The Tigers are interested in starting pitchers, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com. They reportedly checked in with right-hander Lance Lynn before he got his new deal with the Cardinals and Morosi adds that free agent righty Seth Lugo is of interest to the club.
Lugo, now 34, shifted to a starting gig in 2023 after many years of working as a reliever. He took to the switch with aplomb, throwing 146 1/3 innings over 26 starts with a 3.57 earned run average. He struck out 23.2% of batters faced, limited walks to a 6% clip and kept 45.2% of balls in play on the ground. He declined a $7.5MM player option to stick with the Padres for 2024 and MLBTR predicted he could land a three-year deal worth $42MM this offseason.
It’s plenty sensible that the Tigers are looking for rotation additions to make up for recent subtractions. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez opted out of his deal while righty Spencer Turnbull was non-tendered, resulting in both of those players now being free agents. The remaining rotation definitely has some talent but it comes with question marks.
Lefty Tarik Skubal looked great in 2023, returning from flexor tendon surgery to put up an ERA of 2.80, but he made just 15 starts and tossed only 80 1/3 innings. Even if he can stay healthy next year, he may push himself into workload concerns, having set career high of 149 1/3 frames in 2021. Matt Manning suffered a couple of foot fractures and was also limited to 15 starts in the most recent season. His 3.58 ERA looks fine at first glance but his 15.8% strikeout rate is way below league average and he benefited from an unsustainable .214 batting average on balls in play. He tossed 133 2/3 innings in the minors in 2019 but hasn’t reached that level since. Casey Mize missed all of 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Reese Olson had a solid debut but still has barely 100 innings of major league experience. Sawyer Gipson-Long has just four big league starts. Joey Wentz, Alex Faedo and Mason Englert are on the roster but had uninspiring results in 2023. Wilmer Flores and Keider Montero recently got added to the roster but haven’t debuted in the big leagues yet. Considering all of the variability here, it makes sense for the club to consider bringing in a stabilizing force.
The club was recently connected to Japanese righty Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but that seems like more a long shot considering he will surely require a nine-figure deal of some kind. President of baseball operations Scott Harris has been fairly cautious since taking over and there’s been little to indicate he’s planning to break from that right now. Lynn ultimately only required a one-year deal and Lugo’s next contract will be somewhat capped by his age.
Financially, there’s nothing stopping the Tigers from making whatever addition they decide upon. Roster Resource estimates their 2024 payroll at just $74MM. The figures from Cot’s Baseball Contracts had Detroit at $122MM on Opening Day in 2023 and $135MM the year before. Javier Báez is the only player under contract beyond 2024. It’s unknown exactly how much the club plans to spend this offseason but they have enough room to do a few things before they even come close to recent spending levels. If not Lugo, other pitchers that will likely sign short-term deals include Marcus Stroman, Jack Flaherty, Kenta Maeda, Michael Wacha and many more.