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1-year deal with Nova bolsters Tigers' rotation

@beckjason
January 13, 2020

DETROIT -- While the Tigers wait for their crop of top pitching prospects to arrive in the Majors, they’ll have Ivan Nova on the mound as veteran depth. The big right-hander signed a one-year deal with Detroit, the Tigers announced on Monday. Nova’s deal includes a $1.5 million base salary

DETROIT -- While the Tigers wait for their crop of top pitching prospects to arrive in the Majors, they’ll have Ivan Nova on the mound as veteran depth. The big right-hander signed a one-year deal with Detroit, the Tigers announced on Monday.

Nova’s deal includes a $1.5 million base salary plus incentives.

Nova, who turned 33 on Sunday, will be pitching for his fourth team in five years, but he is coming off his most durable season as a big leaguer. He made 34 starts last year for the White Sox, tied for the Major League lead, while posting an 11-12 record and a 4.72 ERA. His two complete games included a 104-pitch, four-hit victory over the Astros on Aug. 13 in Chicago.

That win was part of a solid second half. After taking a 4-7 record and 5.58 ERA into the All-Star break, Nova posted a 7-5 record and a 3.72 ERA in his final 16 starts, striking out 48 batters over 87 innings.

That durability is meaningful to the Tigers, who received just nine starts combined from Tyson Ross and Matt Moore last year before season-ending injuries. Detroit signed the pair to one-year contracts last offseason for a combined $9.25 million.

Detroit struggled to fill the void, despite an encouraging season from lefty Daniel Norris. Thirteen pitchers made starts for the Tigers last year, including relievers Buck Farmer and Zac Reininger as openers, and former Tiger Edwin Jackson rejoined the rotation down the stretch.

Though starting pitching wasn’t a top priority, general manager Al Avila said he wanted at least seven starting candidates in Spring Training. Nova likely fills that quota, joining Matthew Boyd, Norris, Spencer Turnbull, Jordan Zimmermann, Tyler Alexander and Rule 5 pick Rony Garcia.

“Heading into the offseason, we knew that adding veteran depth to our starting rotation was important, and Ivan fits that need while also providing strong leadership in the clubhouse,” Avila said in a statement. “Ivan has a proven track record of reliability, throwing at least 160 innings in each of the last four seasons, and often puts his club in a position to win when he’s on the mound.”

The Tigers will have more help on the way over the summer. Michael Fulmer is on a track to return from Tommy John surgery sometime around midseason. Top prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning are expected to open the season at Triple-A Toledo with a chance to make their big league debuts later in the season.

Add in former first-round pick Beau Burrows and righty Kyle Funkhouser, and Detroit should have an abundance of young arms. Nova could serve as a mentor or trade bait around the July Trade Deadline.

“I’ve had the opportunity to play for some historic organizations during my professional career, and joining the Tigers adds to that list in a big way,” Nova said in a statement. “This is a very exciting day for me, and I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates and coaches and working with them to bring winning baseball to the great fans here in Detroit.”

To make room for Nova on the 40-man roster, the Tigers designated left-hander Matt Hall for assignment. The 26-year-old southpaw was Detroit’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018, but he struggled to catch on as a lefty reliever last year, allowing 20 runs on 28 hits over 23 1/3 innings in 16 relief appearances. He could still compete for a bullpen spot if he clears waivers and is outrighted to Triple-A Toledo.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

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