The Tigers announced a flurry of roster moves this afternoon. Chief among those was the team’s decision to exercise their 2024 club options on catcher Carson Kelly and outfielder Mark Canha. In addition, the club designated left-hander Tyler Alexander for assignment, assigned left-hander Andrew Vasquez and right-hander Trey Wingenter outright to Triple-A, and selected the contract of right-hander Keider Montero. There had been no prior indication that Vasquez or Wingenter had been on waivers, but each of them now figures to have the opportunity to become a minor league free agent.
It comes as no surprise that the Tigers exercised their $11.5MM option for Canha after they dealt for the veteran outfielder on Saturday. Given the $2MM buyout on his contract, it wouldn’t have made any sense for Detroit to trade for Canha (and give up 25-year-old righty Blake Holub) only to part ways with him two days later. He figures to play an important role in the team’s offense next season, presumably splitting his time between the corner outfield and DH.
As for Kelly, the Tigers were expected to pick up his $3.5MM option for 2024. At his end-of-season press conference, president of baseball operations Scott Harris said the team was seriously considering keeping the backstop in the fold. The team already has a starting catcher in place, 28-year-old Jake Rogers, so Kelly can serve as a capable defensive backup, with the potential to be a little bit more – the former top prospect is only two years removed from an above-average season at the plate. For $3.5MM, the Tigers weren’t going to find much more than that.
Alexander, 29, made 25 appearances for the Tigers in 2023, his first full season as a reliever. He pitched to a 4.50 ERA and a career-best 3.48 SIERA in 44 innings of work. Unfortunately, his solid season came to an early end when he landed on the IL with a shoulder strain in July.
Vasquez spent the first four months of the season with the Phillies, with whom he posted an impressive 2.27 ERA but less promising underlying numbers. He was designated for assignment shortly after the trade deadline, and the Tigers scooped him up. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find the same success in Detroit. Across 12 appearances, he gave up nine runs (eight earned) in just 8 2/3 innings of work. He missed most of September with a calf injury, although he made two scoreless appearances at the end of the month.
After spending most of the first half on the injured list, Wingenter made 17 appearances for the Tigers in 2023, his first big league action since 2019. His 5.82 ERA was troublesome, but his underlying metrics were actually quite encouraging: a 3.43 SIERA, a 3.87 xERA, and a much-improved 3.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Then again, he produced those numbers in mostly low-leverage spots, and apparently, the Tigers weren’t impressed enough with what they saw to keep Wingenter on the 40-man roster.
After seven years in Detroit’s minor league system, Montero would have been eligible to elect minor league free agency had the Tigers not added him to the 40-man roster this afternoon. He is coming off a difficult couple of months at Triple-A, but he is still just 23 years old, and evidently, the Tigers like what they have seen enough to keep him around. According to MLB Pipeline, he is the No. 26 prospect in the Tigers system.