Last winter, the Tigers added 4 major league free agents, 2 minor league free agents, and 1 waiver claim that had significant roles with the Tigers last season. Together, nearly 20 million dollars spent, all 7 of the players combined for a 0.7 fWAR. I did a calculation, and the equivalence to what the Tigers did last offseason is if the Tigers gave catcher Austin Barnes of the Los Angeles Dodgers a 1 year deal worth 20 million dollars. Clearly, last offseason was a major factor on why the Tigers finished the way they did in 2019. This season, the Tigers made 5 major league signings and they look a lot more promising. Here is a look at the top 10 players that were brought in this offseason based on the projected playing time they should get
2B Jonathan Schoop
Contract: 1 year / 6.1 million
2019 stats: 464 PA, .256/.304/.473, 23 HR, 61 RBI, 1.3 WAR
On December 21st, the Tigers shocked a lot of people signing 2 players that were part of the HR record breaking Twins 2019 run. The first guy that was announced was Jonathan Schoop. Schoop brings an instant upgrade over what the Tigers had at second base last season. Schoop gives the Tigers a massive boost to the offense which home run leader was Brandon Dixon with 15. Schoop intrigues me as a starter for the whole season. I do see a potential mid-season trade, though with second baseman market not providing much value, it might be best to provide the young pitchers coming up with some confidence, getting wins for their good performances with a bat like Schoop in the lineup. Schoop would need to have at least an .800 OPS and a wRC+ of 110 to get at least a decent prospect in return based on past deals for second baseman.
1B CJ Cron
Contract: 1 year / 6.1 million
2019 stats: 499 PA, .253/.311/.469, 25 HR, 78 RBI, 0.3 WAR
The second half of the power duo from Minnesota, CJ Cron gives the Tigers arguably their best offensive bat. Despite being on his fourth team in four years, Cron established himself as an above average hitter in 2018 when he mashed 30 home runs for an .816 OPS. Cron in 2019 didn’t have as polished offensive numbers, but part of that was a late season wrist injury, which really tanked his numbers. At the all star break, Cron was slashing .266/.326/.495 for an .821 OPS and 17 of his 25 home runs. Now healthy, Cron fills the void at first base, and is another bat I can see lasting the whole season. Unless Cron takes another step forward, I have trouble seeing Cron being traded based on the history of first basemans getting little to no value.
SP Ivan Nova
Contract: 1 year / 1.5 million
2019 stats: 187.0 IP, 11-12, 4.72 ERA, 4.98 FIP, 2.0 WAR
One of the more under-the-radar signings the Tigers made this winter was bringing in a pitcher that can eat innings. Ivan Nova is not a guy that fans are going to look forward to seeing every 5 days, but a guy like him especially at the price they got him at is exactly what a rebuilding team needs this year. Nova is very durable and can go 5-6 innings every 5 days keeping the Tigers in games. With Mize, Manning, and the rest of the pitching crop of Tigers from the farm nearing the majors, Nova slows down the rush to get the guys up, whilst not screwing the Tigers over giving the Tigers a chance in games, unlike Ryan Carpenter or Edwin Jackson did last season.
OF Cameron Maybin
Contract: 1 year / 1.5 million
2019 stats: 269 PA, .285/.364/.494, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 1.6 WAR
The Tigers bring Maybin back on a third reunion after the Tigers drafted Maybin in 2005 and acquired him as their starting center fielder for the 2016 season. Maybin did very well in 2016, hitting .315 and viewed by many as a spark plug in the offense. Maybin now, returns to a much different looking team and I think his veteran presence will help the team a lot offensively this season, especially with the many young outfielders nearing MLB debuts. While I don’t see Maybin repeating the offensive success he had last season in the Bronx, I expect close to a league average hitter that could leadoff for Detroit. Come trade deadline, I think Maybin has a pretty decent chance landing somewhere. A lot of teams could use a versatile outfielder with a bat off the bench and I think teams will be willing to give at least a little bit of value if Maybin performs well.
