The Detroit Tigers are going to have a few tricky salary issues to deal with this offseason. With numerous players in arbitration, and the club expected to push to add talent, GM Al Avila and his staff will have some tough decisions ahead. Others will likely be pretty simple, as several arbitration eligible players just aren’t going to be worth keeping around at their current rates.
Matt Schwartz is the creator of MLB Trade Rumors’ model for projecting arbitration salaries. They recently published their 2022 projections, and it’s clear there will be a couple of tough decisions. The Tigers have 13 players eligible for arbitration this offseason, tied for sixth most in the league. Only the New York Yankees (19), Tampa Bay Rays (19), New York Mets (16), Atlanta Braves (15), and Milwaukee Brewers (14), have more. You can see the complete list here.
There are still some unknowns in the equation, such as the Super Two cutoff. And of course we have to add the “depending on the new CBA” caveat to everything this offseason. Service time, arbitration rates, rookie status, and a host of other relevant issues could all change somewhat when a new deal is reached between owners and labor.
For now, here is the Tigers’ complete list.
- Michael Fulmer – $5.1MM
- Matthew Boyd – $7.3MM
- Drew Hutchison – $900K
- Ian Krol – $900K
- Joe Jimenez – $1.8MM
- Jeimer Candelario – $5.9MM
- Niko Goodrum – $2.9MM
- Jose Cisnero – $1.9MM
- Victor Reyes – $1.3MM
- Grayson Greiner – $800K
- Spencer Turnbull – $1.8MM
- Dustin Garneau – $1.6MM
- Harold Castro – $1.5MM
Some of these are pretty easy. Spencer Turnbull, Jose Cisnero, and Jeimer Candelario are going nowhere. Dustin Garneau may be back for less, but it’s unlikely the Tigers are going to pay him $1.6M to return as a backup, and his defensive skills don’t profile well enough to consider him a likely starter for them. We’d be shocked if the Tigers paid Victor Reyes $1.3M despite a likely desire to continue trying to develop him at the Triple-A level. With Riley Greene close to the majors, and options like Derek Hill and Daz Cameron likely available, Reyes is probably going to have to renegotiate a minor league deal to stay in the org. And the Tigers aren’t going to bring back Krol, or Hutchison unless they can get them on a minor league deal. Neither have options.
Grayson Greiner, Niko Goodrum, and Harold Castro are all quite interesting as the Tigers consider how they’re going to address depth in their roster this offseason. Greiner is clearly not a favored choice for A.J. Hinch, preferring Garneau late in the season after Jake Rogers’ injury, so one assumes he’s on the outs. On the other hand, the Tigers are extremely thin at catcher going into next year. Dillon Dingler needs at least a year in the minors if not more, Rogers won’t be back until late next season, and beyond that the Tigers don’t really have any help coming. Cooper Johnson might get some consideration but otherwise the situation is bleak. It’s virtually guaranteed that the Tigers will pursue an everyday catcher in free agency or by trade, emphasizing the defense-first models available.
Castro established himself as a trusted piece of A.J. Hinch’s bench, and his versatility and ability to get the bat on the ball, regardless of who is throwing it, makes him an appealing pinch hit option as well. He’s also not breaking the bank at $1.5M. We expect he’ll be back.
Niko Goodrum is a lot less likely. The versatile utilityman had a tough first half defensively, and while he showed more of his usual solid game at shortstop in the second half, his hitting from the left side has degraded to an unplayable degree. He has plus power and speed, and would be a versatile player to have around, but there’s no chance they’re going to spending $2.9M on him.
Michael Fulmer is going to be pretty expensive as an unproven reliever, but the Tigers will almost certainly bring him back, as his potential as a relief ace is too good to ignore. Like Matthew Boyd, who is going to earn too much to retain after elbow surgery without a longer deal with a cheaper annual salary, the Tigers will likely seek to reach a multi-year agreement with Fulmer.
Finally there is Joe Jimenez. The talented but too often wayward reliever is going to be a tough call for the front office. They have enough other needs that the odds of them pursuing multiple relievers is slim indeed. From the point where Jimeñez and the Tigers’ pitching coaches instituted a glove tap to shorten his arm action, he improved notably but still had several ugly blow-up performances that undercut the lengthy stretches of scoreless innings he produced in the summer months. When he was good, he was dominant, but when his timing was off, he still showed a tendency to melt down and surrender multiple runs.
My guess would be that Jimeñez returns. If Al Avila, A.J. Hinch, and pitching coach Chris Fetter are satisfied with his work ethic, which has never been mentioned as an issue, they’ll probably give him one more year to see if he can build on the delivery adjustments and learn to self correct more quickly. Jimeñez’s stuff remains very high quality, and it’s difficult to give up on a 26-year-old reliever with those qualities. Still, it’s far from a slam dunk for the Tigers’ decision-makers.