Steamer projections: Minimal losses, substantial gains mark Detroit Tigers offseason

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Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila and outfielder Justin Upton announce the latter’s signing with club during a Jan. 20 press conference. (Photo by Mark Gunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Since the Detroit Tigers played their last baseball of 2015, general manager Al Avila has been at work trying to turn a last-place club back into a contender. Whether he has done so remains to be seen as spring training approaches. But the Tigers have definitely improved on paper since the last season ended. Steamer Projections confirms their gains have been greater than their losses.

To recap, here are the 18 players who have left the organization since Oct. 5, not including minor league free agents:

Josh WilsonAlex AvilaRajai DavisRandy WolfTom GorzelannyAlfredo SimonJoe NathanAl Alburquerque, and Neftali Feliz elected to become free agents. Detroit traded Javier Betancourt, Manny PinaIan Krol, