Detroit Tigers sign RHP Julio Teheran to minor-league deal with spring training invite

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold | Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers have signed right-hander Julio Teheran to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, a source told the Free Press on Friday night.

The source requested anonymity because the team has not yet announced the move.

The 10-year MLB veteran is set to make $3 million if he makes the big-league roster, according to MLB Network‘s Jon Heyman, and if he starts 20 games, he will earn an additional $1 million in incentives.

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Teheran, 30, pitched 10 games (nine starts) for the Los Angeles Angels in 2020. He finished with a 10.05 ERA, 1.755 WHIP, 20 strikeouts and 16 walks. In 2019 with the Atlanta Braves, he registered a 3.81 ERA and rolled through 174⅔ innings, racking up 162 strikeouts and 83 walks.

There were guaranteed deals on the table for Teheran, but those came with low base salaries, Heyman reported. Essentially, the righty decided to bet on himself to break camp with the Tigers.

Teheran is set to compete for a spot in the starting rotation, which could include Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Michael Fulmer and Jose Urena, with competition from young arms Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal.

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“As a manager, you want as many options as possible and as much competition as possible,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Friday — before Teheran signed — when asked about adding more pitchers. “Inside that clubhouse, I want these players to know we have enough quality and quantity. It’s out of their control whether we add players, but I’m not going to look my players in the face or be quoted saying we need more pitching.”

Teheran spent nine seasons with the Braves (2011-19). Teheran has a career 3.81 ERA in 239 games (235 starts) across 1,391⅓ innings. He tossed more than 174 innings in seven consecutive seasons, from 2013-19, and topped out at 221 innings in 2014.

He is a two-time All-Star, making appearances in 2014 and 2016. He finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013.

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Last year, Teheran inked a one-year, $9 million contract with the Angels, but the agreement didn’t amount to much for either side. His strikeout rate dropped from 21.5% to 13.4% with the team change. Opponents had a .318 expected batting average against him last season — one of the worst marks in the majors.

His four-seam fastball velocity averaged 93.6 mph when he entered MLB in 2011. It dropped to 91.4 mph by 2017 and plummeted again to 89.2 mph in 2020. As a result, batters crushed his fastball for six of the 12 homers he allowed in 2020.

But there’s enough bounce-back potential for the Tigers to take a chance. If Teheran returns to form in spring training games and the analytics validate his success, then he should make the Opening Day roster.

The Tigers have now signed eight players to minor-league contracts with invitations to spring training: Teheran, right-hander Wily Peralta, first baseman Renato Nunez, infielder Greg Garcia, left-hander Derek Holland, right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, lefty Ian Krol and catcher Dustin Garneau.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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