11/20/2015: TIGERS ACQUIRE MAYBIN FOR KROL, SPEIER
- Traded Ian Krol (LHP) and Gabe Speier (LHP) to Atlanta in exchange for Cameron Maybin (OF)
Completing a busy week for the club, the Tigers added a player that will be a key member of their outfield, though the exact role isn't yet known. The former top prospect in the Tigers system, Maybin broke out a few years ago with San Diego, posting a 4.3 fWAR in 2011 before being traded to Atlanta prior to last season. He had a solid season with the Braves in 2015, hitting .267 with a .307 wOBA, including 23 stolen bases. The Tigers said that Maybin's role will be determined in spring training, but it'd seem a safe bet that he'll bounce between left field and center field, sharing time with Anthony Gose in center and Tyler Collins in left.
Financially again, the Tigers got a deal better than what they likely could have gotten on the free agent market, as they'll pay only $5.5 million of Maybin's $8 million salary in 2016, the final guaranteed year of his deal. Maybin has a $9 million option for 2017, or the Tigers can buy that out for $1 million. It's yet another move where the Tigers acquire a soon-to-expire contract of a player that doesn't create a long-term financial commitment, is likely more cost affordable than the free agent alternative, and carries with it the added hope that the player will be focused heading into a contract year.
In exchange, the Tigers gave up a pair of lefties. The first of whom, Ian Krol, Tigers fans know well and are probably not sad to see him go. Krol was supposed to be a key part of the bullpen after being acquired from the Nationals in the Doug Fister trade, but that never materialized. Krol bounced between Toledo and Detroit last year, posting a 5.79 ERA in the Majors, with control issues once again popping up, walking 5.5 batters per nine innings. Speier, who the Tigers got in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes swap, had a strong year for Class-A West Michigan, with a 2.86 ERA and is a decent pitching prospect. But not the sort of pitcher that you worry extensively about losing in a deal for big league talent like Maybin, that should give the Tigers 500-plus at-bats.
11/19/2015: TIGERS PURCHASE CONTRACTS OF FULMER, LABOURT, ROBERTSON
- Purchased contract of Michael Fulmer (RHP) from Erie and added to 40-man roster
- Purchased contract of Jairo Labourt (LHP) from Lakeland and added to 40-man roster
- Purchased contract of Montreal Robertson (RHP) from Erie and added to 40-man roster
In anticipation of the Tigers making some moves to protect more players from next month's Rule 5 Draft, the club added three guys to the 40-man. Fulmer was the key prospect received in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, and given his stellar performance and lofty status, there's no surprise he was protected. Labourt was also acquired in the deadline selloff, and while further away from the big leagues and not enjoying the same success, still has a high-powered arm that is well regarded.
The one slight surprise of the group is Robertson, who has maintained the "keep an eye on" status for several years, but has only started to translate that into legit potential. Robertson moved to the bullpen for good last year, and has been able to utilize his high velocity fastball in short bursts more effectively in that role. His ceiling is likely limited to that of a 7th inning reliever, but a live arm that is approaching the big league level after posting a 3.31 ERA across Lakeland and Erie is one worth hanging onto.
11/17/2015: TIGERS TRADE BETANCOURT FOR RODRIGUEZ
- Traded Javier Betancourt (IF) and player to be named later to Milwaukee in exchange for Francisco Rodriguez (RHP) and player to be named later
The Tigers didn't like what they were seeing on the free agent market for a closer, and they were able to acquire "K-Rod" for a relatively reasonable price, with a limited contract to go with it. The Tigers will owe Rodriguez only $5.5 million in 2016, and can either pick up his 2017 option for $8 million (still very reasonable price tag for an above average closer), or buyout the option for $2 million. It's a limited financial commitment, especially compared to what someone like Joakim Soria was looking for, reported to be 3-years, $27 million.
Of course, the Tigers aren't just losing money in the deal, as they're giving up a solid infield prospect in Betancourt, plus another prospect that will be named later. Betancourt has a good approach at the plate and very good contact skills, and good project to be an above average hitter, but has shown very little power in his game. He's also a somewhat limited athlete without great speed and average arm and range, which likely will limit him to second base as he moves up the ladder. Assuming the PTBNL isn't a top prospect, the Tigers traded a prospect they could afford to lose to hopefully solidify the 9th inning in the bullpen at an affordable price.
11/5/2015: JONES VIOLATES MiLB'S DRUG PROGRAM, SUSPENDED 50 GAMES
- JaCoby Jones (SS) suspended 50 games following a positive test for a drug of abuse, violating Minor League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program
After a stellar 2015 campaign and a strong start in the Arizona Fall League, the news about Jones is very disappointing, and means he'll be sidelined for much of the first of the 2016 season. The Tigers issued a very brief statement; "The Detroit Tigers recognize the suspension of JaCoby Jones for violating Minor League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as a measure taken in the best interest of the game, and the ballclub continues to fully support this policy. The Tigers' organization will provide no further comment on Jones’ suspension.”
Jones was an unlikely candidate to seriously challenge for a spot on the 25-man roster or contribute at the big league level in the timeframe of the suspension , but questions will now of course arise about him as a prospect, and he'll have to answer those with his performance on the field when he returns, and avoid any other missteps in the meantime. He was likely ticketed for Toledo before the news of the suspension.
11/3/2015: TIGERS PURCHASE CONTRACT OF CESSA
- Purchased contract of Luis Cessa (RHP) from Toledo and added to Detroit's 40-man roster
- Declined 2016 option of Joe Nathan (RHP), making him a free agent
The news about Nathan comes as no surprise, given Nathan's surgery and questions about his ability to return to pitch at all, the club wasn't going to pay him $10 million, and instead will pay his $1 million buyout. At the time of the injury, Nathan expressed his interest to return to baseball.
The move to add Cessa to the 40-man roster was an inevitable one, as he would have been eligible for free agency, and even if re-signed he would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft had he not been protected by being placed on Detroit's roster. Cessa was one of the two arms the Tigers acquired from the New York Mets, in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cessa has a live arm, but struggled at Triple-A this for both New York and Detroit, posting a 6.45 ERA for Toledo over seven starts. He did however strike out 34 in 37 2/3 innings and could be a bullpen option in Detroit in 2016 if he fixes a couple things.