Detroit — These aren’t the transactions that fuel the hot stove season, clearly. But sometimes they are the ones you go searching for later in the year when you’re wondering how a certain surprise contributor came to be in the organization.
The Tigers Tuesday re-signed four players to minor league deals: Infielders Brendon Davis and Jermaine Palacios, catcher Michael Papierski and right-handed reliever Miguel Diaz. All four players had been waived before Thanksgiving and were all assigned to Triple-A Toledo.
Davis and Diaz made cameo appearances for the Tigers last season; Palacios (Twins) and Papierski (Reds, Giants) cleared waivers twice before signing back with Detroit.
They were brought back primarily for organizational depth and to intensify camp competition next spring, but there are certainly pathways for each to contribute at the big-league level next season. Particularly for Diaz.
The Tigers, despite using 30 different pitchers last season, didn’t give Diaz much run. Surprising given how well he’d pitched at Toledo the two previous months. In his last 27 games with the Mud Hens, covering 28 innings, he struck out 40 with seven walks, holding hitters to a .236 average.
He was called up finally on Sept. 29 and ended up pitching in three games, getting seven outs without allowing a run in back-to-back outings in Seattle.
Diaz is 28 and pitched parts of four seasons with the Padres — the Tigers avoided arbitration by non-tendering him — but he has the look of a pitcher just coming into his own.
In 2021, his four-seam fastball was sitting between 93 and 94 mph and his most predominant pitch was his changeup (which he limited big-league hitters to a .190 batting average with). Last season, the average velocity of his four-seamer was 95.5 mph and he could dominate the upper quadrants of the strike zone with it.
He got a 46% swing-and-miss rate with his fastball in the small big-league sample (27 pitches). His changeup, which he threw 23 times, got a 33% whiff rate. Diaz, who also has a slider and two-seam sinker in his mix, didn’t yield a hit with either his fastball or changeup (0 for 11).
The bullpen was an area of strength last season and it looks to be again in 2023. Even though lefty Andrew Chafin opted out of his contract and is a free agent, Gregory Soto, Joe Jimenez, Alex Lange, Jason Foley, Jose Cisnero, Will Vest and Tyler Alexander are all expected to be back.
Those pitchers, especially Soto, Jimenez and Lange, are also coveted around the league and offer Tigers president Scott Harris some tradeable assets. If he should have to part with a reliever or two to strengthen other areas of the team, Diaz could be a useful arm to plug into the bullpen mix.