Detroit Tigers in MLB free agency: Looking at what’s left as market runs dry

Detroit Free Press

The free-agent market is running dry.

And time is running out.

The Detroit Tigers already finished shopping for starting pitchers — signing left-hander Matthew Boyd and right-hander Michael Lorenzen — and are believed to be focused on the trade market. With less than eight weeks until spring training, it’s fair to wonder whether or not the patient Tigers will sign a position player to a major-league contract this offseason.

“Part of the broader strategy here is to strengthen our pitching and defense while we address our offense,” Scott Harris, the Tigers’ president of baseball operations, said Tuesday. “Reshaping our offensive identity will take time. It has to take time to be able to achieve that goal.”

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The top free-agent position player remaining, based on Fangraphs’ projected WAR, is 32-year-old second baseman Jean Segura, followed by 34-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus, 29-year-old outfielder Michael Conforto (did not play in 2022) and 32-year-old shortstop (and former Tiger) José Iglesias.

The Tigers expressed early interest in outfielder Wil Myers, who signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract (plus a mutual option for 2024) with the Cincinnati Reds, but never came close to making an offer. Outfielder Jurickson Profar, a remaining free agent and Myers’ former teammate, isn’t believed to be a fit for the Tigers.

Second baseman Adam Frazier, who had interest in joining the Tigers and fit the vision of the new offensive identity, signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

The Tigers showed interest in catcher Christian Vázquez early on, but their curiosity dropped off when his price increased. He signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Minnesota Twins. (On Wednesday, the Tigers claimed 24-year-old catcher Mario Feliciano off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.)

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Some notable low-cost free agents are still available: third baseman/corner outfielder Brian Anderson, third baseman/first baseman Edwin Ríos, first baseman/corner outfielder Trey Mancini, outfielder AJ Pollock, outfielder Tommy Pham and outfielder Adam Duvall.

A culture of development is the primary sales pitch.

Therefore, Ríos makes a lot of sense.

The Los Angeles Dodgers non-tendered Ríos earlier this offseason. The left-hander, who turns 29 in April, hit .219 with 20 home runs, 25 walks (8.6% walk rate) and 93 strikeouts (32% strikeout rate) across 112 games in parts of four MLB seasons.

In 2022, Rios hit .259 with 17 homers, 20 walks (9.2% walk rate) and 66 strikeouts (30.3% strikeout rate) in 48 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City. If he can stay healthy, the Tigers could instruct their revamped hitting department to unlock his illustrious power at the highest level while benefiting from his ability to draw walks.

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The Tigers seem to prefer one-year deals with free agents, as exemplified by their additions of Boyd and Lorenzen, who join left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, right-hander Spencer Turnbull and righty Matt Manning in the starting rotation.

“We believe that the quickest way to stabilize a team is to build a collection of starters who give you a chance to win every night,” Harris said after signing Lorenzen, “and build a defense behind those starters to catch the ball every night. I think this is a step in that direction.”

Another offseason emphasis from Harris revolves around young players. He wants to earmark opportunities for those without ample big-league experience, presumably Ryan Kreidler, Kerry Carpenter, Andre Lipcius, Wenceel Perez, Parker Meadows and Justyn-Henry Malloy. One or two of them might become regular starters in the future, but the Tigers won’t know until they know.

Still, the fans are impatient.

We’re on the doorstep of Christmas and New Year’s Day, and the Tigers haven’t signed a position player to help improve the offense. The current situation could change before spring training if the Tigers grab leftovers from the mostly depleted free-agent market while looking to strike on the trade market.

Until then, the waiting game continues.

“We’re still working really hard to address all of our other needs throughout the offseason,” said Harris, who previously expressed his desire to add a right-handed hitting outfielder and left-handed hitting infielder. “There’s a long way to go for the rest of the offseason.”

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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