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Tigers free agent outfielder Steven Moya to play next season in Japan

As the Major League Baseball offseason continues on and the “Hot Stove” period begins to heat up if you will, expect the moves made by all 30 clubs gradually trickle in.

The Detroit Tigers aren’t expected to be big players in the major league free agent market, but openly plan on signing players to minor league pacts in a continuing effort to restock the entire organization again.

A number of players who were down in the bushes for the Tigers this season are now free agents. Perhaps the most notable name is Steven Moya, who was once heralded as the franchise’s top prospect. Not only will Moya be with a different organization in 2018, he will be an entirely different country.

Moya, 26, put together one of if not his worst season as a professional in 2017. After failing to make the big league roster out of spring camp, he was demoted to Triple-A Toledo to start the season (after clearing waivers, because he was out of options). Moya in 46 games with the Mud Hens hit just .166/.222/.344 before being optioned to Double-A Erie.

Photo Credit: Tom Haggerty/Flickr

The numbers with the SeaWolves did improve significantly from his output in Toledo. However, come the end of the season, Moya had virtually no chance to be a part of the Tigers’ September call-ups. When he was sent down to the minors out of spring camp, he lost his spot on the 40-man roster and the writing was on the wall.

A once-bright star in the Tigers’ system, Moya was considered the organization’s No. 1 prospect after the 2014 season, when he hit .276 with 35 homers and 105 runs batted at Double-A, which earned him Tigers’ minor league player of the year honors and a promotion to the big league club in September. The 2016 campaign was perceived by some as a make-or-break year for the youngster, who was hoping to solidify at least an everyday spot on the 25-man roster moving forward.

Unfortunately, in the small sample size that he’s gotten in the show, Moya has struggled to maintain a stranglehold on a roster spot. The offensive numbers were okay, many believed the hitting wouldn’t be an issue long-term, despite being very swing-and-miss prone. However, he effectively became a one-dimensional, designated hitter-type of prospect, because he was a major liability on defense.

Moya was one of countless minor league free agents for the Tigers with uncertain futures. Many believe a fresh start is what someone like Moya, and fellow free agent outfielder Tyler Collins, could use to restart their careers.

Jun 30, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Steven Moya (33) strikes out against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Moya this offseason has been playing down in the Dominican Winter League for Los Toros del Este, whom he has played for multiple times throughout his career. This year, he’s hitting barely over .200 in 24 games played.

So what’s next for Moya? Well it seems that rather than staying put here in the states and hoping for another promising route to the majors, he is going to take a rather drastic jump and head overseas and join the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan. Perhaps he wants to rework his craft and regain confidence?

For those unfamiliar with the leagues overseas, the NPB has been traditionally viewed as somewhere in the middle between the MLB and the Triple-A level of MiLB, from a competitive sense. They are also typically more offense-laden for a number of factors, namely some smaller ballparks that would be borderline illegal here in MLB as well as a more tightly-wounded, smaller baseball.

Best wishes to Steven Moya in Japan next season with the Chunichi Dragons.

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