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Tigers add reliever Miguel Diaz on minor league deal

The former first overall pick in the Rule 5 never panned out for the Twins, but gives the Tigers bullpen some insurance.

MLB: Miami Marlins at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the first two days of free agency didn’t see the Detroit Tigers do anything of note. The top starting pitchers were quickly snatched up, leading us to argue for a focus on relievers, with a collection of depth starters for the fifth spot in the rotation and insurance at Triple-A. However, the Tigers did make one decent signing on Saturday, even if it was a reliever on a minor league deal, picking up right-hander Miguel Diaz.

Diaz received a minor league deal worth $800,000 if he makes the team, along with an invite to spring training. The former first overall pick for the Minnesota Twins in the Rule 5 draft in 2016—after a unimpressive stint in the Brewers organization—never panned out as a prospect. However, he’s an interesting reliever who could be pretty effective if the Tigers can tune him up a bit. Along with their minor league deal for big right-hander Jacob Barnes, along with a few lesser pickups, the Tigers have developed some decent depth to tryout in spring camp. The need for actual major league pitching talent remains unaffected, however.

Diaz has a pretty straightforward delivery, averaging 94-95 mph with a tailing fourseam fastball. He’s a two-pitch pitcher who actually used his circle change more than the fastball last season. The change has good depth and fade with a bit of seam-shifted movement added, though at 87 mph it’s a bit too firm to be great despite the movement. The change is effective against both right-and-left-handed hitters.

Last year he threw 42 innings in his fourth partial season with the San Diego Padres, who acquired him back in 2017. He posted a 3.64 ERA with 46 strikeouts to 19 walks. Diaz has been rather home run prone to either handed hitters over the years, but if the Tigers could clean that up a bit he’s a solid middle reliever who can potentially go two innings at a time.

This clip is four years old, but gives you an idea what they’re working with. You can take a look at his Statcast data here.

As we discussed in looking over the market for free agent pitchers, all the talent left is on the relief side. Since they aren’t going to be landing anything more than innings eaters for the rotation in free agency, emphasizing the better relievers out there is the way to go. If they actually play to upgrade the rotation, they’ll have to make a trade, as the New York Mets did on Saturday evening by signing Oakland A’s starting pitcher Chris Bassitt.

There’s nothing at all wrong with picking up Diaz. He gives pitching coaches Chris Fetter and Juan Nieves another useful reliever to work with, who at 27 years old isn’t completely devoid of upside. The Tigers have a lot more to get done in the coming days, however, and time’s a wasting.