Breaking down just how bad the Detroit Tigers' free agent signings have turned out this season
Four of five 2019 free agents on injured list
DETROIT – Father's Day brought an end to another long weekend in a summer of long weekends for Detroit Tigers fans.
Detroit lost its fifth straight series in June by getting swept over three games against the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers were only competitive in one of three games and lost by a combined score of 25-6.
Since going winless in a 10-game homestand last month -- the worst homestand for the franchise in more than 70 years -- the Tigers have won just two of nine games at Comerica Park.
Everyone knew the Tigers were going to struggle this season. They're in the middle of a complete rebuild, and most of the organization's best players are still in the minor leagues.
There was some hope, however, that the team could be more competitive than the last two seasons, when it finished with the worst and fifth-worst records in all of baseball.
That hasn't been the case. Right now, the Tigers are 25-43, once again the fifth-worst team in baseball. They're just a half-game away from being the third-worst team in the league.
Why was there some cautious optimism about 2019? The Tigers made a handful of small but potentially savvy moves this offseason to bring in players who have a history of success at the major league level. Unfortunately, four of those five players have rarely been on the field.
SP Matt Moore
Contract: 1 year, $2.5 million.
Season stats: 2 starts, 0.00 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, nine strikeouts in 10 innings.
Perhaps the most costly injury for the Tigers so far this season was the loss of Moore, who had thrown 10 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and one walk.
It was way too early to tell if Moore was actually going to have a bounce-back season, but he was certainly off to a strong start, and could have been a potential trade piece at the deadline if he maintained respectable numbers.
Moore was the first domino to fall -- outside of Michael Fulmer -- in a series of rotation injuries that's led to Ryan Carpenter and Gregory Soto getting regular opportunities at the big league level.
It's hard to blame the Tigers for this free agent bust because Moore was so good before his injury. Chalk this one up to bad luck.
SP Tyson Ross
Contract: 1 year, $5.75 million.
Season stats: 7 starts, 6.11 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 25 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.
Ross was the other major offseason addition to the starting rotation, and while he lasted a few more starts than Moore, he wasn't nearly as effective.
Earned run average isn't the best indicator of a pitcher's performance, but when it's almost identical to his K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings), that's likely going to be a disaster.
That was the case for Ross, who allowed 24 earned runs and struck out 25 batters in 35.1 innings. He couldn't throw strikes (18 walks) and allowed more than a hit per inning, resulting in an inflated 1.67 WHIP.
Overall, Ross was having a rough season before landing next to Moore on the injured list.
2B Josh Harrison
Contract: 1 year, $2 million.
Season stats: .176/.219/.265, one home run, seven doubles, six walks and 26 strikeouts in 36 games.
Harrison looked like a good gamble for the Tigers to take this offseason, and we even advocated for Al Avila to give him a call.
Well, Avila signed the veteran infielder to a one-year deal, and it hasn't worked out. He's been injured for half the games and bad for the other half, checking in as a -0.8 WAR player in just 36 games.
Harrison has a .219 on-base percentage and about three times as many strikeouts as extra-base hits. He's a good defensive second baseman, which is much-needed in the Tigers' infield, but that hasn't been enough to make up for his offensive struggles.
This wasn't a bad gamble by Avila, as Harrison has been very good as recently as three years ago and could have been the type of player to trade at the deadline. But like the rest of the free agent signings, it turned out to be a dud.
SS Jordy Mercer
Contract: 1 year, $5.25 million.
Season stats: .206/275/.317, one home run, four doubles, five walks and 13 strikeouts in 19 games.
When the Tigers signed Mercer this offseason, it sort of felt like they should have just re-signed Jose Iglesias. That's exactly how it's played out so far, as Mercer battles injuries and inconsistencies and Iglesias posts solid numbers in Cincinnati.
Mercer has only played in 19 games due to injuries, and when he has played, he hasn't been an offensive threat. His OPS isn't quite as low as Harrison's, but it's still sub-.600, which is nearly unplayable.
Mercer was unlikely to become a trade chip at the deadline, so his injury has mostly just been an inconvenience that forced the Tigers to give Ronny Rodriguez an opportunity. While that started off looking great, Rodriguez has been ice cold for the better part of a month, so shortstop as a whole has been a tough position to fill for the team.
INF Gordon Beckham
Contract: 1 year, $700,000.
Season stats: .235/.333/.441, three home runs, eight doubles, 11 walks and 33 strikeouts in 39 games.
The best free agent signing for the Tigers this season has turned out to be Gordon Beckham -- let that sink in.
Beckham has been rock solid offensively, posting a .333 OBP and tacking on 13 extra-base hits in 39 games. His .775 OPS is second only to Brandon Dixon among players who have more than three at-bats.
The Tigers have had injuries to their starting second baseman, third baseman and shortstop this season, and Beckham's versatility has helped bridge the gap. He's played all four infield positions, with the majority coming at shortstop.
He barely made the roster out of spring training, but Beckham has turned out to be a decent hitter through 70 games.
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