FanPost

Off Season Roster Calculations: How The Tigers Make Room For Some New Faces

Disclaimer: Evan Woodbury of M-Live recently did an article on this very topic, though much less in depth than I am taking the subject.

The MLB regular season is over and the playoffs are in full swing. For the teams not in the playoffs, their business turns to preparing for the next season. For the Tigers this task is especially important given how the team exceeded expectations and how Chris Ilitch has talked about adding payroll this off season. But before that can happen, decisions on whether to extend a qualifying offer to pending free agents, adding injured players back to the 40 man roster, what arbitration and pre-arbitration players you wish to tender contracts, and whether or not you are going to protect any players from the rule 5 draft.

Teams have until 5 days after the World Series ends to decide to make a qualifying offer on free agents and add back injured players. Then around the beginning of December, decisions on extending contracts to arbitration and pre-arbitration players and adding players to protect them from the rule 5 draft are due. Also, somewhere along this line you have to make a decision on what your needs are so that you can have roster room to add those players to your 40 man roster. Maybe you don’t clear that room right away, but you have a plan in place on how you are going to go about that and whom you might let go to create room. Also have to decide if you want room draft a rule 5 player.

So what are the needs of the Tigers this off season? Obviously, the first need is shortstop. Everyone from Hinch, to Avila, to Ilitch has said SS will be addressed. Let’s not get bogged down on who just yet, that is a topic for another day. With injuries to both Boyd and Turnbull putting them out for most if not all of next year, it is obvious we will need some starting pitching. Likely 2 MLB level starters, one veteran and one guy who could compete with Alexander for the 5th spot and/or be the long man in the pen. With Jake Rogers out for a good part of next year as well, catching depth is a must. Let’s plan on this being an MLB catcher for the moment. So at a minimum, we need 4 roster spots. People talk about a power bat at first or OF, and that is a possibility. Maybe it’s not a top priority and maybe it’s not a priority at all given that Greene and Torkelson could very well make the team sometime next year. Tigers are also still in a building phase despite all the talk about adding talent and contending. So have to at least consider taking a rule 5 player. And many people also think adding a bullpen arm would go a long way to helping this team next year. Given these last three items are not sure things, lets plan on two more spots to cover these possibilities. So the Tigers really have to be prepared to pare their 40 man roster to 34 to accommodate these signings/picks. That can be done as the need arises but by the end of the World Series the team should have a pretty good idea how they are going to do this.

Next, what minor leaguers do we need to add to protect them from the rule 5 draft. Players drafted at 18 or younger need to be protected on their 5th rule 5 draft. Players 19 or older need to be protected on their 4th rule 5 draft. So any college kid drafted in 2018 or high school player drafted in 2017 will need to be protected. Suffice to say 2017 was not our best draft year. Anyone worth protecting has been added from that class. 2018’s class does present some questions. Kody Clemens was in that class signing out of Texas. Also of note in this class are Adam Wolf, Hugh Smith, and Eric De LaRosa. Wolf topped out at high A this year and Hugh Smith spent half the year on the DL for the Whitecaps. Safe to say neither will be protected. De La Rosa played well at Lakeland and West Michigan before struggling a bit at Erie. Good speed and defense, and a decent hitter with extra base but not HR power. Doubt the Tigers protect him this year either. Parker Meadows was in this class as well but he was drafted out of high school so such a decision on him waits until next off season. My guess is the Tigers will protect Clemens. Also possibly needing protection is Elvin Rodriguez. 23 years old and signed by the Angles in 2014, turned 18 in 2016 so he would be rule 5 eligible if not protected. He pitched mostly in AA Erie and did not have a great year but was promoted late to Toledo. My thoughts are that Tigers will risk it and leave him unprotected but outside shot they add him. That brings us to needing up to 7 roster spots and paring the current roster to 33.

So now it is time to look at the current roster. The 40 man roster stands at 40, with 4 players on the 60 day IL: Jake Rogers, Rony Garcia, Spencer Turnbull, and Julio Teheran. There are also 4 pending free agents, one of which is also Julio Teheran. So by adding back the 60 day IL players and removing all the free agents, we are still at 40 players. So on to the specifics of the roster.

