You have probably noticed that the days have been getting longer recently, and despite the cold nip in the air in many places across North America, it is becoming more and more clear that spring is right around the corner.
With the change of season comes the joys of our national pastime as the boys of summer begin reporting for their spring training assignments in the coming days. And soon, we will once again hear the sweet sounds of leather and wood out on the baseball diamond — that is, if the sport can successfully navigate through the gauntlet of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now that the dates are set, the gears are finally turning and the Detroit Tigers are waking from their winter slumber, as is the sports media that covers them. Here is a look at the latest news from the Olde English D.
Tigers invite Greg Garcia to major league camp
First item on the hot stove is the Tigers’ signing of infielder Greg Garcia on Tuesday to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major league spring training camp, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The 31-year-old lefty played 35 games for the San Diego Padres in 2020, with a slash line of .200/.279/.529 [Edit: BA/OBP/OPS] with three doubles and 11 RBIs. He was a bit better in his 2019 Padres stint, slashing .248/.364/.718 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 134 games. His signing continues a team trend of pursuing minor league deals with players with defensive versatility.
Tigers, Renato Nunez agree on MiLB Deal
Speaking of minor league deals, Detroit also signed former Baltimore Orioles first baseman and designated hitter Renato Nunez to a MiLB deal with an invite to the big league camp, as reported by MLive’s Evan Woodberry. He had previously been designated for assignment by the O’s back in December and the Tigers appear to be swooping in to take advantage.
Tigers announce that they've signed first baseman Renato Nunez to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) February 10, 2021
Nunez has been an everyday player for the last 2 years, and it seems he would have a plausible shot at the job in Detroit despite not getting a MLB deal.
The 26-year-old righty hit 43 home runs for Baltimore over the past two seasons, including 31 in 2019 — far more than any Tiger has hit in a long while. However, he leaves a lot to be desired with the glove, which suggests he will continue to man first base as well as taking an occasional turn at the designated hitter spot, though he does have prior experience at the hot corner as well as in the outfield. If anything, he could be a perfectly cromulent replacement for Cron while giving Detroit some much-needed pop.
Jonathan Schoop looks to prove himself
The recent major league signing of Jonathan Schoop has been generally accepted by the fan base as a solid move for the organization, but despite his ability to hold down the keystone position as evidenced in his play last season, there has been talk of him playing other positions, including first base.
According to a quote reported by the Detroit Free Press on Monday, the 29-year-old righty just wants to go out and contribute in any way he can.
“I just want to prove myself, just want to be better every year. Whatever I got to do to get better — a better teammate, a better leader. I want to be better at everything. This year, I want to come back and get more good at-bats, swing at more strikes and don’t chase too much.”
In regards to versatility, he added, “It’s something I want to do. I want to show that I can do it.” Schoop’s latest contract is for just one year and comes with a 25 percent pay cut from last season’s full salary value — the third year in a row he has lost value in free agency after peaking in 2017. Hopefully, he’ll provide plenty of value to a Tigers team that can use all they can get in 2021.
Are Tigers building a utility team?
You may have noticed a trend in the first posts of this news update: the Tigers appear to be enamored with the idea of versatility in their infield. Evan Woodbery asked if the Tigers are building a utility team by design in a recent article, and questioned whether or not that is a good thing. Apparently, new manager A.J. Hinch has a keen interest in toolsy players who can plug into various roles as needed.
Woodbery offered this breakdown of potential player roles by position.
1B: Cabrera, Candelario, Schoop, Goodrum, Harold Castro.
2B: Schoop, Willi Castro, Paredes, Goodrum, Harold Castro.
SS: Willi Castro, Schoop, Goodrum, Harold Castro.
3B: Candelario, Paredes, Schoop, Willi Castro, Goodrum, Harold Castro.
A lot of this shuffling around appears to be due to a lack of a primary option at first base. Jules Posner over at Forbes expounded upon this in his most recent article, suggesting that the Tigers might not actually need a regular starter at the first sack. So maybe this whole versatility is a good thing? Only time will tell.
Paredes slumps crossing winter league finish line
The winter baseball season has come to a close and Detroit’s highest-ranked prospect participating in the offseason leagues slumped across the finish line after winning the regular-season batting title with a .379 batting average in the Mexican Pacific League. His efforts helped the Naranjeros de Hermosillo make the postseason, where they lost in the championship series in seven games.
After that, Paredes participated in the Caribbean Series, which featured the best players from winter leagues in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Columbia and Mexico, going just 2-for-20 with one triple, two walks and four strikeouts in five games. This event was a few notches more difficult, as he faced several former major leaguers in competition indicating that he still has a way to go before he is ready for the big leagues.
Old Friend Alert
We wish Jordan Zimmermann the best as he tries to wring the last drops of baseball out of his MLB career. With our luck, he will probably pull an Anibal Sánchez, but he had run his clock out in Detroit.
Auburndale, Wisconsin resident RHP Jordan Zimmermann has been signed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League camp. pic.twitter.com/RwQtRbVCsX— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) February 9, 2021
Spring training dates announced
As reported before here at Bless You Boys, the confirmed spring training dates are as listed in the tweet below.
Dates officially released for Tigers' Spring Training (presented by Camping World)— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) February 9, 2021
Feb. 17: First pitchers and catchers workout.
Feb. 22: First full-squad workout
Around the horn
As MLB and its players navigate COVID-19 in 2021, the biggest challenge is the mental grind. Did MLB Use Juiced Balls in 2020? Here’s what the science says. MLB memo: Baseballs to be deadened for 2021 amid home-run surge. MLB making changes to the baseball, deadening it — but by how much? Trevor Bauer signing with the Dodgers was a relief for Mets fans. How many players are left on World Series winners five years after they win? ‘SportsCenter’ honors late baseball reporter Pedro Gomez with touching tribute. 4 million extra bobbleheads? 2020’s lost MLB giveaways could be a jackpot for fans. MLB spring training 2021: How this year’s camp will be different for players, teams and fans. Randy Johnson claimed he kept a bag of baseballs by his bed to throw at home invaders.