all, the fanbase’s appetite for Tigers news and coverage is still present. We received several great questions for this latest Tigers mailbag, as well as a few more ideas for things to tackle before we get into our normal season preview coverage.
Also, a special shoutout to our Facebook commenters who came through in a big way for questions this week. Step your game up, Twitter.
What's a realistic return for Castellanos should he be traded this offseason?— feez (@ItsFeezus) January 7, 2019
Spoiler alert: it’s not as much as you think. My initial guess is that Castellanos could maybe net the Tigers a back-end top-100 prospect, or a couple of lower-tier prospects.
Luckily for me, someone else already did the hard work:
Castellanos is projected to be worth 1.9 WAR this upcoming season, per Steamer. This investigation will be conducted under the following condition:
1 WAR = $9 million.
Based on this conversion, Castellanos would be worth $17.1 million ($9 million * 1.9 WAR). Then, you must subtract the cost of his contract…
$17.1 million – $11.3 million = $5.8 million in surplus value.
That’s MaxG over at Max’s Sporting Studio, a new site I’m going to be checking in on frequently. Max took FanGraphs’ recent work on prospect valuation and applied it to Castellanos’ trade value to estimate a potential return for the Tigers’ right fielder.
Nick Castellanos for (LHP 45 Kolby Allard or LHP 45 Kyle Muller) and (RF 40 Izzy Wilson or 3B 40 CJ Alexander) – Allard may be off the table as well; he had a few atrocious starts in the MLB at the end of this past season, and they won’t want to sell low. But Muller would likely be available. He is a good prospect in his own right. He had an ERA in the low 3s at A+ and AA and generated a fair number of strikeouts (around 8.5 Ks / 9 IP). Between Izzy Wilson and CJ Alexander, I prefer Alexander because Wilson hit for a very low average (in low .200s) and was strikeout prone (28-30% range) in the low minors, whereas Alexander has good raw power and is a capable defender at SS, 3B, 1B, and 2B.
Taking Bryce Harper off the market might incentivize teams to pay a bit more for Castellanos, but don’t expect much more than the above return. Allard, for example, ranks as MLB Pipeline’s No. 100 prospect right now, and Muller is a couple of spots behind him on their Braves rankings.
Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Tigers take a risk with the compensatory round pick they will receive for Castellanos next offseason. That prospect might not be quite as good as Allard or Muller, but it would (a) give them another season of Castellanos’ bat, and (b) give them another 10 months to potentially work out a contract extension.
From Jay Matthews on Facebook: Who do you think will be in the TV booth for the Tigers in the upcoming season?
As many of us expected, the Tigers are sticking with Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris as the primary analysts on Fox Sports Detroit broadcasts in 2019. Gibson did most of the games after Mario Impemba and Rod Allen were suspended last fall, and seems to have a good rapport with potential play-by-play men Matt Shepard and Dan Dickerson. Morris splits his time between the Tigers and Minnesota Twins, but is also familiar with how Fox Sports Detroit runs things.
(They’re also still under contract, which was probably the biggest reason they are sticking around.)
As for the team’s new play-by-play man? That’s anyone’s guess. Potterville native Joe Davis has already turned down the gig, and for good reason; he is Vin Scully’s hand-picked replacement in Los Angeles, and has already laid down roots with his young family out west. Pirates announcer Joe Block is another longshot despite ties to the area. Former Tigers announcer Josh Lewin is also out of the running.
While the Tigers and Fox Sports Detroit have mentioned they are casting a nation-wide net in search of their next announcer, my guess is they end up with someone already in the organization. That could be as simple as taking the “interim” tag off Matt Shepard, or bringing Dickerson over to the TV side after years of calling games on the radio. Minor league announcers Greg Garnia or (our pick) Dan Hasty could also be in the mix for either TV or radio, depending on where Dickerson ends up.
From Rob Adams on Facebook: Can Candelario play first, Miggy DH, and sign Mike Moustakas?
I’m always in favor of the Tigers trying weird things, and I love this idea. Moustakas had a decent season splitting time between the Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers, but his bat took a step back from the 118 OPS+ he posted between 2015 and 2017, when he was a two-time All-Star. If the Tigers were able to land him on a one-year deal, he could potentially rebuild value and net the Tigers a prospect at the July trade deadline. He would almost certainly be a bigger upgrade than any first baseman the Tigers could add to give Miguel Cabrera more days off his feet during the season.
Unfortunately, I don’t think either side wants this to happen. Moustakas will be seeking as big of a contract as possible, and all things considered, would likely prefer to land with a contender (a reunion with the Brewers isn’t out of the question). The Tigers are being cost-conscious right now, to put it nicely, and likely won’t be out-bidding anyone for a premium free agent.
They also won’t want to move Candelario away from third base until it’s absolutely necessary. Candelario had his issues at the plate during a second half swoon, but managed a respectable -1 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and +3.2 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in over 1,200 innings at the hot corner last year. He is a capable defender over there, and will not be moved unless it’s to make room for a long-term solution.
From Brian Sprung on Facebook: Will we see Mize, Manning or Perez up this year or will we have to wait until 2020?
Let’s get the easy one out of the way; there is almost zero chance we see Matt Manning in Detroit in 2019. He fanned a few batters in his two starts at Double-A to close out the 2018 season, but he still has a long way to go developmentally until he is ready to face major league hitters. Expect him to spend all of 2019 at Double-A, and most of 2020 in the minors as well.
From there, it gets interesting. Casey Mize is the most advanced of these three prospects, and will probably be the one competing for a spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation in 2020. He should make it to Double-A very quickly this year (if he doesn’t just start the season there) and might make his way up to Triple-A soon after if things go well. He has the four-pitch mix and the advanced command to make life hell for minor league hitters. FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel recently predicted that Mize would likely make it to Detroit by season’s end.
But if I’m going to bet on someone making it first, it might actually be Franklin Perez. He holds a big advantage over Mize and Manning in that he is already on the 40-man roster, and was well ahead of the other two heading into the 2018 season. Were it not for his lat and shoulder injuries, he would likely be on the doorstep of the majors right now. Getting back to full health and simply logging a bunch of innings will be Priority No. 1 for Perez and the Tigers in 2019, but there is little reason for them to hold him back when calling players up in September. Meanwhile, keeping Mize down in the minors not only helps them game his service time, it also keeps a spot on the 40-man roster open for next offseason. So while Mize might be the most MLB ready by season’s end, my guess is Perez gets there first.