Players under Contract 2022 salary

Miguel Cabrera $30M

Jonathan Schoop $7.5M

Robbie Grossman $5M

All three are absolute locks to make the team barring something unforeseen.

Pending Free Agents % chance they return in 2022

Jose Urena 0

Juilo Teheran 0

Wily Peralta 70

Derek Holland 20

Initially, zero chance these guys return. None of them will be extended qualifying offers. Given we need two starters Peralta could conceivably be back on a team friendly deal and compete for that last rotation spot. If not him, someone else. But at least initially, no additional roster spots opening up so we are still at 40.

The Rest

Arbitration eligible

Options left

% chance tendered

2022 salary projection**

2021 salary

Matt Boyd

A4

0

20

$7.3M

$6.5M

Michael Fulmer

A4

2

98

$5.1M

$3.1M

Jeimer Candelario

A2

0

99

$5.9M

$2.85M

Niko Goodrum

A2

3

10

$2.9M

$2.1M

Jose Cisnero

A2

1

99

$1.9M

$970K

Ian Krol

A3

0

5

$900K

LM

Dustin Garneau

A2

0

80

$1.6M

LM

Victor Reyes

A1

1

80

$1.3M

$587K

Spencer Turnbull

A1

3

99

$1.8M

$587K

Grayson Greiner

A1

0*

85/15

$800K

$583K

Drew Hutchinson

Harold Castro

A4

A1

0

2

5

99

$900K

$1.5M

LM

$582K

Joe Jimenez

A2

1

80

$1.8M

$1.5M

Gregory Soto

NAE

1

99

$580K

Tyler Alexander

NAE

2

99

$579K

Willi Castro

NAE

1

80

$579K

Bryan Garcia

NAE

2

90

$577K

Rony Garcia

NAE

2

99

$575K

Tarik Skubal

NAE

3

99

$574K

Casey Mize

NAE

3

99

$574K

Akil Baddoo

NAE

3

99

$571K

Daz Cameron

NAE

2

90

LM

Alex Faedo

NAE

2

90

LM

Kyle Funkhouser

NAE

3

99

LM

Eric Haase

NAE

0

99

LM

Derek Hill

NAE

2

99

LM

Alex Lange

NAE

2

99

LM

Matt Manning

NAE

2

99

LM

Isaac Parades

NAE

2

99

LM

Jacob Robson

NAE

2

30

LM

Zack Short

NAE

2

80

LM

Joey Wentz

NAE

2

99

LM

Drew Carlton

NAE

2

99

LM

Miguel Del Pozo

NAE

1

30

LM

Jason Foley

Jake Rogers

NAE

NAE

2

3

99

99

LM

Nivaldo Rodriguez

NAE

2

90

LM

** per MLB Trade Rumors. Only listing salary projections for those who are arbitration eligible. NAE=not arbitration eligible. Teams can tender contracts to these players and they have to accept. LM=League minimum (likely) as their salaries are not listed by Cots Baseball Contracts

OK, this is where things get interesting. This is where we have to trim up to 7 spots to accommodate any signings and rule 5 picks. We’ll start with Matt Boyd. He underwent surgery on September 27th and while not Tommy John surgery, it is expected he will miss the bulk of 2022, his last year before free agency. Given his 2021 salary and 2022 salary projection, I can’t see the Tigers taking him to arbitration this off season. They might be able to get a reduction in his salary but that is rare in arbitration. Most likely they non-tender him but do the right thing and give him a major league deal at a greatly reduced salary. That gives him service time, a place to rehab that is familiar to him, and a place to pitch if he can get back sometime next year before heading off as a free agent. That does not clear a roster spot though. Also possible the Tigers are ruthless but kind of do the right thing and non-tender him but offer him a minor league deal. Still gets a place to rehab that is familiar and a place to pitch once healthy, but that may not be on the big club and he would not earn service time either. Kind of hoping the Tigers are ruthless because I doubt any other team offers him a major league deal. Then the Tigers could add him late next year to the 40 man and have him around for 2023 as he would still be short of the required 6 years of service time for free agency. Also it opens a roster spot. For the purposes of this exercise, the Tigers are not yet that ruthless and we don’t gain the spot from Boyd.

