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Tigers claim LHP Zach Logue off waivers

Detroit adds another project arm, but there’s some upside here.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports

They say that one man’s trash is another’s treasure, and Detroit Tigers president Scott Harris seems to be taking that phrase to heart. On Friday, the Tigers claimed left-handed pitcher Zach Logue off waivers just a day after the Oakland Athletics designated him for assignment.

Let’s be clear, I’m not calling Logue trash, but rather that his former club discarded him like a loose-leaf pamphlet handed out on the street. He could be a solid piece (treasure) for the Tigers given the right opportunity, and Harris’ haste in signing him indicates that he’s high on the former Kentucky Wildcat.

But why?

Logue spent just one year with the Athletics organization and most of that time was in Triple-A Las Vegas. Through 57 innings at the major league level in 2022, he posted a 3-8 record and a 6.79 ERA. An FIP of 5.76 means he pitched a bit better than his ERA suggests, but it doesn’t quite explain why the Tigers are taking a chance on him.

To answer that question, one has to go back to Logue’s time in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. After being drafted in 2017, Logue quickly ascended from rookie ball to high-A ball in just a year. By 2019, he was in Double-A, which is where most upcoming talent makes a name for themselves. It took a little while to adjust, and COVID shutting down the 2020 season certainly didn’t help, but Logue posted a 3.52 ERA in 2021 and had a strikeout rate of 35.9% (that’s really good).

The Blue Jays quickly promoted him to Triple-A that year, and Logue continued to shine. His 25.2% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate impressed enough to make the A’s take a chance on him, and they brought him over in the Matt Chapman trade.

Unfortunately, things began to fall apart for Logue after the move. His strikeout rate plummeted at both the Triple-A and major league levels, and his walk rate began to inflate. Suddenly, Logue’s upside was gone, and Oakland decided to DFA him.

Enter Scott Harris.

Detroit’s in a position to buy low and sell high in Year 1 of what is shaping up to be another rebuild. Logue’s history suggests that he’s somewhat of a strikeout artist and Comerica Park is a rather pitcher-friendly ballpark. On top of that, Detroit’s starting rotation is a bit up in the air, with several players still on the mend, and could use a lefty starter to fill in if another pitcher goes down.

Logue still has two option years left, so he could spend time in Erie as he gets back to form. That might not be too difficult either, as a home run to fly ball ratio of 21.0% in Triple-A last season suggests that he was extremely unlucky. At the major league level, that logic slips a bit, but a 13.4% HR/FB ratio is still on the unlucky side. Logue hadn’t produced a fly ball rate over 50.0% since rookie ball, but he was at 50.8% this year with the Athletics. Even if that number doesn’t drop significantly, it takes a lot for a fly ball to leave the yard in Detroit.

Perhaps the timing wasn’t right for Logue and the A’s to figure things out, but he has a much better shot to contribute in Detroit this season. Harris inked Matthew Boyd and Scott Lorenzen to one-year deals, and either one of those guys could be gone by the trade deadline if they perform well enough. Logue could end up at the back of the rotation by year’s end in that scenario.

While it’s not the big move Tigers fans have been looking for, claiming Logue looks like a calculated move from Harris. Lefties are a precious commodity in this sport, and Logue’s history suggests that he deserves a chance. It’s up to the pitching coaches in the organization to work out whatever went wrong for him in Oakland, but it won’t be the first time Logue has had to work his way out of a rut.

If all goes right, Oakland’s front office could look pretty foolish for giving up on Logue after just a year.

The other side of the move

Of course, Detroit had to make room for Logue to join the organization, and right-hander Angel De Jesus got the short end of the stick. He was designated for assignment in a corresponding move after spending much of last year as a depth piece for the club. He put up decent numbers through eight appearances with the Tigers last year but spent most of 2022 in Triple-A.

Detroit has a week to trade him or let him pass through waivers.