Tigers still free-agent shopping as offseason market hits a lull
Some people worked during the Thanksgiving break. Any such list would include the Tigers front office, which, apart from Thursday’s break, stayed by the phones, maybe trading conversation with agents or perhaps with an interested trade partner or two.
But nothing happened. In fact, little is going on anywhere. And there’s no guarantee business will pick up dramatically even when baseball’s Winter Meetings begin in two weeks at Las Vegas.
“It was very quiet over Thanksgiving for all clubs,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said Sunday in a text message.
Ahead of Thursday, Avila said the Tigers had been in contact with representatives for a tall pile of free agents they’re considering as they try and add, primarily, a shortstop and starting pitcher.
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At shortstop, the Tigers are mulling Freddy Galvis, Adeiny Hechevarria, and perhaps Jordy Mercer, who could potentially be an answer as well at second base, which isn’t nailed down heading into 2019.
Among starters, the cast includes: Edwin Jackson, Jeremy Hellickson, Tyson Ross, Trevor Cahill, Marco Estrada, and maybe Brett Anderson.
Avila said trade talks that had begun loosely at the GM Meetings earlier this month at Carlsbad, California, have also dragged as teams wait and see how the free-agent dominoes spill. And that process could well mean nothing significant will happen until more exalted stars like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin begin signing new deals.
“I do believe a lot has to happen with the big boys before our market starts to move in earnest,” Avila said.
“In saying that, I do hope we can start to make some progress going into the Winter Meetings. We could also be looking into January and February.
“My hope is that some free-agent players (shortstop or pitcher) decide to sign sooner than later.”
The Tigers technically have two infield openings heading into 2019. Begin with shortstop, which previously was manned by Jose Iglesias before he strolled this month into free agency. He’s on the market, but while feelings are cordial enough between the two parties, Iglesias and the Tigers are expected to decide that it’s time for both to move on.
The Tigers also lack a second baseman who doesn’t realistically figure to be last season’s late-season applicant, Dawel Lugo.
Niko Goodrum remains an insurance policy at second, or even at short. But it’s expected the Tigers will first look for a full-time infield answer and ideally use Goodrum as the super-sub they believe best displays his skills.
That would enable them to slide Goodrum into second base periodically, providing they come away with another option there. The infield puzzle hasn’t yet resolved itself with the one or more pieces Avila is hunting.
The Tigers want at least one more starting pitcher. They also would like to add a swing-man who could boost the rotation and work doubly as a reliever. How that shakes out depends, again, on the market, and whether the Tigers make any trades that could yet involve dealing an existing pitcher, with Matthew Boyd high among possibilities there.
Nick Castellanos remains prime-time trade bait as Avila works to add more youngsters to a team preparing for a more formal unveiling in 2020, when the 25-man active roster expects to carry, if not be loaded with, an abundance of rookies.