Transaction Blog: Minor League Signings

Catching up on some recent signings, the Tigers have added five players to the farm system, including re-signing four players that were minor league free agents. The club also added a catcher with big league experience.

January 3 1:00 PM
  • MINOR LEAGUE SIGNINGS

Re-signed Michael Torrealba (RHP) to a minor league contract

Re-signed Brandon Douglas (2B) to a minor league contract

Re-signed Francisco Martinez (3B/OF) to a minor league contract

Signed Miguel Gonzalez (C) to a minor league contract

Re-signed Jordan Lennerton (1B) to a minor league contract

Analysis:

Catching up on some minor league signings, where the Tigers brought back four players to the organization, all of whom will serve as minor league depth at the upper levels of the farm system. Lennerton and Martinez have both spent time on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, however, neither have made a big league appearance and their prospect status has faded. Nevertheless, they should help to compete for jobs in Toledo. Lennerton could be viewed as an emergency alternative to Miguel Cabrera if the slugger were to get injured, but Lennerton posted just a .757 OPS last year in Triple-A after a few years of .800+ OPS's. Suffice it to say, it's unlikely he'd be anything more than a stopgap for a short-term injury.

The new member of the org is catcher Miguel Gonzalez, who was signed from the Chicago White Sox. Gonzalez is a career .253 hitter in the minors, and also hit .253 last year across Double-A and Triple-A. He is just 24 years old and did appear in five big league games for the White Sox back in 2013. He’s been regarded as a very good defensive catcher (being named the White Sox best defensive catching prospect five times by Baseball America), but his bat never materialized. In a pinch, he could be utilized as a big league backup, and will likely get in time in Toledo or Erie, depending on how things play out in spring training.


December 11 1:00 PM
  • PORCELLO SWAPPED FOR CESPEDES

Traded Rick Porcello (RHP) to Boston in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes (OF), Alex Wilson (RHP) and Gabe Speier (LHP)

Traded Eugenio Suarez (SS) and Jonathon Crawford (RHP) to Cincinnati in exchange for Alfredo Simon (RHP)

Designated Melvin Mercedes (RHP) for assignment

Analysis:

It seemed unlikely that the Tigers would make it through the winter meetings without making some noise, and that proved to hold true, as the Tigers were incredibly active on Thursday, with the big move landing power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from Boston, while giving up Porcello to get him.

Cespedes was originally a target of the Tigers back when he was a free agent defecting from Cuba in 2012, but the club ultimately signed Prince Fielder to help replace the offense lost when Victor Martinez was lost for the year when he tore his ACL, effectively ending their pursuit of Cespedes. While his offense was comparable to what the Tigers got from Torii Hunter last year, his defense was above average, saving 12 runs in left field (Hunter was -18).

Both Cespedes and Porcello are free agents after the 2015 season, but since the Tigers can’t give Cespedes a qualifying offer, they also received Wilson and Speier in return. Wilson will compete for a middle relief job in Detroit after posting a 1.91 ERA (but 3.91 FIP), while Speier is a nice young arm to add to the farm system.

Simon gives the Tigers another pitcher for their starting rotation, though at age 33, 2014 was the first year that he was a full-time starter and approached 200 innings, and even then, he was worth only about one win. He could be a serviceable fifth starter, but there’s undeniably a pretty substantial loss in the rotation, going from Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello to Simon and Shane Greene.

Suarez filled in adequately at shortstop last year, but with the anticipated return of Jose Iglesias, plus Hernan Perez and Andrew Romine still available, Suarez might have been without a role this year. Crawford meanwhile remains an arm with plenty of potential, but a lot of development left and despite being a college first rounder two years ago, is still years away from contributing at the big league level.

Because of the 40-man roster impact, the Tigers designating Mercedes for assignment was a necessary move. He’s showed potential in the past as a big righty that can dial up a fastball and be a groundball machine, but he struggled in 2014 with Toledo, with a 4.92 ERA and just a 4.6 K/9 ratio.


