Rebound candidates could find home in Detroit

Avila values low-risk veterans for leadership, potential trade value near Deadline

January 2nd, 2018

DETROIT -- The Tigers have a history of making big deals after the holidays. Their rise from 119-loss cellar dwellers to American League champions was built on the winter Hot Stove, with free-agent signings like Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Prince Fielder.

That era is over. Yet as general manager Al Avila presses ahead on the rebuilding project designed to reshape Detroit's roster around young talent, he still has an eye open for late-offseason bargains as the days dwindle toward Spring Training.

Nothing the Tigers do between now and their first camp workout in Lakeland, Fla., is likely to drastically change their season. An undervalued acquisition or two, however, could well provide some help, either with veteran leadership on the upcoming roster or with prospects in a trade return down the line. And with a 40-man roster spot still open, the Tigers have room to make a Major League deal without having to designate another player for assignment, though all their big league contracts so far have been one-year deals.

Hot Stove Tracker

"We're probably not done signing guys," Avila said last month at the Winter Meetings.

Here's a look at the Tigers' remaining needs:

Starting pitching

The Tigers added a veteran starter to their rotation last month with Mike Fiers' signing, but they'd still like one more arm to provide some depth and competition with their young core of , Matthew Boyd and , not to mention injury insurance for . The top end of the starting pitching market has been slowed by potential trade options, but many rebound candidates on the lower end of the market remain available as well.

"We're more focused on adding another pitcher to make sure we're covered [for depth]," Avila said.

The Tigers have been linked this offseason with Chris Tillman, who remains on the market after a miserable 2017 that somewhat nullified his 16-win, 4.1-WAR '16 season. Detroit also had contact earlier this offseason regarding former Rangers lefty starter , who struggled to a 7-14 record and 6.20 ERA for the White Sox last season. , who pitched for the Blue Jays and Cubs last year, is a similar bounceback option. Holland turned 31 in October; Tillman and Anderson turn 30 in the coming months. If embarks on a comeback attempt as previously reported, he could be a low-risk signing, even at age 36.

Relief pitching

The Tigers have been actively pursuing veteran relief arms, but the market has been moving out of their price range, even on the lower end. Former Cub and Japanese closer attracted two-year deals with contending teams in Houston and Arizona, respectively, while went to the Twins on a one-year deal after mutual interest in a reunion with Detroit. With the heart of the free-agent crop largely gone and top free agents out of range, Avila is left to seek rebounds. The remaining market has some of those, including former Angels closers and , ex-Cards closer and versatile veteran . Zach Putnam, a University of Michigan alum and White Sox reliever, is a free agent after being nontendered following Tommy John surgery in June.

Left-handed bat

The Tigers addressed a big center-field need last month by signing , but they still have a righty-heavy lineup and a thin outfield roster. The free-agent market, meanwhile, remains stalled while top bats such as J.D. Martinez look for deals. Once that process begins, potential non-roster invitees should become clearer. Among the outfielders still on the market is former Tiger , who turns 37 on March 16.

Detroit could also try to add a lefty bat to compete at second base or in a utility role, though that isn't a pressing need for the club.

"I don't know that we'll add a Major League player to the roster for the infield," Avila said last month. "I wouldn't rule it out. We have a couple things from a Minor League perspective that we feel good about, guys that are going to compete. In saying that, you might bring somebody in later on at the end of Spring Training."