Next up is Niko Goodrum. He had a horrible year in all facets of the game. Any raise on his 2021 does not seem like good money spent, and I can’t see the Tigers doing that. Plus Harold Castro has surpassed him as the super utility guy. Goodrum gets McCanned and we are now down to 39. Next is Drew Hutchison. Really can’t complain about how he pitched in his 21.1 innings in Detroit this year. He is 31 and has been a career journeyman. There is value in having someone like that in your system, but not taking a 40 man roster spot. He gets non-tendered and we now are at 38. Next up is Ian Krol. He has no options left after this year and turns 31 next May which suggests he is almost certainly not going to be tendered a contract. He actually did not pitch that horribly this year for us but we have a lot of other bullpen options better than Krol. Now we are down to 37. Next up is Grayson Greiner. First time he would be arbitration eligible. But he also is out of options and was the odd man out this year for the most part. Well, at least according the BYB in their article from March of this year. But Evan Woodbury states he has an option left. I actually reached out to Evan and he is going to check into this. If he has no options, pretty likely he gets non-tendered. Both Haase and Garneau are also out of options and highly unlikely the Tigers carry 3 catchers with no options through the off season. But if he has options, he becomes much easier to carry for a year as a depth piece. For now, will assume BYB is right and Greiner is out of options and gets non-tendered. Now we are down to 36.

This is where things could get interesting. Goodrum, Hutchinson, and Krol were pretty easy and those roster spots could be trimmed early. We’ll see on Greiner. The other spots will occur as needed or if arbitration eligible, at the time arbitration contracts need to be tendered. I have given each of "The Rest" a rating of how likely they are to stay on the roster, at least in my opinion. We’ll take these based on their likelihood to remain on the roster. First up are Jacob Robson and Miguel Del Pozo as the most likely to be cut. Robson is a fan favorite given his ability to hit in the minors. Also draws a fair number of walks. But he lacks power or a projection of power at the major league level. He also strikes out too much for that profile. And while fast and covers ground in the OF, has a fairly weak arm which limits him. At 26 might be time for him to make some money and play in Japan or Korea. Del Pozo pitched fairly well in AAA this year but at 28 hardly seems like a guy you want to hold onto when you need some roster space. If he were a starter I’d think he would look to a foreign league to make some money but he has been primarily a reliever so that avenue might not be open to him. If both of these guys are cut we are down to 34 and close to where we need to be.

The next group includes 5 players at 80% of staying with the team: Joe Jimenez, Zack Short, Willi Castro, Victor Reyes, and Dustin Garneau. If we have to get to 33 then one of these guys has to go (hence rating them at 80%). First up is Joe Jimenez, a player many Tiger fans love to hate. Seems unfair but given the fanfare he had as he rose through the ranks somewhat expected. After being an All-Star in 2018 he has struggled. He is a 2nd year arbitration eligible which normally means a nice raise on his $1.5M salary. MLBTR’s projection of only a $300K raise points to the struggle 2021 was for old Joe. He did show signs of improvement this year, especially in the second half. He had a stellar August before struggling again in September. Twelve appearances in August only scored upon in two of those twelve appearances. That may be enough to hold a spot given the talent he possesses. But he posted his worse BB/9 of his career at 6.9 as well. So he may hold his spot, but he does not have a firm grasp on it either.

Next is Zack Short. A likeable guy and he was our best defensive SS this year. But outside of a couple of real neat moments, he did not hit a lick this year. For some reason has an uppercut swing which results in far too many pop ups. I think the Tigers would like to keep him given he is pre-arbitration eligible and has options left. He would likely be in Toledo but be the man up if our SS signing gets hurt. But with Ryan Kreidler emerging this year, could see the Tigers looking to him as that injury replacement option.

