Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

Roundtable: Detroit Tigers Free Agent Focus

The Tigers likely have a long shopping list entering this off-season. Which one player should the Tigers focus on in free agency?

Paul Wezner, Executive Editor


If you're talking about prioritizing a single player this off-season for the Tigers, it's important the player aligns with a position of need. While re-signing Yoenis Cespedes or adding a star caliber player like Jason Heyward would be a massive boost for the Tigers, the club needs a dramatic infusion of talent on the pitching staff, and they need to do it efficiently. To be able to add two starting pitchers and two or three relievers, including a closer, they can't drop $20 million (or more) in annual salary on a single player. But, they still need to sign someone that can be a good middle-of-the-rotation starter, someone that fits in that second tier of starting pitchers in effectiveness, but isn't necessarily at an age where they'd be getting paid a large sum of money into their mid-to-late 30's, when they're likely to lose effectiveness. Boiling down all those options, 27-year old right-hander Mike Leake would appear to be an ideal fit. He's young, won't command a nine figure contract (FanGraphs projects a four-year deal with an AAV of $14 million), and has been both durable and effective each of the last three seasons, averaging two wins above replacement and nearly 200 innings. Leake won't set the world on fire, but will provide a steady presence in the Tigers rotation, and still allow them to fill their other needs on the open market.


Mark Anderson, Director of Scouting


The Tigers have many directions they could go in free agency this winter, whether that be addressing the holes in the starting rotation, holes in the bullpen, or the sizable hole in left field. Oddly enough, for a team that was mired in last place at season's end, the Tigers are in pretty good shape with the rest of the roster, allowing them to focus on three primary areas of need. Securing a suitable left field replacement for Yoenis Cespedes is going to cost a pretty penny, and with the rest of the Tigers offense looking strong, they can probably afford to wait the market out and look for a bargain in January. The bullpen market is going to be volatile no matter when and where they dip their toes in, but they will have to do it eventually. Unlike most years, the market for starting pitchers is saturated with quality arms, any of whom carry a qualifying offer that may aid the Tigers in nabbing a non-elite starter at a reasonable price (including the second round pick they would surrender). Frankly, given the uncertainty surrounding Anibal Sanchez and the departure of Alfredo Simon, the Tigers need to act quickly to secure a second tier starter like Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, or Wei-Yin Chen. Of the three, I prefer the athleticism and tantalizing upside of a pitcher like Samardzija; a pitcher that could slot into the middle of the Tigers rotation and help solidify a group that will be quite young on the back end. The Tigers need to make the necessary moves to allow them to make a move of this nature, and make it early in the off-season.



Chris Brown, Staff Writer


Climbing out of the cellar is obviously going to require the addition of more than one player this offseason, but the talent in this year's free agent class is deep enough that one key acquisition can certainly get the Tigers back on the road to contention.  It would obviously be ideal to add an elite starter like Zack Greinke, David Price, Johnny Cueto, or Jordan Zimmermann, or a top-flight outfielder like Jason Heyward or Justin Upton, but none of those players appear to be economically viable. Pitching is the team's most obvious area for improvement, so I think the Tigers should go hard after the best arm among the second tier of starters, and to me that player is Jeff Samardzija. 
Now, there are reasons Samardzija doesn't appear to be in that elite group of starters. He has only topped 3 fWAR once in his career, he's coming off a season in which his strikeout rate plummeted and his ERA ballooned to 4.96 (3rd worst in MLB), and it's at least mildly concerning that White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, considered one of the best in the game, couldn't get Shark fixed. But those struggles should help keep Samardzija's contract in the range of 4-5 years and $80-100 million. That's expensive, but probably doable for the Tigers. And there are still reasons to be hopeful about the big righthander. He's one year removed from posting a 2.99 ERA, he has averaged 215 IP for each of the last three seasons, he has no injury history, and because he began his career as a reliever, he has fewer pitches on his arm than any of the other top starters available. And even though his numbers in 2015 were bad, there didn't appear to be anything wrong with Samardzija's arm. His velocity and movement were right in line with his career averages, and the only discernible difference in his approach was a sharp increase in the usage of his cutter, a pitch that has not been effective for him as a pro. That seems like a problem that can be easily remedied.



John Moore, Associate Scout


The Tigers are coming off a disappointing 2015 season. They finished with a 74-87 record, good for dead last in the AL Central. There are many possible holes they could try to fill through free agency. One of the main guys I feel like they should target is Joakim Soria. Soria was traded just traded by the Tigers to Pittsburgh at the end of July for JaCoby Jones. He spent parts of two seasons with Detroit after being traded to the Tigers during the middle of the 2014 season. In 2014 He struggled with Detroit during his 13 appearances having a 4.91 ERA and a 5.22 FIP. However, he was much better with Detroit over his 43 appearances in 2015 (2.85 ERA). They obviously need to do much more than signing Joakim Soria this off-season, but he would definitely help fill a big need at the back-end of their bullpen.

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