Photo by: Paul Sancya/AP
C Austin Romine
Contract: 1 year / 4.15 million
2019 stats: 240 PA, .281/.310/.439, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 0.9 WAR
Last article I went into the competition for the backup catcher spot, here we have the starting catcher for 2020 in Austin Romine. Another player formerly from the Yankees, Romine gives the Tigers a much needed placeholder at catcher, as Jake Rogers clearly needed more time when he was called up from Toledo last year. I expect a lot of PAs for Romine in the beginning of the season. I would be surprised if he isn’t starting 80% of games right before the all star break if he performs at least average. After I would expect Romine’s playing time to slowly fade to about 50-50 with Rogers once we near the seasons end. I think it’s also very possible Romine gets traded if he performs well. If he can have at least a 90 wRC+ and decent defense, I think a team could give the Tigers an offer, even if it’s for lowtier minor leaguers.
SP Zack Godley
Contract: MILB deal, can make up to 3 million
2019 stats: 92.0 IP, 4-5, 5.97 ERA, 5.20 FIP, -0.1 WAR
One of my favorite signings, the Tigers brought in Zack Godley on a minor league deal the day before they signed the power duo from Minnesota. Godley was once a very respectable starter as recently as 2018 though 2019 was a disaster for Godley. One thing I’m interested in is if how often he will throw his curveball. When he was claimed by the Jays, he threw his curveball 20% less and performed decently well though in just 6 games. Godley’s command in 2019 regressed as he walked more batters and struck out way less. I expect for now Godley to start in Toledo and come up later in the season. Finding Godley’s command will be a big factor on how well he is this season because if the Tigers can find it. they could have an absolute steal in their hands.
SP/RP Rony Garcia
Acquired: Rule 5 Draft
2019 Stats (AA): 105.1 IP, 4-11, 4.44 ERA, 4.21 FIP
The Tigers added a young right handed arm in Rony Garcia with the first pick of the rule 5 draft. Garcia sits 91-94 topping 95 with a good slider and developing changeup. Garcia likely is going to be stored in the roster as a developmental project as he could turn into something if the Tigers can develop his changeup. I expect Garcia to get little innings in April and May, but slowly get more playing time, and maybe even a few starts towards the end of the season, or during double headers. Garcia will be interesting to watch as not many people know much about him.
C Eric Haase
Acquired: Traded to Detroit from Cleveland for cash
2019 stats (MLB): 1/17, 1 HR, 1 RBI, -0.1 WAR
In my last article, we went a lot more in on Haase and what he brings to the team. Going back to that, I mentioned how Haase has a lot of power and can walk a little, but needs to overcome the K’s to last at the MLB level. Ultimately I chose Grayson Greiner over him to make the roster, but that definitely doesn’t mean he is not going to get any major league playing time in 2020. On opening day, I expect Haase to start in Toledo. Haase will be the 3rd catcher but in Toledo I expect him to get more playing time at DH and maybe the Tigers introduce another position like 1B, as Jake Rogers is going to get as much time behind the backstop as the Tigers can give him with his defense. Overall I expect Haase to be a 4A type guy, though if he can stay off the K’s, he could possibly last at the MLB level.
OF Jorge Bonifacio
Contract: MILB deal
2019 stats (MLB): 7/20, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0.1 WAR
Bonifacio is another high upside signing I like. Bonifacio was suspended back in 2017 for PED use and has been ok but yet to return to the player he was before. However, Bonifacio hit 20 home runs in AAA last season and has solid BB numbers which the Tigers don’t have many players that do. That said, with a log jam in Toledo, Bonifacio is going to need to have a good spring training so he won’t get released over guys like Jake Robson or Danny Woodrow. I would like the Tigers to see what they have in Bonifacio and give him playing time in Toledo to start the season. I see Bonifacio spending more time in Toledo than Detroit, but I think he gets an opportunity in Detroit sometime during the season.
RP Alex Wilson
Contract: MILB deal
2019 stats (MLB): 11.1 IP, 1-1, 9.53 ERA, 6.74 FIP, -0.3 WAR
Wilson was a well known name during the Tigers run and returns after a year away from Detroit struggling with Cleveland and Milwaukee during the 2019 campaign. Wilson now comes to Detroit as a 50/50 to make the roster and in my recent roster prediction I picked Wilson to make the roster. Anything can happen to Wilson this spring, he can either make the 26-man, start in Toledo, or even be released out of camp. Wilson had a little decline in his velocity in 2019 which may have played a factor in why Wilson struggled in 2019.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Overall hoped you enjoyed my breakdown of 10 of the more significant signings the Tigers made this offseason. Some other guys I think could make some noise are Dario Argazal, Shao Ching-Chiang, and Kennys Vargas. Follow my instagram page @Tigers.news_ for more content like this.