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Offseason checklist: Tigers' needs and moves

@beckjason
January 14, 2020

The Tigers lost 114 games in 2019, most in the Majors and the second-most in franchise history. They remain committed to their rebuilding process, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have immediate needs to fill. MLB.com is keeping track of every move the Tigers make this offseason as they prepare

The Tigers lost 114 games in 2019, most in the Majors and the second-most in franchise history. They remain committed to their rebuilding process, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have immediate needs to fill.

MLB.com is keeping track of every move the Tigers make this offseason as they prepare for 2020. Check back here for updates as the offseason continues.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Relief depth
Other than closer Joe Jiménez and versatile setup man Buck Farmer, Detroit’s bullpen roles are wide open, especially from the left side after Blaine Hardy and Daniel Stumpf were cut. Young arms like Bryan Garcia, Gregory Soto and John Schreiber are expected to get their shot, but general manager Al Avila will look for more experienced arms to stabilize the group.

Corner outfield
The Tigers still haven’t filled Nicholas Castellanos’ void in right field since his trade last July, though Travis Demeritte held down the role down the stretch last year. Christin Stewart has more stability in left, but manager Ron Gardenhire would still like to mix in a right-handed hitter there. A short-term contract would give a veteran hitter a chance at a rebound while providing the Tigers a little more depth in the middle of the lineup. Detroit could wait until close to Spring Training to find a match among the hitters still on the market.

MOVES MADE

Jan. 13: Signed RHP Ivan Nova to a one-year contract

The Tigers could have top prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning in their rotation by season’s end, but they needed depth until then. They found it with a low-risk deal to bring in Nova, one of just seven Major Leaguers to make 34 starts last regular season and among nine hurlers with multiple complete games. The 33-year-old gives the Tigers innings, and if he can carry forward his second-half momentum from last year, those innings can be effective.

Jan. 8: Acquired C Eric Haase from Indians

The Tigers added to their depth behind the plate by trading for Indians catcher Eric Haase in exchange for cash considerations. Haase, who recently turned 27, enjoyed some success at Triple-A this past season, being named to the International League’s midseason and postseason All-Star teams. In 102 games for Columbus, he batted .226/.315/.517 with 28 home runs (tied for fifth in the IL) and 60 RBIs. Behind the plate, he threw out 30 of 72 basestealers (41.7%).

Dec. 21: Signed 1B C.J. Cron and 2B Jonathan Schoop to one-year contracts

The Tigers had the American League’s lowest OPS, scored 33 fewer runs than any other Major League team and had no hitter with more than 15 home runs. Cron and Schoop specifically address that, having combined for 48 home runs and 137 RBIs last season with the Twins. Both are veteran right-handed power hitters who will swing and miss their fair share but pummel the ball when they connect.

Dec. 20: Signed RHP Zack Godley to a Minor League contract with Spring Training invite

While the Tigers have looked for veteran stability on the market, Godley is very much an upside signing if he can find his old form and sinker. He entered this past season with a 33-25 record, 4.41 ERA, 3.91 FIP and 444 strikeouts over 444 2/3 innings, but he struggled to a 4-5 record and 5.97 ERA in 33 games between the Diamondbacks and the Blue Jays as his strikeout rate fell. He’ll compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training but could be a better fit in the bullpen to fill Drew VerHagen’s old role.

Dec. 13: Signed catcher Austin Romine to a one-year contract
Just more than two years after Andrew Romine made a catching appearance for the Tigers as part of playing all nine positions in a game, Detroit turned to his younger brother to provide veteran stability behind the plate and a little more offense in the box. Austin Romine gets a chance to claim a regular role after backing up Yankees star Gary Sánchez for the past few seasons.

Dec. 12: Selected RHP Rony Garcia in Rule 5 Draft
Garcia is expected to fill a bullpen role in Detroit, possibly long relief. His velocity could play up in a shorter role, but the key is his mix, including a cutter that flummoxed hitters as the season went on. Though Garcia posted a 4-11 record in 20 starts at Double-A Trenton and was not ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Yankees prospects, his secondary stats show a better performance, including 104 strikeouts and 94 hits allowed over 105 1/3 innings. His 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings marked the highest rate of his four-year pro career.

Oct. 24: Blaine Hardy, Daniel Stumpf, Victor Alcántara and John Hicks become free agents after being outrighted
The Tigers’ decision to part ways with the arbitration-eligible Hardy had been expected after an injury-plagued season that ended early with a flexor tendon strain in his left forearm. Hicks was also arbitration-eligible after posting a .620 OPS and 109 strikeouts in 333 plate appearances in a catcher/first baseman utility role. Stumpf’s struggles combined with the upcoming three-batter minimum rule change for relievers curtailed his future.

Oct. 23: Nick Ramirez, Zac Reininger, Eduardo Jimenez, Dustin Peterson outrighted to Triple-A Toledo
All four players spent time with the Tigers this past season, led by Ramirez, who blossomed from a mop-up reliever when called up in May to a versatile lefty arm by season’s end. But with the Tigers needing to protect a bunch of prospects from December’s Rule 5 Draft, they decided to drop the 30-year-old. All four players became Minor League free agents after the World Series, and Detroit could pursue a reunion with Ramirez on a Minor League contract.

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