Cannon's Offseason Plan: 2021-22

There has obviously been lots of talk lately about the Tigers’ direction moving forward, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the upcoming winter. I view this winter as a chance to take a leap and cement the club as a winning franchise again, whether or not the playoffs come. As such, I’ll operate under the key assumptions that

1. No major prospects are traded. If you’re in a Detroit top-30 list somewhere and I know your name, Al probably won’t trade you, so neither would I.

2. The payroll doesn’t exceed $125M total salary for 2022. They conceivably could add more, but realistically, a 60% jump from this year seems like the ceiling. This is probably closer to $110M but I like spending, so sue me!

Arbitration Eligible Players

  • Michael Fulmer - $5.1M
  • Matthew Boyd - $7.3M: nontender, re-sign to multi-year MiLB contract if able
  • Drew Hutchinson - $900K: nontender
  • Ian Krol - $900K: nontender
  • Joe Jimenez - $1.8M
  • Jeimer Candelario - $5.9M
  • Niko Goodrum - $2.9M: nontender
  • Jose Cisnero - $1.9M
  • Victor Reyes - $1.3M
  • Grayson Greiner - $800K
  • Spencer Turnbull - $1.8M
  • Dustin Garneau - $1.6M: nontender, may re-sign to MiLB contract if able
  • Harold Castro - $1.5M

I like a lot of the guys nontendered here - Boyd is a great guy, and I want him around, but with his health concerns, I can’t justify a 40-man spot and $7+M. Goodrum is also a stand up guy, but his utter collapse, both offensively and defensively, spurred by a massive K%, plus Harold’s emergence in a similar role, make it hard to pay him $3M.

Pending Free Agents

  • Jose Urena - $3.45M
  • Julio Teheran - $3M
  • Jacoby Jones - $2.65M
  • Wily Peralta - $1.5M
  • Derek Holland - $925K

I would let them all walk. Nobody here is irreplaceable, and frankly, only 2 had any kind of positive impact on the 2021 club. If Peralta or Holland take a discount to stick around, great, but I wouldn’t give either a raise moving forward.

Total Pre-Season Payroll: ~$70M dollars, leaving between $40M and $55M to spend this winter. Now, for the fun part - spending someone else’s money!

Trevor Story (SS): 6 years/$140M. Coming into this season, that number probably would have looked $100M short of expectations. However, it’s impossible to talk about Story without mentioning his terrible platform year in 2021. Except despite his overall offense cratering, his blend of power, speed and defense led to a nice, tidy, 3.5 WAR, and he generally bounced back for a strong second half after some early-season injuries and mid-season Rockies drama. I expect Story to bounce back and post a 115-125 wRC+ and 4.5+ WAR on an annual basis over the next 5 or 6 years, and would happily pay for that level of production at such a glaring hole. This adds $23.3M to the 2022 budget, roughly half of the overall spending, but it’s not a huge splurge for such a well rounded star.

Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP): 4 years/$40M. Another moderate investment on a bounceback, Rodriguez is in the unfortunate position of playing in front of a terrible Boston defense while giving up more ground balls than his career norms. He also bumped his K%, cut his BB% and overall pitched a heck of a lot better than his 4.75 ERA suggests - his 3.32 FIP looks a lot nicer, and there’s no reason a defense of Story, Schoop, Torkelson and Candelario wouldn’t be better than one starting Devers and Schwarber at the corners. A team might bet on ERod bouncing back, and it seems reasonable to suggest he does. The deal models Lance Lynn’s 3 year/$30M deal with Texas after a similarly strong overall body of work yet poor bottom line stats in a platform year, with an added year tacked on since ERod is several years younger. It adds $10M to the 2022 salary.

Jon Gray (RHP): 1 year/$6M. Gray is a nice, stable presence in the rotation. He throws a lot of innings, gets solid K marks, and walks a few too many batters to be much more than average overall. The bet here is Fetter refines his delivery and command just a little, and that, paired with never pitching at Coors again, helps his overall body of work. Worst case scenario, he’s a league average innings eater who probably keeps the team in the game for 4-5 innings before a third trip spells disaster. Seriously, his ERA per turn through the order is as follows: 3.77 (great!), 3.99 (good!), 7.58 (terrible!!). Limit that 3rd turn, and Gray’s overall production ticks up considerably. This obviously adds $6M to the 2022 obligations.

Andrew Heany (LHP): MiLB contract, 1 year/$2M if on MLB roster. This looks weird, I know. But the Tigers need another lefty in the pen, and Heany could be a weapon in either a hybrid role or a more standard relief role. His production cratered with a huge spike in HR/FB, but he played a lot of the season in Yankee Stadium and still has a huge fastball. With a dominant splitter and high-spin fastball, Heaney could easily bounce back, much like Derek Holland did under Fetter’s eye. If it doesn’t pan out, it’s just a depth piece. I mention Heaney specifically here, but he’s really just a representation of what the Tigers might look for on the scrap heap - a high octane arm with upside and a fixable flaw (in this case, keeping the ball out of the middle of the zone when he’s behind in the count. BaseballSavant’s heat maps tell a huge story there. Stop throwing meatball fastballs 2-0 Heaney!). Best case scenario, it’s $2M that keeps Alexander as a SP and gets another interesting, high velocity arm in Fetter’s hands.

Victor Caratini (Catcher): 1 year/$2M. Another placeholder name. Haase is going to be the starting catcher, and Greiner is still around, so it’s not a massive priority. That being said, catchers get hurt and you can’t really have too many - I wouldn’t even be upset about keeping Garneau and having 3 catchers on the 40-man to be honest. Backup catchers get DFA’d and nontendered all the time, so a guy like Caratini could easily be available. I don’t really care who this is, so much as it’s a generally well-regarded defensive catcher who hits better than a decent pitcher. I thought about - and would prefer - a small trade for a more well-rounded player like Tucker Barnhart or Mike Zunnino, but I don't see Detroit paying the prospect cost to pull that off. Maybe one is bought out and Detroit swoops in, but I doubt that too. Regardless, this adds $2M to the ledger.

End payroll: $70M + $23.3M + $10M + $6M + $2M + $2M = ~$113.3M dollars for the 2022 season! Obviously money could buy bigger upgrades, but I really don’t see the Tigers signing multiple $20M+ AAV contracts in their first major winter. There’s also payroll space to add a flexible option like Chris Taylor or Mark Canha, but I really doubt the club adds another outfielder, even if only 2 (Grossman, Baddoo) of the 6 guys in the mix (Hill, Greene, Cameron, Reyes) have proven themselves starter material. Maybe a trade clears out some of the younger options and then Detroit brings in another outfielder, but I really don’t see a trade in the works. I expect the youngsters to get plenty of playing time, which is OK - it’s fun to see the top kids show up and perform, and 2022 is essentially playing with house money.

These are pretty sizable upgrades over the incumbents in their position, but it certainly doesn’t break the bank. The larger contracts seem reasonable, based on market trends and the surplus of supply at their positions, and it puts Detroit in the enviable position of having a solid core and a payroll with room to grow. If this is the type of winter the Tigers push out, I really can’t complain, and I’d cautiously pencil them in for ~85 wins and 2nd place in the AL Central. Let’s go Detroit Tigers!

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