December 5 2:00 PM
  • TRADE FOR GREENE, GIVE UP RAY/LEYBA

Traded Robbie Ray (LHP) and Domingo Leyba (2B) to Arizona as part of a three-team trade. Receive Shane Greene (RHP) from the Yankees in return

Analysis:

The trade solidifies the Tigers fifth starter spot, as there no longer will be an open competition for a job in the rotation, barring an injury. For complete analysis on the deal, check out the scouting viewpoint in the TigsTown Analysis as well as A Closer Look at Greene, Statistically.


November 26 3:00 PM
  • CARRERA ELECTS FREE AGENCY, MILB SIGNINGS

Claimed Josh Zeid (RHP) off waivers from Houston and added to Detroit’s 40-man roster

Designated Ezequiel Carrera (OF) for assignment, outrighted to Toledo. Carrera elected free agency

Signed Jefry Marte (3B) to a minor league contract

Signed Tim Melville (RHP) to a minor league contract

Signed Omar Duran (LHP) to a minor league contract

Signed Xavier Avery (OF) to a minor league contract

Analysis:

After claiming Josh Zeid off waivers, the Tigers had to let someone go from the 40-man, and elected to drop Carrera, who filled in as center fielder last summer after the trade of Austin Jackson, but was not likely to be a long-term solution. Rather than accepting his assignment to Toledo, Carrera chose to become a free agent and it’s unlikely he’ll return to the organization, especially after the acquisition of Anthony Gose earlier this offseason.

Zeid has a live arm, with a fastball that averaged 95 MPH according to Pitch Info last season, along with a slider that got a swing and miss 20% of the time, but struggled on the mound when it came to results, yielding a 6.97 ERA in 23 appearances. He did average nearly 8 strikeouts per nine innings though, and with an xFIP of 3.87, could be a useful reliever for the club.

Many of the minor league signings made are mostly depth plays for the organization, as is typical this time of year. Marte comes to the Tigers via the Athletics, where he hit for a solid average and posted a good walk rate, but has shown limited power in games despite flashing much more in BP. Melville was highly regarded in the Royals system once upon a time, but injuries and a lack of control derailed his career. Duran was a strikeout machine for the A’s in A-ball and Double-A, but has had even more extreme issues with his control. Avery made his big league debut back in 2012 with the Orioles, but got shipped to the Mariners in 2013 and hasn’t returned to the MLB-level since, but did have a solid year for the Mariners in Triple-A last season.


November 20 10:00 AM
  • NESBITT, MACHADO ADDED TO 40-MAN ROSTER

Purchased contracts of Angel Nesbitt (RHP) and Dixon Machado (SS) from Erie and added to Detroit’s 40-man roster

Analysis:

With the 40-man roster deadline on Thursday to identify who to protect in advance of the Rule 5 draft, the Tigers elected to protect only two players; Nesbitt and Machado. Both were logical additions that were identified in TigsTown’s Rule 5 preview Wednesday as needing to be protected.

While a handful of players could have also garnered consideration, the glaring omission is righty Edgar de la Rosa, who has showcased a live arm while mostly working as a starter. He’s 24 years old with only A-ball experience, so the risk of exposing him in the Rule 5 Draft is likely limited, but as a bonafide prospect with an impressive arm, it’s somewhat of a gamble on the part of the Tigers.


November 17 12:00 PM
  • AVILA’S OPTION PICKED UP

Exercised option on Alex Avila (C ) for one-year, $5.4 million

Analysis:

This move shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, as despite some fan outcry, is still solid offensively and very good defensively, in addition to being highly valued for his work with the pitching staff. That, coupled with the limited number of alternatives available, and the high price free agents like Russell Martin are commanding, a deal like this is a relative bargain for the club. The risk remains the long-term health of Avila, as he’s battled a variety of injuries over the past few years, and more recently, has had issues with head trauma and concussions, which could put his career in jeopardy.


