Detroit — These are rough days for the stewards of the Tigers’ 40-man roster.
General manager Al Avila and his staff have until the end of the day Friday to set the roster and submit it to the league. Decisions have to be made about which young players to protect from the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 8.
The only way to keep an eligible player — college players drafted in 2018 or earlier, and high school and international players drafted or signed in 2017 or before — from the draft is to put him on the 40-man roster.
The Tigers’ roster is presently full.
So if they want to protect, say, No. 18-ranked prospect (per MLBpipeline.com) Kody Clemens, the Tigers will have to release a player from the roster to make space.
Over the years, the Tigers have only lost two players in Rule 5 — pitchers Gustavo Nunez (2011) and Will Vest (2020) — and both ended up being returned to the organization. But over the last five years, the Tigers’ minor-league system has gone from one of the emptiest to one of the most flourishing — meaning there are more talented players than room on the roster, which makes the decisions infinitely tougher.
Clemens seems to be the type of player who would be attractive to teams looking to take a low-cost, low-risk look at a prospect who is on the cusp of breaking into the big leagues. He’s 25, entering his age 26 season. He’s a second baseman by trade but can play multiple positions. He also has some sock. Last year at Triple- A Toledo he posted an OPS of just under .800 (.778), a 104 wRC-plus and produced 18 home runs, 15 doubles and six triples.
It’s not a slam-dunk that the Tigers put him on the roster, either. With Jonathan Schoop, Harold Castro and Isaac Paredes ahead of him in the infield, Clemens seems ticketed for another year in Toledo.
Other prospects the Tigers might look to add to the roster include a group of older right-handed pitchers: Paul Richan, 25, acquired from the Cubs in the Nick Castellanos trade; Logan Shore, 27, who had it not been for an injury likely would’ve made his big-league debut last season; Angel DeJesus, 25, who struck out 62 in 51 innings at Toledo last season; and Garrett Hill, 26, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars game earlier this month.
Players on the roster who could possibly be vulnerable should the Tigers decide to protect any of those players include pitchers Miguel Del Pozo, Bryan Garcia and Nivaldo Rodriguez, catcher Dustin Garneau, shortstop Zack Short and outfielder Jacob Robson.
Also, the Tigers could elect to designate for assignment arbitration-eligible players they aren’t intending to tender a contract offer to. Utility man Niko Goodrum and catcher Grayson Greiner would fall into that category.
The Tigers don’t have to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players until Dec. 2.