As expected the Detroit Tigers tendered a contract to all of their non-tender candidates before Wednesday’s deadline. Around the league there were plenty of notable players released, but it wasn’t quite the frenzy of cuts some had predicted as teams look to trim payroll this offseason.
The Tigers didn’t really have any reason to let a player go. Their current payroll is one of the lowest in the league, and of their non-tender—seriously, can we invent a better term for this process—candidates, only Matthew Boyd is likely to earn over $5 million in 2021. Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer are estimated to earn just under $3 million, while JaCoby Jones and Buck Farmer check in under $2 million in projected earnings. Joe Jimenez, Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum, Victor Reyes, and Jose Cisnero are all in their first year of eligibility. The costs here are not substantial.
You can get the full list of 59 non-tendered players here, but we’ll just mention some of the more well known among them. The Chicago Cubs released outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora. Schwarber is probably the best bat of the bunch and Cubs fans are pretty sad about this. The Cincinnati Reds declined to offer on a solid reliever in Archie Bradley. The Texas Rangers let outfielder Danny Santana walk while former Rangers top prospect Nomar Mazara was released by the Chicago White Sox. Mazara is known for enormous raw power but just cannot make enough hard contact to hang in the majors. He’s still only 25 years old so he seems likely to get a look somewhere.
There were plenty of outfielders cut overall. The Colorado Rockies released David Dahl. The Cleveland Indians released outfielders Tyler Naquin and Delino DeShields, while the Atlanta Braves cut left-handed platoon masher Adam Duvall, and the Minnesota Twins cut a similar player in Eddie Rosario loose as well. There are quite a few potential minor upgrades to the Tigers outfield available.
There are few somewhat interesting pitchers now on the open market as well. Hansel Robles was great for the Los Angeles Angels bullpen as recently as 2019. He got the axe, as did former Angels closer Kenyan Middleton, whose return from Tommy John in 2020 was a rocky one. The White Sox finally cut ties lefthander Carlos Rodon. The Twins released a pretty good reliever in Matt Wisler as well.
As usual, this was also a busy day for trades, though they were far from blockbusters. The Los Angeles Angels moved on from free agent Andrelton Simmons by flipping a pair of modest pitching prospects to the Baltimore Orioles for former Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias. Former Tigers reliever Corey Knebel, who has been absolutely dominant at times but also injury prone in his five years with the Milwaukee Brewers, was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations or a player to be named later. That one stings to be honest.
For those hoping the Tigers might pursue an upgrade among this group of players, Wednesday was a bit frustrating. The Tigers bullpen could certainly have benefitted from flipping a low tier prospect to the Reds for an Archie Bradley. Knebel is a wild card with excellent stuff and an injury history at this point, but the Tigers could’ve picked him up for next to nothing. Likewise, Schwarber as short-term help in left field is presumably off the table as he’ll likely have contending teams interested in picking him up for less than the Cubs offered. However, it’s a long offseason ahead, and likely a slow one, so there’s little choice but to wait and see if owner Chris Ilitch leaves any nice presents under the tree or not.
In the end, none of these players would move the needle on the Tigers future much. The silence from their front office on Wednesday isn’t exactly tipping their hand as to what they are trying to accomplish this offseason. The only thing clear is that this is a tough time to be a decent but not above average player hitting free agency. Whether the Tigers decide to take advantage of a chilly market for free agents and pursue a long-term solution at any position or simply punt again with a few minor additions, they’re going to have plenty of inexpensive options to fill holes available well into the new year.
The next date on MLB’s calendar is the 2020 Winter Meetings, set to begin on December 6. With the yearly industry convention on hold in favor of COVID safe teleconferences, we’ll have to see how active it is in terms of signings and trades.