The Tigers seem to be linked to discussions with Willson Contreras, but the fit may not be exactly there for the catcher who may want to go to a more playoff ready team. If a deal cannot be reached there is the possibility the Tigers may shift their attention to trying to work a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays who arguably have three starting caliber catchers on their roster.
Contreras is a very solid offensive player that seems to check-off most or all of the boxes in what the Tigers would like to add. With the apparent sacrifice of a third round draft pick, the cost in terms of talent isn't nearly as steep as trading from the team's lone strength of relief pitchers.
If the Tigers do focus on a Toronto catcher three options are there to consider:
* All star Alejandro Kirk seems unlikely to be pried away. He would likely be the most difficult to pry from the Jays given he's still just 24 and coming off his first all-star game, as well as the winner of the silver slugger award. Frankly, I just don't see any way Toronto trades him this year unless we bury them in young talent that makes it way, way, way too expensive for us.
* Danny Jansen is probably the easiest target to pursue. He is going to be 28 and clearly is in the second seat in Toronto. That may be generous too to say, since the rookie Gabriel Moreno, who will be 23, looks ready to emerge as an everyday quality player. In my opinion I wouldn't want to trade much for Jansen despite giving the Tigers an upgrade over what they currently have ready to play at the position. His offense isn't reliable and he has had some health issues.
* Gabriel Moreno is a much more intriguing player. He has good size, 5-11 195, and posted a solid .319 BA over the final month of the season demonstrating he is a good contact hitter. His minor league stats also echo this efficiency. At AAA Buffalo he hit .315 over 62 contests. An added aspect of his play is that he brings albeit limited experience playing 1B, 2B, 3B, and LF to show he has some running and fielding skills besides being a catcher. There obviously is less history to judge him on with respect to whether he can withstand the pounding of playing everyday at perhaps the most demanding position on the field.
A discussion of the options for catcher wouldn't be complete with looking elsewhere for a free agent signing. There are some that the Tigers are likely to at least discuss internally:
* Willson Contreras is estimated to have a market value of about $16-18M per season and likely will seek a 5 year deal.
*Gary Sanchez, who will be 30, is estimated to have a $6-7M per season value, and might sign for as little as 1 to 2 years.
* Mike Zunino, who will be 32, is a former all-star catcher whos market value is estimated at about $10M and likely will seek a multi-year deal.
* Tucker Barnhardt, the former Tiger's catcher, is back on the market and estimated to be seeking a deal around $8M.
Contreras is by far the most appealing of catchers that are likely to be available, and that offer a reasonably good likelihood of being a long term solution at this position, or at least 3 seasons. Sanchez has power, but is too inconsistent in making contact. Zunino is similar to Sanchez. Barnhardt just didn't do enough to merit bringing back, in my opinion, even for a year.
Is just one year all that is needed? Some might argue that Rogers will be eventually ready to resume being the Tigers everyday backstop in the near future. So could Eric Haase be an adequate bridge to use until then? This is a possibility, especially if the Tigers personnel management believe Dillon Dingler and, or Josh Crouch, or maybe Ebenezer Alonzo could be enough in house to support the position in an emergency or in the near future press for the starting role.
Summarizing, here are the most likely possibilities the Tigers will need to decide upon as to who they want most, or perhaps is healthy enough to be their catcher:
In my opinion, getting Contreras tells the fans of Detroit, Scott Harris means business and is going to build a winner. Going after Jansen is potentially progress but also hobbling the strength of the team. Getting Moreno is a little more intriguing because he is so young and an unknown, but again just how much the team has to give up to get him is an equation that has to be calculated. All I can say is I hope that Sanchez or Zunino aren't pursued. I don't really like the idea of at best treading water again with a similar signing to how it worked out with Barnhardt. Haase and Rogers are a viable solution only if Rogers is likely healthy enough to play, but I am concerned that his hitting won't be reliable enough to warrant the everyday role in 2023 if ever.
Waiting for Dingler or another young prospect to make his way north is nice to imagine, but it's more of a dream whomever emerges is an everyday starter from the get go. Of course, it is a more conservative and less expensive option for the team. It can be argued too that the 2023 won't have all the pieces to really contend for much, if even be competitive in most of its contests without the health of its top young pitchers returning.
What would you like to see happen? My wish list is topped by Contreras with Abreau too. I'd love to see a starter added to secure the rotation. I think it would be amazing if the Tigers pursued and signed Correa, but I really think this is a fairy tale that just won't happen. With Contrera and Abrea signed for 5 and 2 years respectively I think the team would make real improvement toward being a playoff team, and build some excitement for 2024.