Detroit Tigers should dig into non-tender free-agent market to add power and/or pitching
Of the players non-tendered before the 8 p.m. deadline, none came from the Tigers. General manager Al Avila opted to give 2021 contracts to all nine arbitration-eligible players: Matthew Boyd, Jeimer Candelario, Jose Cisnero, Buck Farmer, Michael Fulmer, Niko Goodrum, Joe Jimenez, JaCoby Jones and Daniel Norris.
The Tigers have a few openings in the lineup entering next season, most notably at first base, second base and catcher. And they're expected to add at least two starting pitchers and search for a left fielder.
With that in mind, here are some players from the non-tender market the Tigers should consider adding to the roster this offseason:
(NOTE: Salary projections for the 2021 season come from MLBTradeRumors.com, estimated based on a model with statistics from the recent 60-game season.)
Projected 2021 salary: $4.3 million.
Non-tendered by the Cincinnati Reds, Bradley still has the stuff to be a closer. After the Reds acquired him at last year's trade deadline from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the right-hander posted a 1.17 ERA in 7⅔ innings. In 2019, he had a 3.52 ERA and 18 saves with 87 strikeouts in 71⅔ innings. He became a full-time reliever in 2017 after the Diamondbacks used him as a starter for his first two years in the majors.
The Tigers' bullpen combined for a 4.94 ERA last season, so bringing in at least one reliever with closer potential will boost the competition.
Projected 2021 salary: $2.0 million.
Non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers, Claudio led all relievers with 83 games in 2019, but he had a 4.06 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 24 walks. From 2014-17, he was one of the better relievers in the American League for the Texas Rangers — with a 2.66 ERA in 162⅓ innings through those four years. But he hasn't been the same since. The Tigers should consider Claudio, but the lefty needs to be approached with caution. His fastball averages 86 mph (with deception in his side-arm delivery) and his changeup is mischievous.
Projected 2021 salary: $2.5 million.
Non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies, Dahl's career includes 131 games at left field, 71 games in center field and 60 games in right field. This left-handed hitter was an All-Star in 2019 with a .302 batting average, 15 homers and 61 RBIs in 100 games. Injuries plagued him in 2020, and he went 17-for-93 (.183) without a home run in 24 games.
Still, Dahl played well from 2018-19, handles all three outfield positions and hits for power. The Tigers need a left fielder to replace Christin Stewart, who was demoted in September. Dahl solves the problem.
Projected 2021 salary: $4.4 million.
Duvall finished third in the NL with 16 home runs in 2020, adding a .237 batting average, eight doubles and 33 RBIs. He is risky for NL teams because a decision on the designated hitter for next season hasn't been made. Duvall's primary position is left field, with 480 games in his career, but he can survive at first base (43 games), right field (27) and third base (5). He was an All-Star in 2016 with the Reds, crushing 33 homers and 103 RBIs that year with a .241 batting average. And in 2017? Duvall posted 31 homers. His power as a corner outfielder — or first baseman — would help the Tigers.
Projected 2021 salary: $4.5 million.
The Tigers would have preferred to see a second baseman with power wind up available. Although there isn't a serious need for a third baseman (unless Candelario will stay at first base), Franco can't be ignored. He hit .278 with eight homers and 38 RBIs in 2020 with the Kansas City Royals. From 2015-19 for the Philadelphia Phillies, he averaged 20.4 homers per year.
Typically, Franco plays a few games at first base each season. That could allow Candelario to move back to third base. Plus, Franco isn't a solid defensive third baseman and might be best suited at first. The Tigers don't need Franco, but he is worth keeping in mind. If the Tigers want a non-tendered player with experience at second base, they could look to former Toronto Blue Jay Travis Shaw.
Projected 2021 salary: $4.5 million.
Non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox, Rodon is still capable of competing for a spot in the starting rotation. The Tigers had the worst rotation in baseball last season with a combined 6.37 ERA, so they can use the help. Rodon came back from Tommy John surgery to pitch 7⅔ innings in 2020 (after only throwing 34⅔ innings in 2019). He guarantees a decent strikeout rate and consistently throws 93-96 mph but struggles with his command at times. The Tigers should consider picking up his tab and giving new pitching coach Chris Fetter a chance to mold him into a formidable starter. Outfielder Nomar Mazara, another White Sox non-tender, is another name to watch.
Projected 2021 salary: $8.6 million.
Another power-hitting outfielder, Rosario was non-tendered by the Minnesota Twins. But he is one year removed from a 32-homer, 109-RBI campaign, with a .276 batting average. He had 27 and 24 home runs in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Rosario has played 581 career games in left field and doesn't shy away from right field (67 games) or center field (58). His batting average dipped to .257 last season, but the power remained with 13 home runs. The Tigers should consider him on a one-year deal.
Projected 2021 salary: $7.01 million.
Non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs, Schwarber needs a bounce-back season after hitting .186 with 11 homers and 24 RBIs in 59 games last season. He Schwarber can also play catcher and first base, two other positions of need. And he is an option at designated hitter — making him a good fit for an AL team — if Miguel Cabrera needs a break or goes through a slump. For the upcoming season, Schwarber shouldn't be concerned with playing for a contender. The Tigers could consider him on a one-year contract and see if his success from 2019 returns: That season, he hit .250 with 38 homers and 92 RBIs in 155 games.
Projected 2021 salary: $1.2 million.
Non-tendered by the Cubs, Tepera registered a 3.92 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 20⅔ innings during 2020. He had 73 appearances in 2017 for the Blue Jays, fourth-most in the AL that year. He is durable enough to pitch through a season and generates a ton of swing-and-misses. His fastball velocity sits around 93-95 mph. He is crafty and should be targeted by many teams on the market.
Projected 2021 salary: $1.1 million.
Non-tendered by the Twins, Wisler had a masterful 2020, with a 1.07 ERA in 25⅓ innings across 18 games (four starts). It was a career year; his previous low for ERA was 4.28 in 2018 between the Braves and Reds. Wisler's track record isn't pretty, but what he did last season can't be disregarded.