DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers have signed veteran starting pitcher Julio Teheran to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, according to multiple reports.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported the deal is worth $3 million guaranteed, with an extra $1 million bonus if Teheran starts 20 or more games at the MLB level in 2021.
Teheran opted for an NRI deal with the Tigers over a guaranteed deal elsewhere because he got a base of $3M plus $1M in games started incentives. If he starts 20 games he makes $4M. The guaranteed deal was a low base with minimal upside. He is essentially betting on himself.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 20, 2021
Heyman said Teheran had an offer that would have guaranteed him to be on an MLB roster, but he chose the Tigers’ offer because it was worth more money with the incentive. Teheran is banking on his ability to make the team out of spring training and stick in the rotation.
Teheran, 30, has spent a decade on MLB rosters -- nine with the Atlanta Braves and then last season with the Los Angeles Angels.
There are two ways to view Teheran: On one hand, he’s been surprisingly effective throughout most of the MLB career. On the other, his underlying numbers signal possible disaster.
From 2011-2019 with the Braves, Teheran posted a solid 3.67 ERA, but his 4.23 FIP suggests he benefitted from a bit of luck. When a pitcher outperforms his peripherals over 1,360 innings, it’s worth asking if he’s simply better than the underlying numbers suggest, though.
That being said, the warning signs are glaring. Even disregarding a disastrous 2020 in Los Angeles, Teheran’s career strikeout rate was just 7.8 batters per nine innings. He’s posted WHIPs north of 1.30 four of the last six seasons, and his FIP since an all-star campaign in 2016 is an ugly 5.03.
Comerica Park could certainly be an ally for such a contact pitcher, but Teheran will still give up his fair share of hard contact in the alleys. He’ll need to improve on a walk rate that’s been worse than four free passes per nine innings each of the last three seasons.
Teheran’s odds of making the team are better since the Tigers are considering using a six-man rotation following the strange 2020 season. Matt Boyd and Spencer Turnbull are the locks for the rotation, though Michael Fulmer figures to get a chance out of the gate.
Free agent signee Jose Urena could break camp as a starter, and each of Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Daniel Norris and Tyler Alexander have seen time in the rotation, as well.
General manager Al Avila has been active in signing short-term, under-the-radar deals in free agency this offseason. He added left fielder Robbie Grossman, catcher Wilson Ramos and second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the everyday lineup and gave the organization some depth with Greg Garcia, Renato Nunez and Nomar Mazara.
Detroit’s pitchers and catchers reported to spring training in Lakeland earlier this week as they look forward to their first season under manager A.J. Hinch and a new-look staff.