The Tigers rounded out their starting-pitching competition with one more veteran starter, agreeing to terms with former Braves All-Star Julio Teheran on a Minor League contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training on Tuesday.
While Teheran doesn’t get a guaranteed contract, he’ll get a $3 million base salary if he makes the Tigers, with up to $1 million in incentives if he makes 20 starts, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement.
Though Teheran has spent parts of 10 seasons in the Majors and has made 235 big league starts, he just turned 30 years old a few weeks ago. The Colombian-born right-hander was a two-time All-Star and six-time Opening Day starter with the Braves before making nine starts and a relief appearance last year with the Angels.
Teheran went 0-4 with a 10.05 ERA with the Angels, including allowing 12 home runs over 31 1/3 innings. It marked his first season with an ERA over 4.50. The Tigers and new pitching coach Chris Fetter will take on the challenge of trying to help Teheran find his younger form, including a fastball that has slowed each season.
Teheran’s four-seam fastball averaged a career-low 89.2 mph last year, according to Statcast, down 1 mph from the previous season. His average exit velocity off the pitch also slowed to a career-low 87.5 mph, but opponents still hit .379 off the pitch with six home runs. His sinker was more effective with a .224 average, but it was hit harder with a 90.5 mph average exit velocity.
Teheran showed faith in himself in taking a non-roster invite, turning down a guaranteed contract with lower salary and fewer incentives from another club, according to a source. He’ll have to beat out a crowded field for the Tigers' rotation.
The Tigers and general manager Al Avila have made pitching depth a priority all offseason, but especially in the last few weeks as they try to cover innings in the jump from last year’s 58-game season to a full 162-game schedule. Detroit signed former Marlins Opening Day starter José Ureña to a one-year, $3,250,000 contract in December, and have added Erasmo Ramírez, Derek Holland and Wily Peralta on Minor League contracts with non-roster invites to Major League Spring Training.
The Tigers return Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull and Michael Fulmer from last year’s rotation. Detroit’s wave of top pitching prospects stands on the cusp of the big leagues, with Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal having debuted last summer and Matt Manning likely to do so this year, but the Tigers are wary of overextending them coming off no Minor League season in 2020.
Add in lefty swingmen Daniel Norris and Tyler Alexander, who will be stretched out for potential starting roles, and the Tigers have a plethora of candidates. Though Detroit will open the season with a five- or six-man rotation, other potential starters will likely open the season at Triple-A Toledo in preparation for in-season promotions as the Tigers keep an eye on innings workloads.
The Tigers reached agreements with Peralta and Teheran just two days apart after Avila said last Tuesday they were looking for more pitching. The latest additions are expected to finish the Tigers’ dealings, likely ruling out a reunion with former top pick Rick Porcello after the team showed recent interest.