LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers third baseman Isaac Paredes and catcher Jake Rogers, each competing for spots on the Opening Day roster, were cut from MLB spring training and optioned to Triple-A Toledo, the team announced Thursday.
There are 37 players remaining in big-league camp with seven days until Opening Day on April 1 against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. The Tigers will use Fifth Third Field in Toledo as an alternate training site — where players can be shuffled to and from the majors — until the Triple-A season begins in May.
Manager AJ Hinch hopes to have the bulk of his roster sorted out by Saturday or Sunday.
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This spring, the 22-year-old Paredes made a strong push for a roster spot by flashing solid fundamentals at second base — a new secondary position — but he went 4-for-32 (.125) at the plate with one home run, four RBIs, two walks and seven strikeouts in 15 games.
Paredes made his MLB debut in 2020. He had a .220 batting average with one home run and six RBIs, walking eight times compared to 24 strikeouts. Also, he registered a 10-game hitting streak in his first year.
When Paredes arrived to camp, fresh off a batting title (.379) in the Mexican Pacific Winter League, Hinch thought twice about the idea of sending him to the minor leagues to begin the season.
“I’m not sure Triple-A is the best place for his development and for the adjustments that he’s going to have to make,” Hinch said March 3, “because his contact is a premium skill and his hands are really, really good. That (development) might have to happen in the big leagues.
“So I want him to play with some urgency and a chance to make this team. I’ve said it to him and I’ve said it publicly: ‘I think he can help us win.’ I think he’s a good player.”
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Rogers, 25, showcased strong defense and the ability to manage the pitching staff, but struggled on offense, hitting 3-for-22 (.136) with one double, one RBI, one walk and 10 strikeouts in 16 games.
In 2019, Rogers made his MLB debut. He hit .125 with 13 walks and 51 strikeouts in a 35-game stint. However, he stayed at the alternate training site in 2020 and did not return to the majors.
“We need guys that can contribute offensively,” Hinch said March 14. “But the consistency behind the plate, specifically for the role we’re going to ask for, is critical for us to consider taking Jake or any of the catchers to Detroit with us.”
Paredes is the No. 6 prospect in the Tigers’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline; Rogers enters the season at No. 16 on the list.
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Paredes was acquired with Jeimer Candelario from the Chicago Cubs in 2017 for catcher Alex Avila and closer Justin Wilson. Detroit got Rogers — with Daz Cameron and Franklin Perez — from the Houston Astros in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade.
What this means
The impact of Rogers getting cut from the Opening Day roster isn’t difficult to figure out, as it means 28-year-old Grayson Greiner is set to get the backup job behind starter Wilson Ramos. There seems to be no scenario where non-roster invitees Dustin Garneau and Eric Haase make the squad.
For Paredes, the effect isn’t as clear.
While it has always seemed Paredes and non-roster invitee Renato Nunez, a former slugger for the Baltimore Orioles, were in competition, there is a reality where neither make the team. That possibly comes down to utility player Harold Castro.
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Castro delivers on Hinch’s love for defensive versatility. In 125 career games across parts of three seasons, the 27-year-old has experience at seven positions: second base (38 games), center field (32), left field (14), third base (14), right field (11), shortstop (8) and first base (3).
This spring, Castro is hitting .242 with two doubles, three RBIs, four walks and nine strikeouts in 16 games.
Still, now that Paredes isn’t going to make the roster, it’s safe to assume the 26-year-old Nunez — who is going to have to play first base, for better or for worse — is the likely frontrunner in the two-man roster battle.
“He has to show that he’s comfortable at first base and that we’re comfortable with him at first base,” Hinch said March 11. “Obviously, the bat speaks for itself. He’s done some damage in the league already, and we know he can hit the ball out of the park.”
Nunez spent most of 2019 and 2020 as the Orioles’ designated hitter because he struggled to play first and third base. He batted .247 with 43 home runs and 121 RBIs in 203 games across those two seasons.
But, don’t count Castro out of the mix.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.