Tigers claim Marlins reliever Sean Guenther off waivers

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From the moment he was hired as the Tigers’ new President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris has repeatedly said the Detroit Tigers will be very busy and will make a lot of moves this offseason. We’re going to find out what that actually looks like pretty soon. In the meantime, he continues to live up to his reputation with the San Francisco Giants, scouring the waiver rolls aggressively, looking for talent he thinks the player development staff can help improve. On Wednesday, the Tigers claimed left-hander Sean Guenther off waivers from the Miami Marlins.

The 26-year-old Georgia native has been a dedicated reliever since he was selected by the Marlins in the seventh round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Notre Dame. He underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2022, so the Tigers aren’t going to be able to really evaluate him until he starts stretching out next spring. It’s possible he’s ready to start working his way back next spring, but depending on the progress of his rehabilitation, it’s possible he could end up stashed on the 60-day IL for a few months. Whatever the future holds, Guenther will have to be added to the Tigers’ 40-man roster once the World Series ends and the offseason begins.

Guenther is listed at five-foot, eleven inches and 194 pounds. He mainly works with a fourseam fastball that averages 93 mph and a slider at 82-83 mph, though he does mix in his changeup to right-handers in smaller doses.

Early in his pro career, Guenter wasn’t even notable as a relief prospect. Like a lot of players, he found a new level during the cancelled 2020 minor league season and posted outstanding numbers in terms of strikeouts, walks, and home runs each during his trip through the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2021. At both stops he posted a strikeout rate over 30 percent, with walk rates under five percent, and was rarely tagged by the long ball. However, when the Marlins called him up late in the 2021 season his 20 13 innings of major league work were quite poor. His walk rate skyrocketed and his strikeout numbers collapsed.

Based on a quick look through his 2021 video, Guenther tends to set up on the first base side of the rubber and has a distinct crossfire delivery. His fourseamer has fairly pedestrian movement, while the slider has some late sweep. There’s enough there to work with, and with his ground ball inducing fourseamer and late biting slider he bears a passing resemblance to Andrew Chafin, who was reported today as expected to opt-out of the second year of his deal and return to the free agent market. Those two pieces of info are not likely to be related. Guenther is more of a longer term project than someone who will be helping the Tigers out in the spring.

There are a few points of interest. His stride length and extension is solid for his height, and he has a pretty low release point for a slightly high three-quarters arm slot that gives him an interesting attack angle. Still, there’s nothing obvious to get excited about, as you might expect from a waiver claim. After the year the Tigers went through with pitcher injuries, perhaps it counts as a plus that he’s already had Tommy John surgery.

There isn’t much else to say about Guenther himself at this point. We’ll see him when we see him, and hopefully he returns to action with a little bit of the post-surgery boost, but it’s what he represents that is a little more interesting.

The Harris-led Tigers have already claimed infielder Jermaine Palacios from the Minnesota Twins, and switch-hitting catcher Michael Papierski from the Cincinnati Reds. We expected a lot of cuts and a lot of new faces on the 40-man by the time the offseason ends, but he’s certainly getting a bit of a head start on things. Of course, it’s also possible that not all of these three will even make it to spring camp with the Tigers should someone better catch their eye once the offseason begins.

Harris has explicitly said the Tigers are going to make a lot of moves this offseason, and take some calculated risks to try to shorten the curve back to being a potential contender. None of these three is likely to make a big impact, but it’s pretty clear the latter half of the Tigers’ 40-man roster is going to be pretty thoroughly transformed by the time pitchers and catchers report, and presumably that roster churn will continue long beyond that point.

Jonathan Schoop exercises player option

In other news that will surprise no one, second baseman Jonathan Schoop exercised his player option worth $7.5M for the 2023 season. The veteran infielder was the best defensive second baseman in baseball by outs above average in 2022, though the Gold Glove went to the Cleveland Guardians Andres Gimenez. Unfortunately, it was also Schoop’s worst year offensively in his major league career, making it inevitable he’d return rather than electing free agency.

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