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Jeimer Candelario signs one year pact with the Washington Nationals

No going back now, Tigers.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers non-tendered long-time third baseman Jeimer Candelario ten days ago after failing to agree on a one-year deal in his final year of arbitration. As reports surfaced indicating that the club had tried to negotiate a deal for less than the $7 million Candelario was expected to receive in arbitration, it became clear that a reunion was almost certainly off the table. That view proved accurate, as Candelario agreed to a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.

The terms of the contact are not yet available as of this writing, but we’ll presume the deal is for something like $5 million, perhaps with some incentives mixed in. It seems unlikely that the Tigers offered much less, so this may be more of a case of both parties deciding it was time to move on. Of course, a difference of a million dollars is a lot of money, particularly for a 29-year-old player who hasn’t reached free agency nor put up the kind of seasons that draw eight figure yearly salaries in arbitration.

For the rebuilding Nationals, Candelario is a decent buy-low candidate. After a good short 2020 season, the veteran put together the best offensive season of his career in 2021, leading the league with 42 doubles and slashing .271/.351/.443 for the Tigers. The Nats just need someone to hold down the position while they wait to see if Carter Kieboom or another younger player can seize the role. And so often, it’s easier to believe in a bounce back from another team’s player rather than your own after watching a particularly rough campaign.

New President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris, apparently doesn’t share the more optimistic perspective on Candelario. Either way, mediocre defense and baserunning, combined with a distinct lack of home run power for a third baseman, made Candy easily expendable, and gives Harris a little more financial freedom to work with. Of course, it also presents him with a difficult problem to solve.

Other than signing someone like Xander Bogearts and moving him to third base, while paying a steep price on a major free agent deal, there are no good solutions in free agency. A minor stop-gap option like free agent Jace Peterson could work decently as a platoon partner with prospect Ryan Kreidler, adding a little speed and better defense at the position. The Tigers could pluck someone like former Dodger, Edwin Rios, or former Marlin, Brian Anderson, off the scrap heap and hope they can put their injury issues behind them. Still, no one is going to mistake such a decision as a plus for the Tigers without serious moves to improve the rest of the offense with other signings or trades.

What makes this particularly difficult to assess is the fact that we’re unfamiliar with how Harris operates and what his tendencies are, and that he’s been sensibly vague in his goals for the 2023 season. Improving the offense and winning more games is the stated goal, but that doesn’t give any sense of scale as to how Harris envisions the 2023 edition of the Tigers performing on the field. With top prospect Colt Keith coming off a huge breakout season and looking much more like the future at the third base position, a stopgap measure may certainly be called for, but without some real offensive firepower added this offseason, many fans are understandably going to expect another long, ugly season of Tigers’ baseball.

For now, we’ll just have to wait to see what Harris has in store for us in 2023. The offseason has only just begun, and few notable deals have been inked yet. We expect he’ll want to start making a real mark immediately, and certainly has plenty of payroll room to work with, but there have been precious few rumors even around the periphery of the roster.

The only other piece of roster news, is that the Tigers did re-sign several of their recent waiver claims to minor league deals today after leaving them off the 40-man roster in advance of the upcoming Rule 5 draft. It does illustrate why Harris likes to work the waiver wire. Typically, you can bring these players back even if you don’t protect them on the major league roster. Hopefully they’ve got some ideas how to help these players contribute in their respective depth roles.

And while things never really came together as hoped after the Tigers acquired Candelario from the Chicago Cubs back in 2017, we certainly wish him well with his new club. He represented the team and the city well during his time with the Tigers, and was largely just unlucky enough to have been traded here during the worst of times. Hopefully he can recapture some mojo in Washington.