Scott Harris and Jeff Greenberg aren’t wasting time. The offseason has just begun, and they’ve already targeted a bat in trade. On Saturday, the Tigers traded relief prospect Blake Holub to the Milwaukee Brewers for veteran OF/1B Mark Canha.
The Brewers held an $11.5 million option on Canha for 2024 which they presumably weren’t ever planning on exercising, but it would’ve cost them $2 million to buy out the option. Now they’re free and clear with some payroll space opened up, while the Tigers got the right-handed bat they needed to add with minimal commitment in terms of payroll and term length.
Canha will be a one-year rental for the Tigers unless they come to further agreement, but getting him for just a quality relief prospect in Holub, who has yet to get his command to the point of major league readiness, is a pretty efficient move in a market that doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in free agency for teams seeking offensive help.
We could have hoped for a bigger bat, but Canha fits the Tigers needs quite well. He’s a right-handed hitter on a team whose big bats are largely left-handed with top position prospect Colt Keith set to join the club as another strong left-handed hitter. They needed some balance, and Canha is a Harris-type hitter who fits into the roster well and also provides some experience, veteran steadiness to the group.
Canha is exceeding hard to strike out. In 2023 he posted the lowest K-rate of his career at just 15.6 percent, while drawing walks at a 9.7 percent clip. He slashed .262/.355/.400 for in 2023 with a 111 wRC+ playing for the New York Mets before he was acquired by Milwaukee at the trading deadline in July.
Canha’s career high of 26 home runs came back in 2019 playing with the Oakland Athletics. For the most part, he’s produced totals in the mid teens since then, hitting 11 homers in 507 plate appearances last year and 13 homers in 542 plate appearances in 2022. He’s not going to post big home run totals, but he’s a consistent offensive contributor who fits the Tigers roster pretty well.
What he does do is get on base well, consistently hit for a solid average, and put the ball in play a lot. Those attributes were needed in a right-handed stick this offseason. We could have hoped for more power, but it’s the versatility that makes Canha pretty appealing. He plays a pretty good left field, posting +2 defensive runs saved at the position in a part-time role. He’s handled right field in short stints reasonably well, and he’s also experienced at first base, giving AJ Hinch an option to get Spencer Torkelson off his feet here and there. He also will have no issues filling the DH spot nor riding the bench waiting for pinch-hitting opportunities.
We saw how aggressively the Tigers used pinch-hitters and defensive substitutions in 2023 to try and shore up holes in the position group. Canha fits into those schemes very well, and was a name in the mix last winter as fans looked at inexpensive veteran bats that could be signed in free agency.
With plenty of payroll room, this was the most likely path to finding some offense this offseason. Finding a team needing to trim their roster of a quality veteran hitter always made sense as a strategy this offseason for Harris and Greenberg, and so this makes good sense for both sides here.
The cost here is very reasonable. Blake Holub is a 25-year-old right-handed relief prospect who spent most of 2023 with Double-A Erie. He has a good cut fastball and a pretty funky look for hitters, but hasn’t been able to dial the command in well enough to reach the major leagues. He was expected to debut in 2024, and he is a pretty legit future relief arm, but overall this is a very minor price to pay to add some offense in a difficult offseason in which to do so.
We’re generally pretty happy with this as a starting point. The Tigers are improved by adding Canha to the mix, and now they can focus on pitching and see if any other opportunities emerge.