Next is Victor Reyes, our rule 5 pick in 2018. Positives include more than adequately playing all 3 OF positions, a switch hitter, and he has an option left. Downside is that he does not generate any power out of that lean lanky frame of his. He is first time arbitration eligible and MLBTR projects a nice raise, though $1.3M will hardly price him out of a job. So he likely stays given we’d only have 5 OF on the 40 man if we let Robson go, would want at least one guy at AAA to call up. But given Greene’s ascent, he could be that guy or he could even make the team out of camp. That could make Reyes expendable.

Next is Willi Castro. He had a great 2020 and has all the physical tools to be at least an average major leaguer. But his defense has been poor at best, atrocious at worst. He has some pop in his bat but strikes out too much. He saved an option when he was recalled after 6 days in AAA this year. Likely the Tigers use it to see if they can maybe develop him into an OF or improve his defense enough at second to see if he can stick. But push comes to shove, with Parades, Clemens, Short, Harold Castro, Kreidler all in the system, I could see the Tigers cutting bait on Willi.

Last is Dustin Garneau. He played well for us this year and even hit a bit, which has never been his strong suit. He likely keeps his roster spot given we have only one other catcher on the roster (assuming we cut Greiner loose) in Eric Haase. But his lack of options (zero) and need for a better catcher than him to pair with Haase could mean the Tigers risk it and non-tender him. His spot is tenuous on the roster if Greiner has options, or if the Tigers do go land that MLB catcher. My guess is the Tigers go grab that catcher out of the gate and Garneau is the one in this group that is sent packing. But for the sake of argument let’s assume the Tigers keep all 5 of these guys and go hunting elsewhere on the roster for the next cut. That leaves 4 players I have ranked at 90% chance of sticking on the roster: Alex Faedo, Daz Cameron, Nivaldo Rodriguez, and Bryan Garcia.

Alex Faedo had Tommy John surgery this past spring. A tough blow to be sure. He will spend most, if not all of 2022 trying to come back from that injury. He will burn an option doing it in the minors. He and Wentz had their surgeries about a year apart. So if he follows Wentz’s path he will start a rehab assignment in late May and sometime in late June get activated and start most likely in AA Erie. Tigers kept Wentz on the roster last year and likely will do the same with Faedo. But an outside shot they DFA him to avoid burning an option and risking that no one will pick him up while he is still recovering from his surgery.

Daz Cameron was part of the Verlander trade. Given that there will be a reluctance to cut him. A good defensive OF who can play all 3 OF spots but who has not hit much at all in his 160 MLB AB’s. He will be 25 next year with two options left. He likely sticks as that AAA OF that can be called up due to injury. At some point he will need to hit or we will send him packing, just not likely this off season.

Bryan Garcia was going to be the next stud reliever in the Tigers system until he too needed Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2018 season. While he has recovered from that and actually debuted in Detroit in 2019, he really hasn't been the same. He has averaged 10.8 K/9 in the minors, including a respectable 8.9 K/9 in Toledo during his first year back in 2019. But at the MLB level he has averaged 6.8 K/9. His 2021 struggles were there for all of us to see. The lack of an overpowering fastball means he is going to have to refine his pitch mix and get better command of his pitches if he is going to be an adequate major league reliever. But there is enough potential in him that the Tigers likely stick with him for at least another year.

Last is Nivaldo Rodriguez, a 24 year old reliever out of the Astros system. Has pitched in 9 major league games for the Astros in 2020 and 2021 combined. They designated him for assignment on July 31st and we claimed him off of waivers. He has started in 40 of his 81 minor league appearances so he has bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen, and did the same in Toledo. A 4 pitch mix with a FB that lies in the low to mid 90’s. His curve is apparently his best pitch. Given his newness to our system, could easily see the Tigers just cutting him if they need a spot and maybe he goes before some of the guys I have ranked below him. But at 24 and a product of the Astros system could easily see the Tigers keeping him just to see what he has.

In summary, there is a lot more that goes into planning an off season roster than meets the eye. Tigers will easily get to a roster of 36 and can get to 34 with only minimal pain. But if they want to add more talent this off season, then the decisions get interesting. But they have more than enough options to add that 7th player, and maybe even more if they really do want to go for it in 2022. Pop some popcorn and get comfortable, the upcoming hot stove league promises to be very interesting for the Tigers.



This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.