November 14 12:00 PM
  • TIGERS RE-SIGN HANRAHAN AND MARTINEZ

Re-signed Victor Martinez (DH) to a four-year, $68 million deal

Re-signed Jack Hanrahan (RHP) to a one-year minor league contract valued at $1 million, with Major League incentives valued at $2.5 million

Analysis:

The news of the Martinez deal broke earlier in the week, but was made official on Friday. The deal makes Martinez the largest contract ever given to a designated hitter in history, with the average annual value of the deal sitting at $17 million. Owner Mike Ilitch made a rare public appearance at the signing press conference, reinforcing his desire to win now and putting his money where his mouth is in the process. The deal will obviously help keep the Tigers competitive in 2015, but presents major risks at the back end of the deal, when V-Mart will be 39 years old.

The Tigers also made their first move to the bullpen, but it wasn’t a blockbuster, simply bringing back Hanrahan on a minor league contract. The club liked what they saw out of Hanrahan when they signed him last May and hoped he could contribute down the stretch, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery didn’t go as smoothly as planned, and he was eventually shut down before ever making a big league appearance. The Tigers are optimistic that with several more months of rest and recovery, he’ll be ready to compete for a bullpen job in spring training. The risk here becomes that he still might not be, and might not ever be, and can’t fully be counted on to fill a role just yet.


November 13 12:00 PM
  • TIGERS TRADE TRAVIS FOR ANTHONY GOSE

Traded Devon Travis (2B) to Toronto for Anthony Gose (OF)

Analysis:

As noted in the trade recap, while this deal received major headlines along the lines of the Tigers trading their top prospect for a starting center fielder, that might be pushing things on both sides. Gose is still very limited offensively, while TigsTown continues Travis someone in the neighborhood of the top ten, not a top prospect. But, it still provides the Tigers with a good defensive option for center and potentially a platoon option. While Gose has a career .633 OPS, he has been much more effective against right-handers, which has been primarily how the Jays used him in three years of sharing time.


October 31 3:00 PM
  • DIRKS LOST TO WAIVERS, SORIA OPTION PICKED UP

Activated Drew VerHagen (RHP), Bruce Rondon (RHP), Luke Putkonen (RHP) and Jose Iglesias (SS) from 60-day disabled list and placed on 40-man roster

Extended qualifying offers to Victor Martinez (DH) and Max Scherzer (RHP)

Outrighted Don Kelly (UT) to Toledo

Outrighted Evan Reed (RHP) to Toledo

Placed Andy Dirks (OF) on irrevocable waivers; claimed by Toronto Blue Jays

Placed Pat McCoy (LHP) on irrevocable waivers; claimed by Baltimore Orioles

Purchased the contract of Wynton Bernard (OF) from West Michigan and placed on Detroit’s 40-man roster

Released Manuel Joseph (OF/SS)

Analysis:

Many of the moves announced on Friday were of a housekeeping nature; opening up roster spots and preparing for free agency. The decision to extend qualifying offers to Scherzer and Martinez also comes as no surprise, as the Tigers hope to retain both players, and if they don’t, will receive draft pick compensation in return. The various other moves leave the 40-man roster sitting at 36 active players, before any additional Rule 5 Draft protection decisions are made.

The decision to place Dirks on waivers though is a surprise, after he entered 2014 with the expectation of being a most days starter in the outfield. Instead, he battled more injuries, a continuing hurdle for him, and likely the reason the Tigers elected to move on, as they simply couldn’t rely on him to be healthy for a 162-game season.

The second surprise move was the decision to add Bernard to the 40-man roster. Bernard would basically have qualified as a journeyman minor leaguer entering the spring, when he was signed in an open tryout. TigsTown was the first to point out how impressive he looked in spring camp, and that he’d likely be a major contributor to the Whitecaps, though no one could have predicted by would be crowned Midwest League MVP. Still, to protect a player on the 40-man indicates a belief that he could contribute to the big league club soon, and that would seem to be a stretch for a player like him.

Finally, not publicized with the rest of the moves, but the Tigers elected to release Joseph, who was named the DSL Tigers Player of the Year by the TigsTown this summer. Joseph excelled at the plate and was one of the best players in the DSL, but the Tigers made the decision to let him go due to some off the field concerns.



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