DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Tigers had interest in Josh Harrison since the Winter Meetings in December, general manager Al Avila said. Harrison, whose wife reportedly has family in the Detroit area, had interest in the Tigers.
It took a while, and some recruitment from Harrison’s longtime teammate Jordy Mercer. But once Spring Training began, the two sides reconnected and talked. Their one-year, $2 million deal became official on Saturday once Harrison, 31, passed his physical. The Tigers lost infielder Kaleb Cowart on waivers to the Angels in a corresponding roster move.
“He’s a veteran guy with a lot of experience, brings a lot of energy and knowledge,” Avila said. “He’s a good leader, a guy that’s been well-respected and liked. We feel obviously that he still has a lot left as far as performance, from a defensive perspective, baserunning perspective, and we feel he still has the opportunity to come back and have a good, productive offensive year. We think he fits in very well to help out the young guys, help out the coaching staff and really make us a better team overall.”
Though Avila had mentioned second base as a potential opening heading into the offseason, it wasn’t the same priority as shortstop, where Detroit had no clear-cut replacement for Jose Iglesias. But while the Tigers had options at second, Avila said they preferred prospect Dawel Lugo return to Triple-A Toledo for more development, while Niko Goodrum could be more useful as a super-utility guy.
With Harrison, they saw more than a placeholder for the spot. They saw a veteran who could be a benefit for a rebuilding club and a young clubhouse.
“We all felt that he fits in very well with the team and the organization,” Avila said. “And it gives some of the younger guys a bit more time to develop. I feel fortunate that we were able to do this at this time. He was on our radar all the way back at the Winter Meetings. I’ve gotta give [assistant GM] David Chadd some kudos there because he really stayed with it.”
The Tigers essentially had a standing offer to Harrison if he was interested.
“We just kind of waited for him to take it, to tell you truth,” Avila said. “There was a little bit of negotiation there at the end, but it all came together. We had an offer there for a while. I think he waited basically until he thought this is long enough. There was a motivation for him wanting to go to Detroit -- Jordy there obviously, a good fit. He felt comfortable enough where he decided to come.”