Some of the roster moves were predictable; others, not so much.
“Those decisions are really tough, especially for me,” Harris said Nov. 8 at the general manager meetings in Las Vegas. “I don’t know these players as well as most presidents know their players, so I’m relying on a lot of people that have been here for a while.”
Harris named his new confidants: manager A.J. Hinch, assistant general manager Sam Menzin, vice president of player personnel Scott Bream, assistant general manager Jay Sartori and vice president of player development Ryan Garko.
Those five leaders filled in the blanks for Harris and were influential in the decision-making across the organization over the past two months. The Tigers hired Harris as president of baseball operations Sept. 19. He took control of the day-to-day operations Oct. 6, the day after the Tigers’ season finale.
Here’s a look at Harris’ decisions so far:
Removed from 40-man roster: Daz Cameron, Josh Lester, Luis Castillo, Bryan Garcia, Elvin Rodríguez, Luis Garcia, Jermaine Palacios, Victor Reyes, Miguel Díaz, Kyle Funkhouser, Michael Papierski, Brendon Davis, Sean Guenther, Jeimer Candelario, Harold Castro and Willi Castro.
Added to 40-man roster: Andy Ibáñez (from Texas Rangers), Reese Olson (pitching prospect), Brendan White (pitching prospect), Andre Lipcius (infield prospect), Wenceel Perez (infield prospect), Parker Meadows (outfield prospect) and Bligh Madris (from Tampa Bay Rays).
The roster moves occurred in three waves: reinstating players from the 60-day injured list on Nov. 10, protecting prospects in the minor leagues on Nov. 15 from the Rule 5 draft and the tender deadline on Nov. 18.
“We’ve made a few claims,” Harris said of the Tigers’ activity on the waiver wire. “We made a lot of claims in San Francisco. There’s talent on the waiver wire often, and we need to dig on every single player that is on waivers and see if they present an upgrade for us. If they do, we’re not going to be shy about claiming them.”
MORE ROSTER MOVES: Tigers non-tender third baseman Jeimer Candelario, making him free agent
Cutting Candelario, Funkhouser, Reyes and the Castros generated the most buzz.
In 2021, Funkhouser emerged as a high-leverage reliever and posted a 3.42 ERA with 38 walks and 63 strikeouts over 68⅓ innings. The 28-year-old missed the entire 2022 season with a shoulder injury, underwent surgery in late July and hasn’t started a throwing program. The Tigers removed him on Nov. 10.
Reyes didn’t survive the roster purge, either. The Tigers took him off the 40-man roster on Nov. 10, the same day as Funkhouser but more than a week before Candelario and the Castros. The 28-year-old, a former Rule 5 draft pick, was worth 0.6 fWAR in his five-year career and never played more than 100 games in a single season. Reyes’ power failed to develop, as he produced just 16 home runs in more than 1,200 at-bats.
Candelario, who turns 29 on Thanksgiving, hit .243 with a .723 OPS in his six-year career with the Tigers, producing 8.2 fWAR. A disappointing 2022 season, despite strong 2020 and 2021 campaigns, led the Tigers to non-tender their everyday third baseman — making him a first-time free agent — before the Nov. 18 tender deadline.
The organization did the same to Harold Castro and Willi Castro, a pair of utility players. Harold has been worth minus-1 fWAR in his five-year MLB career, while Willi has produced 1.6 fWAR across his four seasons in the big leagues.
The Tigers’ 40-man roster is currently at 38 players. Zack Short, Kody Clemens and Garrett Hill could be next on the chopping block, but for that to happen, the Tigers need to tap into the free-agent and trade markets.
Acquiring players is the next step in Harris’ reconstruction of the roster.
It’s also the most important step.
Contact Evan Petzold at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.
Tigers’ 40-man roster
Pitchers (20): Tyler Alexander, Beau Brieske, José Cisnero, Angel De Jesus, Alex Faedo, Jason Foley, Rony García, Garrett Hill, Joe Jiménez, Alex Lange, Matt Manning, Casey Mize, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Gregory Soto, Reese Olson, Spencer Turnbull, Will Vest, Joey Wentz, Brendan White.
Catchers (2): Eric Haase, Jake Rogers.
Infielders (10): Javier Báez, Miguel Cabrera, Kody Clemens, Andy Ibáñez, Ryan Kreidler, Andre Lipcius, Wenceel Perez, Jonathan Schoop, Zack Short, Spencer Torkelson.
Outfielders (6): Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, Riley Greene, Bligh Madris, Austin Meadows, Parker Meadows.