The offseason is officially upon us, Detroit Tigers fans. As the free agent pool starts to take shape, the Detroit Tigers' offseason has begun with excitement. As the new President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris begins to mold his front office and coaching staff; the focus turns to free agency and potential targets he could bring in to don the Old English D and set the course of the franchise on the right track. The 40-man roster will need trimming, and a few familiar faces are projected to be gone. The next step will be identifying players that fit the plan for Harris & Co. as they attempt to woo and recruit them to Motor City.
Who are the Detroit Tigers' offseason Free Agent targets?
As we lay the groundwork for the offseason free agent signings, we have to set the parameters Harris has already set forth as their goals for this offseason. At the GM meetings this week, Harris had plenty to say about the goals for the offseason and the type of player they are looking for. According to Evan Woodbury,
Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris laid out three offseason needs during an interview here in Las Vegas: left-handed bat in the infield, right-handed bat in the outfield and pitching.via Evan Woodbury on Twitter.
With that in mind, we'll establish our list based on two different categories: the dream list and the reality list. The dream list will consist of higher-level free-agent prospects who could fit and sign with Detroit. The reality list will be lower-level, lower-capital signings that can fit the goals and fill a need.
The Detroit Tigers offseason dream list of Free Agents
To say that this Free Agent class is stacked is, well, a bit of an understatement. Names like Aaron Judge, Carlos Rodon, Wilson Contreras, Trae Turner, Dansby Swanson, Justin Verlander, and Anthony Rizzo only scratch the surface of the players available. The following list is “big gets” and would be completely unexpected; there's no indication that there will be as much money spent this offseason as the last offseason. There's a feeling in the air that a key free agent, like the ones below, could be on tap for the Tigers, so let's lay out the best fits.
Special Note: Realizing that this is a “dream list,” it is important to remember that the Detroit Tigers will likely have to overpay in some cases to lure this type of talent.
Wilson Contreras, C | Bats: R – Throws: R | 30 years old
Remember the offseason between the 2003 season and the beginning of the 2004 campaign. That offseason, there was a huge signing by then-GM Dave Dombrowski, bringing Ivan “Pudge” Rogriguez to Motown. That signing changed the trajectory of the Detroit Tigers, and two years later, the Tigers were in the World Series. Contreras is not the same caliber two-way player that Pudge was, but he's still really good. He has already been linked to the Tigers in the infancy of this offseason and would be a major get to solidify a position that has been in flux since, well, Pudge left.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $16.4 million | Suggested offer: 4 years, $72 million ($18m AAV), 5th year vesting option worth $18.5 million
Anthony Rizzo, 1B | Bats: L – Throws: L | 33 years old
Okay, this one seems very far-fetched, but this is a dream list. Rizzo is a fantastic baseball player and a great clubhouse guy as well. He was the focal point of the Chicago Cubs' curse-breaking 2016 World Championship, and for a team losing their leader, Miguel Cabrera, the mantle will be there for Rizzo to carry after this season. He can be used at first base to take pressure off Spencer Torkelson, who often looked overmatched at the Major league level, then transition to DH in 2024.
Spotrac's Market Value projection: $21.4 million | Suggested offer: 3 years, $69 million ($23m AAV)
Dansby Swanson, SS | Bats: R – Throws: R | 28 years old
The Detroit Tigers offseason doesn't demand that they sign another shortstop, especially when Harris has mentioned the position is Javier Baez's for Opening Day. But when the best defensive shortstop is available, you have to make an offer, at minimum, kicking the tires. Finding a place to fit Swanson into the already crowded infield could be a deterrent, but he's the best option of the shortstops available.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $21.4 million | Suggested offer: 7 years, $175 million ($25m AAV)
Justin Verlander, P | Throws: R | 39 years old
When you see the number suggesting signing Justin Verlander back to the Detroit Tigers, I'm sure plenty of fans wouldn't even care. We all know JV's success since the infamous trade that sent him to the Houston Astros and netted the Detroit Tigers exactly nothing. In line for another Cy Young Award and coming fresh off a second World Series title, homecoming is a longshot, but one that we definitely can dream about.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $45.3 million | Suggested offer: 2 years, $95 million ($47.5m AAV), 3rd-year mutual option for $47 million
Brandon Nimmo, OF | Bats: L – Throws: R | 29 years old
Brandon Nimmo would be a good get for Scott Harris. He doesn't necessarily fit the ideal of getting more right-handed in the outfield but does walk a ton, strikes out seldom, and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. In recent projection articles, he has also been projected to the Tigers and would create a stellar lineup leading off in front of Riley Greene & Co.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $21.1 million | Suggested offer: 5 years, $112.5 million ($22.5m AAV)
The Detroit Tigers offseason reality list of Free Agents
While it is nice to dream, it's time to come back down to reality a bit. Though any of the guys mentioned above could indeed sign with the Tigers, in some cases, the price tag may be too high for a team still reeling from a massive setback in 2022.
