| Detroit Free Press
Watch: Detroit Tigers introduce AJ Hinch as manager
Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch and GM Al Avila introduce new manager AJ Hinch, Oct. 30, 2020.
The Detroit Tigers tendered contracts to all nine arbitration-eligible players before Wednesday’s 8 p.m. deadline: Matthew Boyd, Jeimer Candelario, Jose Cisnero, Buck Farmer, Michael Fulmer, Niko Goodrum, Joe Jimenez, JaCoby Jones and Daniel Norris.
This doesn’t mean salaries for the 2021 season are locked in, but it’s the first step in the process. If the Tigers and their players don’t agree on a salary by Jan. 15, each party must exchange salary figures, and then an arbitration hearing is scheduled in February.
If they can’t settle on a contract before the hearing, the case goes to a panel of arbitrators. Fulmer went to an arbitration hearing in February 2019, the Tigers’ first since right-hander Chris Holt in 2001. (Fulmer filed for $3.4 million; the Tigers filed for $2.8 million and won.)
To keep these players, the Tigers will pay about $20.1 million, estimated by a model from MLBTradeRumors.com, which factors in performance from the shortened 2020 season. Boyd is projected to earn $5.5 million, Candelario $1.7 million, Cisnero $900,000, Farmer $1.4 million, Fulmer $2.8 million, Goodrum $1.6 million, Jimenez $1 million, Jones $2.2 million and Norris $3 million.
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Had the Tigers non-tendered these players, they would have become free agents. Players with three or more years of MLB service but less than six years of service are eligible for salary arbitration if they don’t have a contract for the upcoming season.
Boyd, 29, is the veteran on the pitching staff and was one of the first players that new manager AJ Hinch made contact with after he was hired in late October. Boyd got the Opening Day nod last season but never matched his superb performance from the first half of the 2019 season. Last year, he had a 6.71 ERA in 60⅓ innings, leading the majors in earned runs (45) and home runs (15). He recorded 60 strikeouts and 22 walks.
Candelario, 27, found his groove in 2020. He had a .224 batting average in 2018 and a .203 mark in 2019, but he turned his career around by hitting .297 with seven homers and 29 RBIs last year. The third baseman, who ended up spending 43 games at first base, earned Tiger of the Year honors.
Cisnero, 31, became a reliable bullpen piece last season, with a 3.03 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29⅔ innings. He should fill a late-inning role moving forward. Farmer, 29, is also set to throw in important moments for the Tigers. He registered a 3.80 ERA in 21⅓ innings last season, striking out 14 batters and walking five.
Fulmer, 27, returned from Tommy John surgery to make the Opening Day roster, and he made all 10 of his starts without further injuries. He won the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year award, but he got roughed up last season: a 8.78 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 12 walks in 27⅔ innings. The Tigers didn’t let him pitch more than three innings per outing. The organization wants to see what he can do in a 162-game season without limitations.
Goodrum, 28, dropped to an all-time low in 2020, going 29-for-158 (.184) in 43 games. But the AL Gold Glove Award finalist gives the Tigers defensive versatility, which saved him from being cut loose. He has taken the field at second base (105 games), shortstop (81), first base (55), left field (31), right field (14), third base (11) and center field (8). Had the Tigers dumped Goodrum, they would have gone to free agency for a new utility player. And not many of the players available can manage seven positions while hitting with above-average power.
Jimenez, 25, is still considered a young reliever, even though he had 164 innings across 183 games of experience. He might not be the closer of the future, but the Tigers think he has untapped potential because of his high strikeout rates in 2018 and 2019. But he had a 7.15 ERA and seven homers allowed in 22⅔ innings this year.
Jones, 28, projects to be the Tigers’ starting center fielder. He played well before fracturing his left hand in early September. He had a .268 batting average, five homers and 14 RBIs. Injuries have plagued his five-year career, and he needs to stay healthy to stick around.
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Norris, 27, is a financial steal because he can be used as a starter or multi-inning reliever. In 2020, the left-hander had a 3.25 ERA with 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 27⅔ innings across 14 games (one start).