Update: the deal is official. To make room for Grossman on the 40-man roster, Troy Stokes Jr. was designated for assignment.
Let’s start 2021 the right way!— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) January 6, 2021
We’ve signed OF Robbie Grossman to a two-year contract. pic.twitter.com/pfFtcnQDHA
Original: The Detroit Tigers are close to a deal with free agent outfielder Robbie Grossman, according to a report from Cody Stavenhagen and Ken Rosenthal, both from The Athletic. The reported contract would be worth a total of $10 million over two years, a slight raise over the $3.75 million Grossman made (well, would have made if, you know) with the Oakland Athletics in 2020.
Grossman, 31, has already spent time with five MLB organizations; Detroit would be his sixth. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008, and made Baseball Prospectus’ top 100 prospects list in 2012 before making his MLB debut with the Houston Astros in 2013. In 726 games over the past eight seasons, Grossman has hit .252/.350/.380 (a 101 OPS+) and produced 6.9 rWAR.
The Tigers are hoping that they get the 2020 version of Grossman. In 51 games with the A’s, Grossman produced an .826 OPS and a 130 OPS+, the latter of which was a career-high. He also produced 1.2 rWAR, which was by far the best per-game rate of his career. He draws a lot of walks (career 12.6 percent walk rate), but his power took off in 2020; his .241 ISO in 192 plate appearances was leaps and bounds above what he has produced before.
Robbie Grossman had the 2nd-largest increase in pull% among qualifiers from 2019-20: roughly 17%.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) January 5, 2021
His SLG jumped from .348 to .482.https://t.co/kALFoQiCYU
If Grossman’s power doesn’t stick around, hopefully his improved defense will. FanGraphs’ version of WAR has not been as kind to Grossman over the years (he has been worth just 4.9 fWAR), in large part thanks to very poor defensive numbers. But most measures, including Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Baseball Reference’s version of defensive WAR, have rated him close to league average over the past couple seasons.
Banking on Grossman’s 2020 power spike sticking around seems risky, but it’s not like the Tigers are investing a ton of capital here. Grossman has played all over the outfield, and can also fill in as a designated hitter if his defense proves to be a liability once again. He could also be a useful bench bat for manager A.J. Hinch, who Grossman played for with the Astros in 2015.
Either way, one hopes this move doesn’t preclude the Tigers from making additional (and bigger) moves to shore up the roster, outfield or elsewhere.