The World Series only just concluded, but the Detroit Tigers are getting a head start on their offseason. Tuesday afternoon, the team announced that four players — outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, right-handed pitchers Dereck Rodriguez and Dario Agrazal, and left-handed pitcher Nick Ramirez — had cleared waivers and subsequently outrighted off the 40-man roster. Additionally, Ramirez opted to become a free agent rather than accept the outright assignment to Triple-A.
Among the recent cuts, it was Bonifacio who made the biggest impact on the Tigers’ 2020 season. Picked up on a minor league deal over the offseason, the former Royals top prospect was not anticipated to have a steady role in the major leagues. Underperformance and injury to other outfield options created a vacancy for the 27-year-old, especially after Cameron Maybin was traded to the Cubs.
All in all, he wasn’t especially impressive during his tenure with Detroit’s big-league club. He finished the season with 30 games under his belt and sporting a .221/.277/.326 line. His total offensive output was 36 percent below average, according to wRC+. As a short-term Band-Aid to an urgent problem, he worked out fine, but he’ll never serve as anything more than a depth piece for the team without major unforeseen improvements.
The only other player in this group who saw action on the Tigers’ big-league squad this season was Ramirez. A former first baseman converted to a southpaw long reliever by the Brewers in 2017, he has unusually excellent feel for a changeup. Unfortunately, that’s just about the only thing he does at an above-average level, and its led to mediocre big-league results. That held true in 2020, as he was hit for a 5.91 ERA and 6.19 FIP, although in an admittedly small sample of 10.1 innings. He’s in a good position to get an invite to spring training from a pitching-starved club.
Rodriguez — who I am contractually obligated to remind you is the son of Detroit Tiger legend and Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez — was claimed on waivers from San Fransisco in August. He’s 28 years old and already two full seasons removed from his outstanding 2018 campaign. The Tigers have often needed a great deal of pitching depth in recent years, and like Bonifacio, he serves best as a depth piece. If he’s still with the team come Spring Training, there’s a chance he’ll nab a job on the Opening Day staff.
The final man to lose his roster spot this week was Agrazal, a starting pitcher acquired for cash considerations from the Pirates last offseason. One can’t help but think that Agrazal was born into the wrong era of baseball. Though his sinker resembles some of the best in the game, he doesn’t strike out enough batters to receive much attention in today’s game. Without much velocity or feel for spinning a breaker, reliance on his command forces him to walk a tightrope every time he pitches. A forearm injury derailed his 2020 season, and if it also took something away from his ability long-term, it may have derailed his career altogether.
It’s not especially surprising to see these players on the outs from the Tigers’ 40-man roster; Like most teams, the Tigers generally move swiftly when it comes to opening up the roster when the World Series ends. In the upcoming weeks, those roster spots will be needed for protecting Rule 5 draft eligible players, signing free agents, and possibly adding a Rule 5 draftee of our own. There are presently the only three empty spots on the 40-man roster, so expect to see more players cut as the offseason progresses.