Detroit Tigers GM Al Avila: We haven't made any final decisions on Opening Day roster
There's a lot to figure out.
Only seven days remain in spring training.
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"We haven't made any final decisions," Avila said Tuesday on MLB Network Radio. "We're going to discuss the position players (at the meeting) and how that's going to pan out. We have not made any decisions yet, as far as our infield.
"Our outfield is pretty much, in the last week here, we have to make a couple of decisions because we got the Rule 5 (draft pick) in Akil Baddoo. Do we carry five outfielders, or do we option one guy back (to Toledo)?"
The Tigers have three outfielders with guaranteed roles: left fielder Robbie Grossman, center fielder JaCoby Jones and right fielder Nomar Mazara. This offseason, Avila signed Grossman (two years, $10 million) and Mazara (one year, $1.75 million).
"We're counting on him to recapture some of that power," Avila said about Mazara. "At his age (25), there's still plenty of upside to hope for. That's why we brought him in. Expect him to play right field, for the most part. His playing time will be determined on his performance."
The organization avoided an arbitration hearing by bringing back Jones — who doesn't become a free agent until after the 2023 season — for $2.65 million.
In December, the Tigers selected Baddoo in the Rule 5 draft from the Minnesota Twins. If he doesn't stay on the 26-man roster for the entire season, he must be offered back to his old team. This spring, the 22-year-old is hitting .344 with four homers, nine RBIs, eight walks and 11 strikeouts in 16 games.
"Every time we put a challenge in front of him, he's been able to answer it," Hinch said Sunday. "He looks like he belongs."
And don't forget about former Rule 5 pick Victor Reyes, who the Tigers took a chance on in December 2017. The 26-year-old plays all three outfield positions, making him a superb candidate for a fourth outfielder, and hit .277 in 57 games last year.
But Reyes — his salary is roughly the league minimum — has two of his three minor-league options left, which means he can be sent back and forth between the majors and minors this season. Jones has two options, as well, but he is likely on the roster because of the team's financial commitment to him.
"Al and I talk just under 100 times per day about things," Hinch said Monday. "Yes, of course, there are scenarios in play, where I think it's a roundabout way of like, 'Are there guys with (minor-league) options in the outfield that may not be on the team?' Listen, I think all options are possibilities. They're not all strong options.
"I can see a team with five outfielders. I can see a team with four outfielders. I can see a lot changing in the last seven days in camp that doesn't involve the outfielders."
Over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the 26-year-old Nunez racked up 43 homers in 203 games for the Baltimore Orioles. To make the roster, he needs to improve defensively at first base. He is on a minor-league contract, so the Tigers will need to create space on the 40-man roster to add him.
Either Nunez will be the primary first baseman or a handful of players — including Jeimer Candelario, Miguel Cabrera and Niko Goodrum — are going to rotate. When Cabrera plays first base, likely once or twice each week, the designated hitter spot opens.
"We have to determine if Nunez makes the club," Avila said. "If he does, how does that look? If he doesn't, how does that look? I think AJ is learning toward having first base as an open base, where you can shuffle players through there as needed, day-to-day. But we really haven't made any final decisions yet."
If Nunez gets cut, Paredes will likely get a roster spot.
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The 22-year-old has established himself as a natural-looking second baseman, adding to his experience at third base. Being a multi-positional player boosts Paredes' chances of traveling to Detroit when camp concludes, despite recent offensive woes.
"He's played tremendous defense, specifically at second," Hinch said. "He's been very, very impressive on that side of the ball. We all know he can hit, so it's not that alarming. It's probably disappointing for him that he hasn't found success and he's in the middle of a competition, but that's the difficulty of the game."
Last year, Paredes made his big-league debut for the Tigers, hitting .220 across 34 games. He won the Mexican Pacific Winter League batting title this offseason with a .379 average in 42 games. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 6 prospect in the franchise's farm system.
This spring, Paredes has a .129 batting average, one homer, four RBIs, two walks and seven strikeouts through 14 games. Meanwhile, Nunez is hitting .227 with one homer, three RBIs and seven strikeouts (no walks) in nine contests.
"We like Nunez's bat, I can tell you that," Avila said. "And we like Paredes, obviously, a lot, too. The next few days will determine what we end up doing."