We’re just one week away from the annual Winter Meetings down in Orlando. The baseball hot stove figures to be heating up real quick and on Tuesday, the Detroit Tigers were in the news for their signing of five players to contracts for 2018.
The Tigers have agreed to terms with OF Leonys Martín on a Major League contract. Additionally, the Tigers have signed RHP Enrique Burgos, C Derek Norris, 1B Edwin Espinal & OF Jim Adduci to Minor League contracts for 2018 with invites to Major League Spring Training. pic.twitter.com/TEQWuZu8UW
— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) December 5, 2017
The one of most importance is outfielder Leonys Martín to a major league deal. The 29-year-old Cuban outfielder spent his first five major league seasons with the Texas Rangers (2011-15) before being traded to division rival Seattle. He struggled in a year-plus with the Mariners before again being dealt to the Cubs this past season.
Martín in 49 games last season between Seattle and Chicago failed to get off the interstate, hitting just .172 with a .513 OPS. After two quality seasons in Texas as a solid two-way player, he has really struggled, particularly on offense. He remains one of the better defenders in baseball, primarily as a center fielder. On a major league contract, the left-handed-hitting Martín figures to be the competition for Tigers incumbent center fielder and right-handed hitter JaCoby Jones.
Among the wave of minor league signings, the most notable name is catcher Derek Norris. The 28-year-old backstop spent the 2017 season with the Tampa Bay Rays, playing in just 53 games. Norris has previous stops in Oakland (2012-14) and San Diego (2015-16). He actually signed to play the 2017 season with the Nationals, but then Washington ended up signing fellow catcher Matt Wieters, making Norris expendable.
An All-Star in 2014, Norris comes with a bit of baggage. He was suspended for the final 30 days of this past regular season for violation of baseball’s domestic abuse policy, though he continues to deny the allegations. He accepted the punishment because he was a free agent at the time, and the suspension was lifted after the conclusion of the World Series.
Norris was never arrested or formally charged regarding the allegations
As far as his position in the Tigers’ organization, at worst he will be the No. 1 catcher down in Triple-A Toledo and figures to compete with John Hicks for the backup role to starter James McCann. Norris does have prior experience playing first base as well.
Tigers fans are probably happy to see Jim Adduci return to the club. Adduci was a minor league call-up for Detroit in 2017 when the team was struggling to get any production from its outfield. He made his debut in late April and performed very well, hitting close to .320 with an .888 OPS through his first 13 games. Then an oblique injury came and when he returned, the production fell off. Adduci over his final 16 games of the season hit just .154 with 16 strikeouts in 44 plate appearances.
Right-handed pitcher Enrique Burgos, 27, spent this past season between the Triple-A affiliates for Arizona and Atlanta. He began in the Diamondbacks organization as a 17-year-old and was traded to the Braves in May. Burgos has a 4.43 career minor league ERA (266 appearances) and has pitched in 73 major league games.
First baseman Edwin Espinal, 23, is a former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand. He played between their Double-A and Triple-A clubs in 2017 and put together a real solid campaign: .294/.327/.447 with career highs in home runs (15) and runs batted in (86). His signing with the Tigers becomes official on Tuesday after being a reported deal back in November.
Following the slew of signings, the Tigers now have 39 players on their 30-man roster, leaving one spot open to make an addition via the Rule 5 Draft next week in the Winter Meetings. Each player signed will also receive an invite to spring camp.