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Tigers decline to tender contracts to Jeimer Candelario, Willi Castro, and Harold Castro

Not huge surprises, but clear signs that Scott Harris intends on a thorough roster makeover this offseason.

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

They waited until the last minute, but in the end the Detroit Tigers declined to tender contracts to several of their veteran players at Friday evening’s 8:00 p.m. ET non-tender deadline. 3B Jeimer Candelario, UT Willi Castro, and INF Harold Castro joined RHP Kyle Funkhouser as the most notable cuts from the roster.

Earlier in the day, the Tigers did announce that LHP Tyler Alexander had signed a one-year contract for $1.875 million. RHP Jose Cisnero, OF Austin Meadows, RHP Joe Jiménez, LHP Gregory Soto, and RHP Rony Garcia have all been tendered a contract.

Individually, none of today’s moves are particularly surprising. What may surprise some is the fact that all three of Candelario and the non-related Castros were non-tendered.

Candelario was due some $7.0 million in his final year of arbitration after a brutal 2022 campaign that made his apparent 2020-2021 breakout a distant memory for many. Candelario came to Detroit in the deal that sent reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila to the Chicago Cubs at the 2017 trade deadline. He’s posted several good seasons offensively, but the inconsistency, mediocre defensive play, and growing expense, made his situation rather precarious. He shouldn’t have much trouble getting a look from another team. Meanwhile, the Tigers don’t have a lot of obvious plug-and-play options available at third base in free agency, so we’ll see if Harris has a creative solution in mind.

As for Willi Castro, his speed and versatility remained somewhat appealing as the final man on a 26-man roster, but his inability to control the strikezone combined with the fact that he’s never managed to tap into his raw power made him a poor fit for a Harris-led team. Still only 25 years old, Castro came to Detroit from Cleveland in exchange for outfielder Leonys Martin back in 2018. Personally, I thought the lack of expense, his defensive versatility, and his speed considering the bigger bases coming to MLB in 2023, made him the most likely of the three to stick, but it wasn’t to be.

Harold Castro has developed into a bit of a homegrown fan favorite for numerous clutch hits and low strikeout totals over parts of five seasons with the Tigers. However, Castro isn’t much of a defender even at second base, his main position, and never developed any selectivity at the plate, a feature Harris seems determined to emphasize. As a result, Castro relied on his hands to put a lot of bad pitches in play to little effect in the power department and giving little hope for improvements.

In the end, these all seem like the right moves, but we certainly have developed a soft spot for Harold in particular over the years.

The Tigers also claimed OF Bligh Madris off waiver after he was DFA’d on Tuesday by the Tampa Bay Rays. The native of Palau, and presumably the only one playing pro ball in the States, is a left-handed hitting right fielder whom the Rays acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this year. A brief look at the majors did not go well, but Madris performed reasonably well at Triple-A the past two seasons. Maybe there’s something there.

There were some interesting non-tenders from other teams as well, including former All-Star center fielder Cody Bellinger from the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as arms like former St. Louis Cardinals reliever Alex Reyes, and LHP Brailyn Marquez from the Cubs.

With the moves today, Harris trimmed a little more than $11.0 million off the projected 2023 payroll, which now stands at roughly $106.0 million, per FanGraphs’ Roster Resource. The Tigers should have plenty of payroll space to work with here this offseason. They also have a lot of issues to resolve. With these decisions, Harris has sent a signal that we can expect change, and plenty of it. That’s music to our ears, but we’ll have to wait to see how sweet a tune he can play this offseason.