Tigers Option Alex Lange

MLB Trade Rumors

The Tigers announced today that right-hander Alex Lange has been optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Fellow right-hander Mason Englert has been recalled from Toledo to take Lange’s spot on the roster for now.

The move highlights what a struggle the season has been for Lange so far this year. In 21 appearances on the season, he has a 4.34 earned run average. That’s obviously not a disastrous figure, but Lange has that mark despite not allowing a home run yet this year. He has struck out 23.3% of opponents but given out walks at a massive 18.9% rate. The lack of home runs has helped him strand baserunners at an unsustainable 54.3% rate.

It’s been a steep drop for a guy who was Detroit’s not too long ago. In 2022, he made 71 appearances with a 3.41 ERA, earning 21 holds in the process. His 11.4% walk rate was on the high side but he struck out 30.3% of batter’s faced and got grounders on 55.6% of balls in play.

In 2023, the results were somewhat similar. He racked up 26 saves and six holds, posting a 3.68 ERA in 67 appearances, but with his peripherals moving the wrong way. His strikeout rate dropped a few ticks to 27.4%, his walk rate jumped to 15.6% and his grounder rate fell to 50.6%. As mentioned above, his strikeout and walk rates have continued trending in a concerning direction this year, with his ground ball rate also falling to 45.8%.

The growing control problems have clearly created some concern among Detroit’s decision makers and bumped Lange down the bullpen pecking order. Jason Foley has taken over the closer’s role with ten saves on the year, compared to two for Lange. Each of Andrew Chafin, Shelby Miller, Alex Faedo, Will Vest, Joey Wentz and Tyler Holton have picked up at least a couple of holds this season, while Lange has just one.

On top of being moved down the chart, he’s been bumped off the active roster entirely. He’ll head to Toledo to try to get a better handle on his stuff. “We decided the best place for him to go work on (strike-throwing) is in Toledo,” said manager A.J. Hinch, as relayed by Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic on X. “Could be a short stint. We’ve sketched out his next week to 10 days.”

Getting Lange back on track would obviously be good for the Tigers, with the club currently 23-26 and in fourth place in the American League Central. Despite Lange’s struggles, their relief unit hasn’t been the problem overall. They have a collective 3.58 ERA that’s good enough for ninth in the league, but moving up even further would obviously be a welcome development.

For Lange personally, this isn’t likely to have a huge impact on him financially, assuming Hinch is correct in stating that this will be a short stint. Lange came into the season with his service time count at two years and 112 days. Since a new year rolls over at 172 days, Lange needs 60 here in 2024 to get over the three-year mark. He’s already accrued 56 days to this point, meaning he should easily get over the line as long as he’s recalled at some point, even if it’s for just a week or so.

If Lange gets hurt on optional assignment or the Tigers decide to keep him down due to continued struggles, that would change things. Coming up shy of three years of service would eliminate any chance Lange has of getting to free agency after 2027. It would also prevent him from qualifying for arbitration if he’s under three years. Since he’s just under the three-year line, he would normally be in line for Super Two status, but only players with 86 days of service in the immediately preceding season can qualify for Super Two. Lange is shy of that right now but it would be a moot point if he is recalled and gets over the three-year line at any point, since he would automatically qualify for arbitration at that point.

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