DETROIT – There’s a new batch of free agents this week after the non-tender deadline, and several of those players would be smart additions for the Detroit Tigers.
While Detroit tendered contracts to all nine of its arbitration-eligible players, some teams decided certain players weren’t worth the price.
If the Tigers are aggressive in free agency this offseason, they could find some bargains. Due to the financial losses teams experienced due to the shortened 2020 season and the COVID-19 pandemic, free agents might come at a bit of a discount ahead of 2021.
Here are six players who were non-tendered this week and could help the Tigers.
OF Kyle Schwarber
- 2020 stats: .188/.308/.393 -- .701 OPS, 30 BB/66 K, 11 HR, 6 2B in 59 games
- 2019 stats: .250/.339/.531 -- .871 OPS, 70BB/156 K, 38 HR, 29 2B in 155 games
- Non-tendered by: Chicago Cubs
Most teams, outside the loaded lineups such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, will take a look at Schwarber this offseason.
The Cubs’ decision to non-tender Schwarber doesn’t come as a complete surprise as they enter a bit of a rebuilding phase, but it certainly opens the door for a team like the Tigers to add some pop to the heart of the order.
Schwarber, like most of the Cubs, struggled offensively in 2020, batting just .188 with a .701 OPS. He did draw 30 walks in 224 plate appearances, though, and crushed 11 home runs.
In MLB’s last full season, Schwarber hit 38 home runs and 29 doubles while drawing 70 walks. His .871 OPS was the best of his career, and he’s still only 27 years old.
As the former No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, Schwarber has the pedigree to back up his career .336 on-base percentage and .816 OPS. From 2017-2019, he racked up 94 home runs in 421 games.
Defensively, Schwarber has his issues, but he’s not nearly as bad as Nick Castellanos or Christin Stewart. The Tigers had no problem giving them chances at corner outfield spots, so that shouldn’t stop them from pursuing Schwarber, either.
OF David Dahl
- 2020 stats: .183/.222/.247 -- .470 OPS, 4 BB/28 K, 0 HR, 2 2B in 24 games
- 2019 stats: .302/.353/.524 -- .877 OPS, 28 BB/110 K, 15 HR, 28 2B, 5 3B in 100 games
- Non-tendered by: Colorado Rockies
This was one of the more surprising non-tender decisions around baseball, as the rebuilding Rockies gave up on one of their former top prospects one year after he made the All-Star team as a 25-year-old.
Now 26, Dahl is coming off a dreadful 2020 season -- if you can even call it a season. Dahl played just 24 games during the shortened campaign and didn’t even reach 100 plate appearances.
Injuries are certainly a concern for the young outfielder. He played 100 games in 2019, and that remains his career high. But he was so dynamic that season it’s a surprise the Rockies weren’t willing to give him another shot to stay healthy.
The Tigers can certainly afford to give Dahl a chance, and it would be a minor move with the potential to reap major rewards.
He doesn’t grade out as a strong defender, but Dahl has always been an excellent bat, minus one bad month in a strange 2020.
OF Eddie Rosario
- 2020 stats: .257/.316/.476 -- .792 OPS, 19 BB/34 K, 13 HR, 7 2B in 57 games
- 2019 stats: .276/.300/.500 -- .800 OPS, 22 BB/ 86 K, 32 HR, 28 2B in 247 games
- Non-tendered by: Minnesota Twins
The Twins must be ready to hand a starting spot over to elite prospect Alex Kirilloff, because they were willing to let perhaps the most consistent bat in their lineup walk this offseason.
Rosario has posted an OPS between .792 and .836 each of the last four seasons. He always hovers around 30 doubles and 25-30 home runs in a full season, with low strikeout rates and slugging percentages in the .500 range.
Rosario is 29 years old and finished in the top 20 for AL MVP voting each of the last two seasons. He can play all three outfield spots if needed and finished the last three full seasons with 589, 592 and 590 plate appearances.
The Tigers’ outfield is filled with uncertainty heading into 2021. Rosario would be a nice, reliable compliment to the upside of those young players.
RHP Matt Wisler
- 2020 stats: 1.07 ERA/3.35 FIP, 35 Ks, 14 BB in 25.1 innings
- 2019 stats: 5.61 ERA/4.23 FIP, 63 Ks, 16 BB in 51.1 innings
- Non-tendered by: Minnesota Twins
Wisler is another Minnesota castoff who makes sense for the Tigers after striking out more than a batter per inning for the second-straight season. Since the start of 2019, Wisler has whiffed 98 hitters in 76.2 innings.
His walk rate was inflated in 2020, but it was only a 25.1 inning sample size. His career 4.71 FIP and 1.379 WHIP are both far too high, especially for a relief pitcher, but Wisler has an ability to miss bats, so the Tigers should at least take a look.
Wisler is 28 years old and wasn’t set to hit free agency until 2023. He’ll probably be the cheapest free agent option on this list.
RHP Archie Bradley
- 2020 stats: 2.95 ERA/2.59 FIP, 18 Ks, 3 BB in 18.1 innings
- 2019 stats: 3.52 ERA/3.41 FIP, 87 Ks, 36 BB in 71.2 innings
- Non-tendered by: Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati decided not to offer a deal to Bradley after trading Josh VanMeter and Stuart Fairchild to the Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire him at the 2020 deadline.
After being selected No. 7 overall in the 2011 draft by Arizona, Bradley transitioned to the bullpen in 2017 and became one of the best relievers in baseball.
Since that move, Bradley has appeared in 221 games across four seasons, posting a 2.95 ERA that’s backed up by a 3.19 FIP. He’s struck out 259 batters in 234.2 innings with a manageable walk rate and 1.197 WHIP.
Bradley was phenomenal before and after the trade last season, walking just three batters all season while maintaining a strikeout rate of about one per inning.
He’s still only 28 years old, and he has closing experience after picking up 18 saves in 2019. The Tigers have some exciting relief pitchers in Gregory Soto, Jose Cisnero, Daniel Norris and Joe Jimenez, but none of them have thrived in the ninth inning. Bradley could anchor the bullpen and allow those other pitchers to settle into different roles.
RHP Hansel Robles
- 2020 stats: 10.26 ERA/5.89 FIP, 20 Ks, 10 BB in 16.2 innings
- 2019 stats: 2.48 ERA/2.88 FIP, 75 Ks, 16 BB in 72.2 innings
- Non-tendered by: Los Angeles Angels
If the Tigers can look past the dreadful 2020 numbers -- again, only 16.2 innings of sample size there -- they could lock up someone who’s been very effective in late-inning situations in prior seasons.
Robles was dominant in 2019, saving 23 games for the Angels, but more impressively posting a 2.0 walk rate and 9.3 strikeout rate in 72.2 innings. His 2.88 FIP and 1.018 WHIP cemented him as the best pitcher in the Angels’ bullpen heading into last season.
He never got settled in 2020, and now the 30-year-old is on the market. It’s possible 2019 was just an outlier, but Robles was also excellent in 36.1 innings for the Angels the previous season.
Overall, his career 9.7 K/9, 1.250 WHIP and 4.03 FIP in 333.2 innings make Robles a worthy flier.