Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers Transactions: Tigers Get Justin Wilson for Two Prospects

The Tigers continued their off-season revamp by adding their third reliever. Justin Wilson will become the team's go-to left-hander, after the club added Mark Lowe earlier in the week, and Francisco Rodriguez a couple weeks prior.


  • Traded Luis Cessa (RHP) and Chad Green (RHP) to the Yankees in exchange for Justin Wilson (LHP)


The Tigers were set on making a bullpen acquisition for a left-hander, and accomplished that via trade on Wednesday when they landed Wilson from the Yankees in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects. Wilson was very effective for New York last year, posting a 3.10 ERA with a 2.69 FIP, including a 9.7 K/9 ratio, with just under 3 BB/9. Wilson had issues with his command the year before with the Pirates, where he walked 4.5 per nine innings, but eased those concerns in 2015. He'll remain under team control for the Tigers for three more years.

In return, the Tigers gave up a pair of arms in Cessa and Green. Cessa was one of the recent additions at last year's trade deadline from the Mets. He has a live arm, but struggled in Triple-A for both the Tigers and the Mets, with a 5.97 ERA over seven starts in Toledo. While he's worked predominantly as a starter, his future is likely that of a reliever. Green meanwhile was a 2013 draft pick by the Tigers, and had good success at Double-A Erie, with a 3.93 ERA. He could make it as a back of the rotation starter, but might find more success in a late inning relief role, where his fastball would play up.

With the acquisition, the TIgers have most likely completed much of their off-season shopping. There's the possibility that they add a utility player with the capability of playing in the outfield, or possibly another low-risk reliever, but the Tigers have now hit on all of their big ticket shopping items.


  • Signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C) to a one-year deal
  • Signed Mark Lowe (RHP) to a two-year deal worth $11 million


The Tigers made a pair of key free agent signings with the additions of Saltalamacchia and Lowe, especially Lowe, who will likely serve as the club's setup man behind recently acquired Francisco Rodriguez. Lowe has had a tumultuous career spanning the last decade, making his big league debut in 2006 with the Mariners, and also spending time with the Rangers, Angels, Indians and Blue Jays. In 2015, Lowe was outstanding, posting a 1.96 ERA (2.57 FIP) over 55 innings, with a 10 K/9 rate and under 2 BB/9.

Saltalamacchia was added to provide depth at catcher behind starter James McCann. The 30-year old signed a three-year deal with the Marlins in 2014, but the club released him just a month into the 2015 season, and he finished out 2015 with the Diamondbacks, where he hit .251 with a .348 wOBA, posting a 1.1 WAR in just 194 at-bats. Saltalamacchia will battle with Bryan Holaday for the backup spot, with the loser likely heading to Triple-A Toledo.


  • Signed Mike Pelfrey (RHP) to a two-year deal worth $16 million


Just days after reaffirming that the club planned to add another starting pitcher, the Tigers agreed to terms with former Twins starting pitcher Pelfrey on a two-year deal, pending a physical. Pelfrey made 30 starts for the Twins last year, with a 4.26 ERA and 4.00 FIP, with a 4.70 K/9 ratio and 2.5 BB/9 ratio. Pelfrey is viewed as a back of the rotation starter that induces plenty of ground balls but also doesn't strike many batters out, which will put plenty of pressure on the Tigers infield defense to support Pelfrey.

While $16 million sounds like a lot, the reality is that a pitcher that when healthy earns 1-2 wins is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-$10 million per season on the free agent market, and Pelfrey simply fits that price tag.

With Justin Verlander, Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez all locked into rotation spots, and the expectation that Daniel Norris will hold one as well, the addition of Pelfrey should solidify the Tigers starting five, barring injury.


  • Al Alburquerque (RHP) elected free agency
  • Neftali Feliz (RHP) elected free agency


The Tigers announced that they won't be extending a contract to either Alburquerque or Feliz for the 2016 season, providing both players with the option of becoming free agents and pursuing any opportunity with another club, which they both chose to do. Alburquerque was projected to make over $2 million in 2016 through arbitration, while Feliz was projected to hover around $5 million.

Neither Alburquerque nor Feliz were particularly effective for the Tigers last season. Feliz, who was signed as a free agent midway through the year after being released by the Rangers, posted a 7.62 ERA in 30 appearances in Detroit. He did have a an FIP of 3.95, and the Tigers did express some interest in bringing him back at a lower contract amount, but the two sides couldn't come to terms.

Alburquerque meanwhile had a tough year in 2015, with very limited use in the first couple months of the season in particular while he battled control issues. His advanced performance wasn't that bad, with an FIP of 3.75 and an ERA of 4.21, but he walked nearly five batters per nine innings and his strikeout rates plummted from a high of nearly 13 K's per nine in 2013 to just over 8 K's per nine last year.


  • Signed Jordan Zimmermann (RHP) to a 5-year contract worth $110 million


While all Tigers fans were anticipating a starting pitcher being added to the mix, few likely expected the Tigers were ready to spend enough to land a pitcher of the caliber of Zimmermann, but that's exactly what the Tigers did when they inked the 29-year old right-hander to a five-year deal. For his career, Zimmermann has a 3.32 ERA with a 3.40 FIP, logging nearly 1,100 innings, almost all of which coming in the last five years where he averaged over 30 starts and nearly 200 innings.

Zimmermann will earn $18 million each of the next two years, and then that jumps to $24 million in 2018, and two years of $25 million. The contract also comes with a no-trade clause, which includes full protection over the first three years of the contract, and limited protection over the final two years.

For additional details of the addition and what it means for the Tigers, see the full article here: Tigers Sign Jordan Zimmermann to 5-Year Deal


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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