Late offensive surge may have rejuvenated free-agent value of Tigers' Jordy Mercer
Chicago — Jordy Mercer has already let the Tigers know he’s open to coming back in 2020. He approached manager Ron Gardenhire about it a couple of weeks ago.
“I could never guarantee Jordy that he’s coming back,” Gardenhire said. “And I couldn’t guarantee (Gordon) Beckham. I had conversations with both and it’s like, ‘We really like you, but, it is what it is.’ The bosses are going to go out there, there’s a lot of people they’re going to be looking at and it’s going to be about dollars and making the roster.”
Mercer, who has signed a one-year, $5.25 million contract last offseason, understands that. He knows that at age 33, for the second straight offseason, he will be back on the free agent market.
But, thanks to a late-season surge, he feels pretty good about his prospects.
“It wasn’t the year I wanted, health-wise, but I feel like I rebounded really nicely,” he said. “I think I showed people I can still play, that’s the biggest thing. If I showed people I’m healthy and I showed people I can still play, the rest will take care of itself.
“I was able to do that.”
Mercer began feeling pain in his right quadriceps in late April and by early May, he was on the shelf. He ended up playing just six games in May and was out until July 3. And it took him about a month to get back on track.
Since, though, he’s torn up the track pretty good.
He was hitting .209 on Aug. 2. In 33 games since, he’s slashed .342/.370/.544 with a .914 OPS. He’s had eight doubles and five home runs in that stretch. And he’s shown position flexibility, playing second and first as well as shortstop.
“I was able to get hot and play well for an extended period of time and I showed people I could still run,” Mercer said. “I wanted to show myself first, obviously. And then, bouncing around, I showed I could play other positions, as well.
“I wanted to stay healthy all year, but in the end, it worked out pretty well.”
Mercer said his plan, as it was last offseason, was to keep all his options open.
“It depends on what teams need and want,” he said. “We went into last year with an open mind, as well. We will know what teams are going to want a shortstop and we will know what teams are going to want a utility player.
“I’m not closing the door on anything.”
The Tigers — front office and coaching staff — have already had one full-staff roster evaluation session and another is planned for after the season in Lakeland. Gardenhire said the goals are similar to last offseason — punch up a young squad with some affordable veteran free agents.
The Tigers had success doing that in 2018 with Mike Fiers, Leonys Martin and Francisco Liriano. Not so much this year. Mercer has played 72 games. The three other free agent signees — Josh Harrison (36), Tyson Ross (7) and Matt Moore (2) — have combined to play in 45 games.
“They (front office) are going to try to make this ball club better,” Gardenhire said. “We have to do better than we did last year. All the injuries we had to those guys killed us this year.”
But again, as Gardenhire cautioned, the Tigers are still in rebuild mode. They aren’t likely to make any major purchases on the free agent market this winter.
“How many of those veterans are going to sign a minor-league contract in hopes of them making the team?” he said. “Not that one (Mercer). Those are the guys we’re going to be looking at. We want a run-producer. But with limited dollars, how big of a run-producer do you think you are going to be able to get?
“So, we are going to try to do our best, again, with what we have to work with.”
The Tigers and White Sox are supposed to play a doubleheader Friday, but as rain pounded down on Guaranteed Rate Field incessantly all afternoon, it looked doubtful that one would be played.
The Tigers shifted their starting pitching plans in anticipation of that. Lefty Matt Hall replaced lefty Tyler Alexander as the Game 1 starter, which would make it a bullpen game. Alexander would be available to start if the second game of the doubleheader was rescheduled for Saturday.
Gardenhire said the league office had made it clear they need to make every attempt to play all four games this weekend. If necessary, the teams would play doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday.
The last time the Tigers did that, finish a season with back-to-back doubleheaders, was 1967 when they lost the American League pennant to the Red Sox on the fourth and final game.
Tigers at White Sox
First pitches: 3:40 p.m. Saturday, second game immediately following; Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago
►LHP Matthew Boyd (9-11, 4.57), Tigers: This will be his career-high 32nd start and he will be looking to post 10 wins for the first time. It will also be his fourth start against the White Sox and the second within a week.
►RHP Reynaldo Lopez (9-15, 5.57), White Sox: The Tigers are 3-1 against Lopez this season, hitting him at a .307 clip, scoring 16 runs in 21.1 innings. He has allowed a major league-high 109 earned runs.
►LHP Tyler Alexander (1-4, 4.99), Tigers: He was scratched Friday in anticipation of the bad weather.
►RHP Ivan Nova (11-12, 4.80), White Sox: He’s already beaten the Tigers twice in three starts this season.