Tigers agree to two-year, $10 million deal with outfielder Robbie Grossman
Detroit — It may not be the name fans were hoping for, but with the signing of 31-year-old, switch-hitting outfielder Robbie Grossman, the Tigers got the kind of proficient bat they’ve lacked in recent years.
The Tigers Tuesday night signed former Oakland Athletic Grossman to a two-year, $10 million contract.
“Robbie is a proven Major League hitter and will bring consistent, competitive at-bats to our lineup,” general manager Al Avila said in a statement. “His name quickly came up when our front office began planning potential offseason additions, and all of us are looking forward to having his veteran presence both on the field and in the clubhouse.”
The stat line might not wow you — .252/.350/.380 with a 101 OPS-plus over eight big-league seasons – but look closer. His career .350 on-base average is impressive enough, certainly. The only Tigers who came close to that on-base proficiency last season were Willi Castro and Jeimer Candelario.
But over his last two years in Oakland, he began changing his approach at the plate. He began to pull the ball more, which helped him raise his slugging percentage 134 points last season, up to .482. In just 192 plate appearances, he hit eight home runs, knocked in 23 runs, scored 23 runs and had a career-best 130 OPS-plus.
He was 5-for-24 with two doubles in the postseason last year.
The Tigers the last three seasons have been at or near the bottom of the American League in fewest walks and most strikeouts. Grossman is the antithesis of that. Over his career, he’s posted a 20.9 percent strikeout rate and a 12.6% walk rate.
Of 46 American League hitters who have played at least 500 games since 2016, he ranks fourth in walk rate (13.2%), seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.46) and 12th in on-base percentage (.359).
“I’ve been fortunate to play for some great franchises during my career, and I couldn’t be happier to add the Tigers to that list,” Grossman said in a statement released by the Tigers media relations department. “I’ve been in Detroit a number of times as a visiting player, and know how passionate the city and its fans are for Tigers baseball.
"I’m very excited to get to work with my coaches and teammates, and help bring winning baseball back to the Motor City.”
Defensively, he has made marked improvement. With the Twins in 2016, he was minus-20 defensive runs saved. But the last two years with the A’s, he was a plus-1 and a Gold Glove runner-up in left field in 2019. That’s likely where he will see most of his time with the Tigers, too.
The Tigers haven’t signed a player to a multi-year deal since the winter of 2016 when they signed Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton, Mike Pelfrey and Mark Lowe. According to The Athletic, which was first to report the deal, Grossman can also earn up to $500,000 in each year in incentives.
Grossman broke into the big leagues with the Astros and played for new Tigers manager AJ Hinch in 2015.
The Tigers have made so secret of their desire to add some offensive punch to their outfield this offseason. Presumably, Grossman will go to spring training as the starting left fielder, with JaCoby Jones in center and Victor Reyes in right.
And it’s possible the Tigers aren’t done shopping for outfield help.
The signing of Grossman further puts Christin Stewart’s future with the Tigers in peril, especially since utility players Harold Castro and Niko Goodrum can be used as extra outfielders and general manager Al Avila and Hinch have talked about taking a long look at prospect Daz Cameron.
Additionally, the Tigers used the third pick in the Rule 5 draft to select outfielder Akil Baddoo.
Grossman is the second free agent the Tigers have signed to a major-league contract this offseason. Last month they signed starting pitcher Jose Urena for one year at $3.25 million.
To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Tigers designated outfielder Troy Stokes, Jr., for assignment.