As free agency opens on Monday, the Tigers have announced a host of moves to set up their roster for the offseason. First and foremost, they’ve exercised their club options on catcher Carson Kelly and outfielder Mark Canha. Obviously the Tigers traded for Canha specifically to exercise said option, so no surprise there, but Kelly was less certain, despite a thin market for catching in free agency.
The Tigers clearly needed another catcher, as top prospect Dillon Dingler reached the Triple-A level in 2023 but clearly needs more work. Kelly provides a bridge to Dingler sometime in 2024 if he’s prepared. The Tigers will owe Kelly $3.5 million in 2024, and he’ll become a free agent next season.
The 29-year-old right-handed hitting catcher isn’t much of a hitter at this point, but the Tigers liked him behind the plate and believe they can help him improve defensively. Kelly was an average framer in 2023, and still has a plus arm, so the tools are still sound. Like Rogers, the Tigers seem to be trying to improve Kelly’s receiving at the bottom of the zone, partly by going one knee down more often, particularly with the bases empty.
We would’ve liked a better hitting catcher, but they’re tough to come by. The ideal fit this offseason would have come from backup catcher/DH Mitch Garver’s bat, but Garver is going to have a lot of top teams all fighting over him. Other quality options are scarce, so the Tigers did the right thing here.
In news that will surprise no one, shortstop Javier Báez declined to use his player option on Monday, foregoing free agency. So we’ve got another four years...
The Tigers added RHP Keider Montero to the 40-man roster on Monday. The 40-man doesn’t have to be set yet, but Montero’s status would have made him a minor league free agent today had the Tigers not added him.
This was a no-brainer. Outside of Jackson Jobe, Montero is arguably the Tigers next-best pitching prospect after moving three levels in 2023 and looking pretty good with the Toledo Mud Hens. The 23-year-old had some uncharacteristic home run trouble at the Triple-A level early on, but continued to rack up strikeouts, limited walks pretty well, and showcased the ongoing development of his power stuff in a season in which RHP Wilmer Flores and RHP Ty Madden stalled out somewhat.
This was also the day to re-instate players from the 60-day injured list. The Tigers did so with RHP Casey Mize, RHP Freddy Pacheco, OF Riley Greene, OF Austin Meadows, and LHP Tyler Alexander.
Mize and Greene were obvious.
Pacheco would be the Tigers top relief prospect but blew out his elbow this summer and is unlikely to pitch much until 2025. We’ll see if the Tigers continue to protect him through the spring when he can be moved back onto the 60-day IL and clear a spot for a trade or a claim at that point. He’s talented enough to think that’s the likely move here.
The team has a decision to make on Austin Meadows, but they certainly won’t be picking up the outfielder’s likely $4.3 million contract for 2024. The question is whether they release him outright, or if they can agree to move him to the restricted list where he’ll still have his insurance. Either way there’s no sign of him returning to baseball, sadly.
Relievers RHP Trey Wingenter and LHP Andrew Vasquez cleared waivers and have been outrighted to Triple-A Toledo.
Finally, after reinstating Tyler Alexander, the Tigers designated him for assignment. He wasn’t claimed, and for all we know he could end up in Toledo as well, but perhaps a team will take a flyer to see if they can get some use out of the veteran lefty.
Infielder Zack Short was claimed off waivers by the New York Mets. The Tigers 40-man roster is currently set at 40 players once Eduardo Rodriguez is removed. Obviously Austin Meadows is likely to be removed soon as well.
Best of luck, Shorty.
Finally, Crain’s Detroit reports that Tigers manager AJ Hinch and his wife have sold their Birmingham condo for $2.3 million. No word about players to be named later in the transaction. The Hinches have already made an offer on a house in the Detroit area according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. Time to settle in and become a proper landowner, as AJ is in for the long haul, as I’ve said repeatedly over the last two years.