Why Detroit Tigers signed Michael Pineda instead of trading for available pitchers

Detroit Free Press

BRADENTON, Fla. — Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has an announcement.

“We’re done,” he said Saturday.

The Tigers capped a busy offseason Friday night, signing right-hander Michael Pineda to a one-year, $5.5 million contract. The organization has committed $235.5 million to four free agents, along with an additional $7.5 million in 2022 to catcher Tucker Barnhart after acquiring him in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds.

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Just three teams have spent more than the Tigers: Texas Rangers ($575.2 million), Los Angeles Dodgers ($263.2 million) and New York Mets ($258.5 million). One big-name free agent — shortstop Trevor Story — remains unsigned.

“We identified our needs, we went out and we were able to acquire all the needs that we needed,” Avila said before the Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates clashed at LECOM Park in Bradenton. “For us to be successful, it’s not so much about the guys we just acquired, but the young guys need to take the next step. We have tremendous faith and hope that they will. But that’s true of any team.”

The Tigers added five players to MLB contracts entering the 2022 season: Pineda, Barnhart, shortstop Javier Baez (six years, $140 million), left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez (five years, $77 million) and left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin (two years, $13 million).

Pineda, 33, completed his physical Saturday in Lakeland, though he did not participate in workouts. He joins a starting rotation that includes Rodriguez, right-hander Casey Mize, left-hander Tarik Skubal and righty Matt Manning.

But Pineda, an eight-year MLB veteran from the Dominican Republic, won’t be an active participant at the TigerTown complex right away. He is transitioning from a visitor visa to a work visa, a process that is expected to take between 7-14 days.

The Tigers need to evaluate Pineda’s workload capabilities, considering Opening Day is April 8 — less than three weeks away — and the righty has been working out on his own schedule.

“We think that he should be ready, maybe not Opening Day but closely thereafter,” Avila said. “We’re looking at it over the whole 162 games, not so much that first game. There’s a chance everything falls into place and he’s able to fall right into the rotation where he’s supposed to be pitching at. If not, we’ll push it back a little bit. It’s not going to be a big delay.”

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For now, the Tigers don’t expect Pineda to miss a regular-season start. He posted a 3.62 ERA with 21 walks and 88 strikeouts across 109⅓ innings in 22 games (21 starts) last season for the Minnesota Twins, including a 5-0 record and 1.85 ERA in his final five outings.

“Veteran presence always matters,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “The better they play, the better the presence. We’re not afraid of young guys by any means. Young guys don’t always have to have their hand held in the big leagues, but if you can get guys on board that have been there, done that and balance that out with some youth, that’s usually the best combo.”

Pineda wasn’t the only option to fill out the Tigers’ rotation.

The Tigers could have made a trade, as numerous arms from the Reds and Oakland Athletics were available. After the Reds traded right-hander Sonny Gray to the Minnesota Twins, they decided to hold onto righties Luis Castillo (free agent after 2023) and Tyler Mahle (free agent after 2023).

The recent trade talks revolved around Athletics right-handers Frankie Montas (free agent after 2023) and Sean Manaea (free agent after 2022). Both pitchers are still with Oakland; the inactivity with Montas and Manaea appeared to slow the free-agent market at times as teams waited.

By signing Pineda, Avila chose not to part with his prospects.

“I don’t want to get into the particulars of those conversations,” Avila said. “But usually when it doesn’t fall into place, it’s because you’re not willing to put forth as much as maybe what’s being asked for. That’s how that went.”

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As for the free-agent market, the Tigers had conversations with representatives for right-hander Johnny Cueto (unsigned), righty Zack Greinke (one year, $13 million to Kansas City Royals), left-hander Tyler Anderson (one year, $6 million to Dodgers) and lefty Matthew Boyd (one year, $5.2 million to San Francisco Giants), among others.

The Tigers were aggressive in their pursuit of Greinke, and the money wasn’t an issue, but he was set on returning to Kansas City — the place where his 18-year MLB career began as the No. 6 overall pick in 2002.

“You had a wide net, and then there’s where it falls into place,” Avila said. “This is how it fell into place. That’s how the process went.”

Carlos Correa joins AL Central

Carlos Correa, a 27-year-old shortstop, will play for the Twins in 2022.

“You can’t predict those kind of things,” Avila said. “At the end of the day, when we got Javy Baez, we were very happy, and we’re still happy with that.”

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The Tigers negotiated with five premier shortstops when free agency began: Correa, Baez, Story, Corey Seager (10 years, $325 million to Rangers) and Marcus Semien (seven years, $175 million to Rangers). The Tigers were unwilling to go past six years for Semien, who turned 31 in September, and Story wasn’t interested in the Tigers’ proposed contract structure.

Before the lockout, the Tigers reportedly offered Correa a lucrative contract of 10 years, $275 million.

He declined.

On Saturday morning, Correa inked a three-year, $108 million deal with the Twins. He has opt-out clauses after the first two seasons, meaning he can become a free agent after the 2022, 2023 or 2024 seasons.

“Did not frustrate me at all,” Avila said. “As a matter of fact, when I was reading, I was saying to myself, ‘Kudos to the Twins. Kudos to Correa.’ That’s just the way it fell. I’m as impressed as anybody. I’m like, ‘Whoa, that’s pretty darn good.'”

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“I’m not involved in any talks with other teams, so I don’t know what their plans were,” said Hinch, who managed Correa with the Houston Astros. “I know every team is trying to get better. I always applaud teams, regardless of division, who are trying. The better opportunities, wherever they are, and more teams being involved in free agency, trades, transactions to try to improve their team is better for the sport.

“Our division has gotten pretty good in the last couple of days. You’re seeing teams try to add wins to their résumé, and it doesn’t surprise me the least bit.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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