Adam Frazier, IF/OF | Bats: L – Throws: R | 30 years old
Frazier is not a world-beater but a solid baseball player. He's not going to knock the cover off the ball, but he has a great whiff rate and strikeout rate and is a very good defender. He checks the box of getting more “left-handed” in the infield for Scott Harris. It won't be a breaking-the-bank signing, and it could be a great thing to get a solid player cost-effectively.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $10.1 million | Suggested offer: 3 years, $30 million ($10m AAV)
Tucker Barnhart, C | Bats: S – Throws: R | 32 years old
Barnhart isn't a sexy name here, but for a one-year bridge to Dillon Dingler, if that's the way you want to go, why not? There isn't much description needed here other than hoping he could turn it around offensively because 2022 was dreadful. Splitting time with Eric Haase could work again, though a move like this would mean something of greater significance happened in other positions. Other names like Christian Vasquez, Omar Narvaez, Mike Zunino, and Austin Hedges are other options that would at least be a fresh face if they choose to go cheap on their backstop.
2022 Salary: $7.75 million | Suggested offer: 1 year, $5 million
Michael Conforto, OF | Bats: L – Throws: R | 29 years old
Conforto should be at the top of the list for the Detroit Tigers' offseason plans. He has a good track record as a hitter and would be a good addition for the Tigers. Though he did miss the entire 2022 season, the Tigers may be able to use that to their advantage in wooing him to Detroit. As a “prove-it,” a one-year deal could work well, especially if paired with a few extra years of vesting/player/club options.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $20.7 million | Suggested offer: 1 year, $18.5 million, 2nd year vesting option based on performance for $21.5 million, 3rd year mutual option for $23 million.
A.J. Pollack, OF | Bats: R – Throws: R | 34 years old
This may be another one you look at on the surface and think? But, when healthy, Pollock can be a solid piece to a good ball club. A decent outfielder with a good arm and decent speed, Pollock can help solidify that third outfield position as Kerry Carpenter, and Akil Baddoo continues to develop. Pollock would be nothing more than a stop-gap given his age and could be considered a cheap, low-risk acquisition.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $12.8 million | Suggested offer: 1 year, $12.5 million with a 2nd-year club option for $12.5 million.
Brandon Drury, 3B | Bats: R – Throws: R | 30 years old
This may be under the radar, and it may not; who knows? Drury can be a solid player, especially given his 71st-percentile in outs above average. Jeimer Candelario likely will be non-tendered, and Ryan Krielder needed a bit more seasoning after a 2022 season plagued by injury. Drury's price tag and measurables make him an attractive option for the Detroit Tigers' offseason plans.
Spotrac's Market Value Projection: $9.3 million | Suggested offer: 2 years, $19 million ($9.5 million AAV)
A non-free agent extension that could pay off HUGE for the Detroit Tigers' offseason
This past season Joe Jimenez was really good. Jimenez is also arbitration-eligible this season and is projected to make $2.2 million. And while that seems like a bargain, there's a bit of a comparison that can be made with a bunch of hopeful projections. The comparison that can be made is to the best closer in baseball right now, Edwin Diaz.
This is not to say that Jimenez will be Diaz, but those numbers are eerily similar. Seeing that Diaz just signed a very lucrative contract to stay with the New York Mets, it could make sense for the Tigers to sign Jimenez to an extension, which serves several purposes. First, it buys out some of Jimenez's arbitration years and some free agency. Second, if the trajectory holds, it'll be a massive value to the Tigers. The suggested extension would be a four-year, $24 million ($6 million AAV), signing him through 2026. On the front end, it gives Jimenez security and a massive raise, and the back end could be a huge bargain for the Tigers if the trajectory holds.
So, there you have it—the 2023 Detroit Tigers' off-season free agents targets. A few of them are dream scenarios that could happen if you keep your fingers crossed. However, the list of realistic options would improve the team over the 2022 season. Time will tell soon how Scott Harris will construct this roster, but any name listed above would be a welcomed addition to the Tigers in 2023.