Tigers lay foundation at Winter Meetings


LAS VEGAS — Tigers general manager Al Avila didn’t come to the 2018 Winter Meetings with a lot of payroll room to use. He didn’t come in with a mandate to win now. He left Las Vegas with several roster needs filled for next season and some seeds planted for bigger moves later this winter.

By signing Tyson Ross to a one-year, $5.75 million contract, Detroit has essentially the same pitching situation as last season, with two veteran starters signed on bounce-back deals to complement a generally young rotation, with Daniel Norris left to compete for a rotation spot.

LAS VEGAS — Tigers general manager Al Avila didn’t come to the 2018 Winter Meetings with a lot of payroll room to use. He didn’t come in with a mandate to win now. He left Las Vegas with several roster needs filled for next season and some seeds planted for bigger moves later this winter.

By signing Tyson Ross to a one-year, $5.75 million contract, Detroit has essentially the same pitching situation as last season, with two veteran starters signed on bounce-back deals to complement a generally young rotation, with Daniel Norris left to compete for a rotation spot.

By reaching an agreement with Jordy Mercer on a one-year deal worth a reported $5.25 million, the Tigers found their veteran stopgap shortstop to hold down the spot until prospect Willi Castro or Sergio Alcantara is hopefully ready for 2020.

Video: Tigers reportedly sign Jordy Mercer to 1-year deal

Ross and Mercer were players the Tigers had targeted early in the offseason. Both were parts of a market that has been moving slowly, but made decisions while Detroit was at work at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort.

Neither was a glamorous move, but they plug holes in the roster for the short term while buying time for the rebuilding project to send young talent up the developmental ladder. If one or both can become potential trade pieces who can bring back prospects next summer, the moves will have fulfilled their purpose.

Biggest remaining needs
1. Trading partner for Nicholas Castellanos:
The Tigers fielded interest in their slugging right fielder but didn’t come close to a deal. Their chances at an acceptable trade for prospects should be better as the offseason unfolds and top free-agent outfielders sign, leaving other clubs looking for bats.

“Yeah, there’s been interest in Castellanos and a couple other players,” Avila said. “But it seems like a lot needs to happen, whether it be free agents or bigger deals that people are looking at, that have to fall in. And then at that point, we’ll see where we fit in.”

2. Second baseman: Avila would like to add an experienced second baseman to move Niko Goodrum back to a super utility role and give Dawel Lugo more time at Triple-A Toledo to work on his approach at the plate. That void likely won’t be filled until later in the offseason once contending teams thin out the free-agent market at second. Potential options include former Tiger Ian Kinsler.

“I think we’re going to sit back and wait a little bit to see how the market develops,” Avila said.

Video: Kinsler enters free agency

3. Catcher: Manager Ron Gardenhire would like one more catcher for depth behind starter Grayson Greiner and backup John Hicks. Such a signing would likely be similar to Bobby Wilson, who signed a Minor League deal last week.

4. Relief pitcher: Detroit isn’t active in the relief market for now, but with so many free agents available, it’s open to adding an arm later in the offseason as Spring Training nears and pitchers seek spots in camp.

Rule 5 Draft
The Tigers added a reliever in the Major League portion of the draft, selecting hard-throwing right-hander Reed Garrett from the Rangers’ organization. The 25-year-old has a mid-90s fastball that topped out at 100 mph this past season. He posted 21 saves and a 2.04 ERA in 51 games between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock, allowing 54 hits over 61 2/3 innings with 20 walks and 61 strikeouts. He has a strong chance to find innings in Detroit’s bullpen with Alex Wilson gone.

2018 Rule 5 Draft results

GMs bottom line
“We just started this process last year. As the months go by, you make a move here, you make a move there, and all of a sudden you get a little bit better, faster, and you surprise some people. And then sometimes you’re expecting guys to perform and they don’t, and it takes an extra year or two. That’s why it’s hard to pinpoint a time. Once you get enough of a nucleus of players that you feel you can build around, and you have the payroll, that’s where we have to get.” — Avila, on when the Tigers can expect to contend again

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.





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