Tigers trade RHP Carlos Guzman to Cubs for utilityman Zach McKinstry

Bless You Boys

With three open days before the start of the regular season on Thursday, it seemed likely that Scott Harris would be making moves as teams finalized their rosters around the league. That has come to pass as the Tigers dealt right-handed minor league pitcher Carlos Guzman to the Chicago Cubs for veteran utilityman Zack McKinstry.

The 27-year-old McKinstry was out of options and wasn’t going to make the Cubs roster, so it didn’t take much to land him. Guzman was converted to pitching from shortstop as a 19-year-old, but now 24, he still hasn’t advanced above High-A ball other than recording four outs in relief for Double-A Erie last year.

It would appear that McKinstry will join Ryan Kreidler as the Tigers two backup infielders to start the season. They reassigned César Hernández to minor league camp on Monday, along with optioning both Akil Baddoo and Zack Short to Triple-A Toledo. That presumably means that Kerry Carpenter is the Tigers fourth outfielder to start the season, unless there are more deals to come. The Carpenter-Baddoo competition was pretty tight this spring, but the Tigers no doubt value having that power bat in a lineup that needs help in that regard. Still that could be a revolving door if Carpenter isn’t able to do enough damage to overcome the strikeouts and mediocre defensive profile.

The Tigers also reassigned LHP Jace Fry, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, RHP Matt Wisler to minor league camp, along with outfielder Jonathan Davis and catchers Andrew Knapp and Michael Papierski. Starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen and infielder Tyler Nevin were also moved to the 10-day injured list to start the season.

Earlier in the day, the Tigers also moved recently acquired RHP Freddy Pacheco to the 60-day IL with an elbow injury, clearing a 40-man roster spot for McKinstry. We haven’t heard any specific injury updates since Pacheco reported elbow soreness to the St. Louis Cardinals and was placed on waivers and then claimed by Detroit. He’s very talented, but it looks like a longer term project at this point.

The bullpen now looks like Alex Lange, Jose Cisnero, Trey Wingenter, Jason Foley, Chasen Shreve, Tyler Alexander, and Mason Englert. Lefty Tyler Holton and right-handers Garrett Hill and Beau Brieske appear to all by vying for the final spot in the starting bullpen. With Joey Wentz taking Lorenzen’s first turn through the rotation at least, I’d bet Brieske is optioned to Toledo to stay stretched out in a starting role, with Hill mostly likely winning out over Holton, but we’ll have to wait for that final decision over the next day or two.

As for McKinstry, he’s a good defender who can play all over the infield, and he hits left-handed. Presumably the Tigers feel he’s more useful in a utility role than the more defensively limited Hernández. McKinstry came up in the Dodgers organization and was regarded as a fairly solid infield prospect for years. Things never quite came together for him with the Dodgers, and the Cubs traded a reliever for him last July. He has at best modest power potential, and while his minor league numbers look good, he holds a 28.8 strikeout rate with a roughly average walk rate in 409 major league plate appearances to date. So don’t expect much more than a capable defensive player who can steal you a bag here and there and get on base a decent amount against right-handed pitching.

It’s kind of an odd trade, but it didn’t really cost anything and one could perhaps view McKinstry as an older Ryan Kreidler who hits left-handed. The duo thus gives the roster good defensive versatility in the infield and decent pinch hit options against either handed pitchers in the late innings. Still, McKinstry isn’t any more a prospect that Hernández was and it’s pretty difficult to see any long-term appeal here.

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