The Detroit Tigers have placed lefthander Blaine Hardy on outright waivers, according to a report from MLB.com’s Jason Beck. Hardy, a 32-year-old lefthander, was expected to be non-tendered by the club this offseason. Since Hardy has already been outrighted in his career, he will have the option to become a free agent if he clears waivers.
While we anticipated a move of this nature, it’s still a bit disappointing to see. Hardy has been with the Tigers since 2014, when he emerged as a reliable piece out of the bullpen. He debuted with a 2.54 ERA in 39 innings that season, and followed up with a 3.08 ERA in 61 1⁄3 frames the following year. Over his six seasons in a Tigers uniform, Hardy has a 3.73 ERA with 229 strikeouts in 289 2⁄3 innings.
Hardy was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 22nd round of the 2008 MLB draft from Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. He quickly worked his way up the minor league ladder, but was unable to break through with the Royals in five minor league seasons. The Royals released him on March 21, 2013, and he signed with the Tigers 12 days later. From there, Hardy enjoyed a dominant 2013 season in the minors before making his MLB debut with Detroit on June 16, 2014.
While us fans certainly wanted him to return, it’s no surprise that Hardy is being waived. Matt Swartz’s arbitration projection model (available at MLB Trade Rumors) predicted that Hardy would earn $1.8 million in 2020, a $500,000 raise over his 2019 salary of $1.3 million. While this doesn’t seem like much money for a club whose payroll had previously eclipsed $200 million in a single season, the Tigers have scaled way back on spending in recent years. They currently have less than $90 million on their books heading into the offseason, and will be looking to give younger players a shot to earn a roster spot — and, ideally, a place in the team’s future plans. And while we selfishly want Hardy to stick around, a soft-tossing lefthander entering his age-33 season — one who missed the final two months of the season with elbow trouble, remember — doesn’t exactly mix with their future window of contention.
This isn’t to say that the Tigers and Hardy are guaranteed to part ways, either. Hardy could still return on a cheaper contract, or a minor league deal if he does not find any offers to his liking elsewhere. The Oakland Athletics showed some interest in Hardy last winter, but never pulled the trigger on a trade. Hardy could also accept the outright and report to Triple-A Toledo, where he would almost certainly receive an invite to major league spring training next year.