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Tigers aiming to round roster for '19 season

Second base, pitching on club's wish list before Spring Training
December 20, 2018

DETROIT -- Once upon a time, the New Year marked an unofficial warning for the close of the Hot Stove season. Some big free agents might still linger on the market -- the Tigers signed Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez late in back-to-back offseasons -- but most of the player

DETROIT -- Once upon a time, the New Year marked an unofficial warning for the close of the Hot Stove season. Some big free agents might still linger on the market -- the Tigers signed Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez late in back-to-back offseasons -- but most of the player movement would be done.
The days of that calendar are over, for big spenders and rebuilders alike. The Tigers were one of the busier teams in early December with one-year contracts for Matt Moore, Tyson Ross and Jordy Mercer, but they still have work to do before Spring Training opens in February. Here's a handful of items left on general manager Al Avila's to-do list:
1. Figure out second base
Detroit has options at second, but it would prefer to give prospect Dawel Lugo more time at Triple-A Toledo and Niko Goodrum more versatility to fill the super-utility role in which he thrived for much of last season. Though the Tigers got a jump on the free-agent shortstop market by signing Mercer, they're more likely to wait out the market at second to see who's still available nearing Spring Training. DJ LeMahieu, who went to high school at nearby Brother Rice, isn't likely to be one of them. But Timothy Beckham, James Beckham, John Forsythe and Neil Walker might be options. Any deal would likely be a one-year contract as a stopgap until Lugo is ready.

2. Define the market for Nicholas Castellanos
Though teams touched base with the Tigers regarding Castellanos at the Winter Meetings, no talks came close to a deal, at least nothing to the Tigers' liking. Once some of the top free agents sign, from Bryce Harper on down, the market for Castellanos could start moving, and might net a prospect package that convinces Detroit to move him now rather than wait for July. While the club gauges the market in January, however, it will also be negotiating with Castellanos' agent, David Meter, since Castellanos is arbitration-eligible.
3. Find more pitching depth
Yes, Detroit already added two starters with Moore and Ross. But Avila is a big believer in pitching depth, especially given the injury histories of so many Tigers starters. Thus, while the club doesn't have to sign anybody, it will likely keep an eye on the market to see if there's a late signing candidate like Francisco Liriano was during Spring Training last year. The Tigers could also add a reliever or two in order to fill the void created by Alex Wilson's non-tender. They signed veteran swingman Travis Wood at the end of January last offseason.

4. Sign another catcher for insurance
Grayson Greiner and John Hicks are poised to form the catching mix in Detroit this coming season, but the Tigers are looking for insurance in case of injuries or inconsistency. Bobby Wilson received a non-roster invite for that purpose, but the club would like to sign one more veteran catcher to a similar deal. The market is not deep.
5. Insurance at first base?
This would be a bonus for the Tigers, but given Jose Cabrera's injury history, a fill-in would hardly be a luxury, especially if Hicks is expected to handle a share of the catching duties behind Greiner. A deal would likely be similar to that of Efren Navarro, who was in camp in 2017 and spent the first half of the season at Triple-A Toledo before filling in at first base down the stretch.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.