Entering the 2020 season, the Tigers were uncertain if Candelario would be part of the long-term plan. He was entrenched in a position battle with Dawel Lugo, who is no longer with the organization and spent this season competing for Mariachis de Guadalajara in the Mexican League.
But Candelario has since evolved into a steady presence in the Tigers’ lineup for manager AJ Hinch. Backed by strong performances in consecutive seasons, the 27-year-old has punched his ticket as the third baseman of the future.
“AJ and I have talked about Jeimer many times,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said Friday. “For sure, he’s a guy that we would count on here going into the future. He’s done a great job.”
Over the past two seasons, Candelario boasts a .281 batting average across 193 games, along with 52 doubles, 23 home runs and 94 RBIs.
Candelario leads the majors with 41 doubles in 2021 and continues to be the team’s most consistent hitter with a .275 batting average, 16 home runs, 65 RBIs, 58 walks and 131 strikeouts in 141 games. (In 2019, he hit .203 over 94 games and bounced between Triple-A Toledo and the big leagues because of his underwhelming production.)
“Candy’s a good hitter,” Hinch said Sept. 12, after Candelario’s clutch home run carried the Tigers to an 8-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in extra innings. “We talk a lot about his power, but it’s still about bat-to-ball. He got the ball in the air and got us back in the game, literally.”
Since Aug. 10, Candelario has nine home runs in 37 games.
“As we speak, even in the second half, he’s stepped it up even more so for power,” Avila said. “He’s looking at those arbitration numbers, I’m sure.”
Players with at least three years, but less than six, of MLB service time are eligible for salary arbitration if they don’t have a contract for the upcoming season. After six years of service time, the player is eligible for free agency.
If the Tigers don’t offer Candelario an extension, they’ll tender him a contract through the arbitration process and bring him back to Detroit for 2022. He is arbitration-eligible for the next two seasons — 2022 and 2023 — before reaching free agency.
Last winter, the Tigers tendered Candelario a contract and avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a $2.85 million deal for 2021. As Avila hinted, Candelario will receive a significant raise this time around. He has earned it.
Bringing back Peralta?
As left-handed starter Matthew Boyd needs surgery to repair his throwing arm, the Tigers have considered bringing back right-handed starter Wily Peralta for the 2022 season. Even if Boyd were healthy, the Tigers believe they would benefit from re-signing Peralta.
The 32-year-old previously signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers in February, meaning he becomes a free agent at season’s end.
“He certainly has earned a lot of respect around here on how he’s logged some innings in the absence of Spencer (Turnbull) and Matthew and others,” Hinch said Friday. “In time, we’re going to have to address all these things.”
Peralta has surprised many this season, recording a 3.04 ERA with 32 walks and 52 strikeouts over 83 innings in 17 games (16 starts). He didn’t pitch professionally in 2020 and hadn’t started since 2017 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Wily is a winner,” Hinch said. “He can control contact and does it the old-fashioned way, where he pitches to contact and not away from bats. His split is actually the second- or third-best performing splits in baseball. He’s found his niche on what he needs to do to be successful against different lineups.
“He’s certainly somebody that we want to at least talk to and see where his priorities are. But the Boyd situation is separate to Wily.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.