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Tigers decline to tender contracts to Austin Meadows and Spencer Turnbull

RHP Garrett Hill was also cut from the 40-man roster.

Boston Red Sox v. Detroit Tigers Photo by Carl Jones/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The deadline for major league teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible 40-man roster players was 8:00 p.m. ET on Friday evening. The Tigers declined to do so in the case of RHP Spencer Turnbull and OF Austin Meadows, making them both free agents. RHP Freddy Pacheco, RHP Garrett Hill, and RHP Brenan Hanifee were also non-tendered and removed from the 40-man, bringing the roster to 37 players.

In a day that brought a flurry of trades as teams looked to get something for players they planned to release or to secure players in trade who were likely to be released into the open market, the Tigers were otherwise quiet. No doubt they were looking to flip Turnbull for a potentially useful younger player with more team control, but it appears no one was biting on the 31-year-old right-hander, who was projected to receive $2.4 million in arbitration for the 2024 season.

That’s not so surprising, as Turnbull had only a brief window of good health and success culminating in his 2021 no-hitter as a major leaguer, but it still seemed like a coin flip as to whether the Tigers would cut him now or hold on until they actually needed Turnbull’s 40-man roster spot for a new addition.

Either way, the relationship between player and team broke down over the course of the 2023 season with disputes about his health, rehabilitation, and roster assignments. Turnbull’s side seemed fed up with being kept at Triple-A after a short, rocky return to major league duty from his 2021 UCL surgery, with the implication that the Tigers were stalling him to game another year of service time. From the Tigers perspective, Turnbull couldn’t get himself back into decent form on the mound and struggled even at the Triple-A level. At no point in the season did he really look ready for major league action. Whatever the full story is, the odds of him ever pitching for the Tigers again seemed very poor by the end of the 2023 season.

As for Austin Meadows, he’s simply been unable to play for most of his two seasons as a Tiger as he struggled with an anxiety disorder. Brought in to provide veteran leadership and a powerful middle order of the bat, Meadows barely got on the field in a Tigers’ uniform, appearing in 36 games in 2022 and just six in 2023. By season’s end, the 28-year-old older brother of Tigers center fielder Parker Meadows, seemed no closer to a return to action than ever, making this an obvious move. If he still has any intent to try to return to baseball, perhaps a minor league contract will be offered there.

Right-hander Garrett Hill had a rough 2023 as well. Heading into his age 28 season, the former 26th round pick defied the odds to reach the major leagues in 2022, but struggled there and regressed a bit this season.

RHP Brenan Hanifee was signed to a minor league deal in December 2022 after being released by the Baltimore Orioles. The 25-year-old made his major league debut with the Tigers in September of 2023, but didn’t show a whole lot.

Finally, RHP Freddy Pacheco was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals in March of this year after an elbow injury in spring camp. The Tigers put him on the 60-day injured list and they tried to rehab the elbow, but Pacheco eventually had UCL reconstruction surgery in June. Regarded as a talented relief prospect with an excellent fastball, he’s unlikely to return to action until late in the 2024 season at the earliest. Hopefully the Tigers can sign him to a minor league deal and Pacheco can continue to rehab with the club. Still just 25-years-old, there’s plenty of potential remaining if he can get back to 100 percent following the surgery.

The Tigers did tender contracts to LHP Tarik Skubal, OF Akil Baddoo, RHP Casey Mize, and C Jake Rogers prior to Friday’s deadline, as expected. Negotiations over salary can continue between teams and players until January 12. At that point, if there’s no agreement between parties, an arbitration hearing will be set for February to determine their 2024 salary.