Tigers' offseason shopping 'spree': Several one-year deals, and that's it
Detroit — Major League Baseball's free-agent pool remains rather deep with spring training inching closer, which has led to some bargain deals in recent days.
The San Francisco Giants just signed left-hander Drew Pomeranz for one year and $1.5 million guaranteed. The Texas Rangers just signed veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera for one year and $3.5 million guaranteed.
But don't expect the rebuilding Detroit Tigers to go bargain hunting with their 40-man roster full following the addition of infielder/pitcher Kaleb Cowart on Thursday.
"We're pretty much done," general manager Al Avila said. "That's not to say we're not still looking for a piece here, a piece there that maybe just falls in our lap."
It would have to be a sensible addition, of course, given the Tigers' current state.
It's not going to be a veteran player who takes away playing time from a developing player, such as a Jeimer Candelario or a JaCoby Jones or a Christin Stewart. The Tigers need to see what the kids can do, and gauge who's a long-term play.
"You want to give opportunities to your young players," Avila said.
That said, there were reports this week that the Tigers have scouted veteran slugger Adrian Gonzalez, and maybe that would make sense, given they could use some depth at first base and designated hitter — as insurance for Miguel Cabrera, who has struggled to stay healthy the last couple of seasons.
If the Tigers do make any more moves before pitchers and catchers start reporting next month, it won't be a long-term commitment, of course. All the Tigers' free-agent signings this offseason have been one-year deals — for pitchers Tyson Ross and Matt Moore, and shortstop Jordy Mercer — or minor-league deals.
That's by design, Avila said.
"There's no bad one-year deal," he said. "If a player really does well and pans out and has a good year, well everybody wins. It's good for your team because it helps you compete better. It gives you a chance to maybe trade that player at some point and get something in return that can add to your future. And it's also good for the player. He becomes a free agent and he can probably get a better contract.
"If it doesn't go well, then it's only one year and you move on."
The Tigers did nicely with a couple of one-year contracts last offseason. Veteran pitcher Mike Fiers and outfielder Leonys Martin netted the team some prospects from the Oakland A's and Cleveland Indians, respectively, in July and August trades. In 2017, Avila spun his own son — catcher Alex, on a one-year deal — to the Chicago Cubs as part of a trade that landed infielder Isaac Paredes, a rising prospect who's tearing the cover off the ball in the Mexican winter-ball playoffs.
Meanwhile, another intriguing name signed by the Tigers this offseason was infielder Gordon Beckham, a one-time top Chicago White Sox prospect who got a minor-league deal. He receives an invitation to spring training and will get an opportunity to make the club as the backup second baseman.
A good spring from Beckham, 32, could then free up Niko Goodrum to take on the super-utility role again, playing all over the infield and outfield.
"It's a low-risk, low-cost situation for him to come in," Avila said of Beckham, who at his peak in 2012 hit 16 homers to go with 60 RBIs, but hasn't been an everyday player in several seasons. "A veteran guy, see what he can do and if he can help.
"And if not, we'll have other possibilities.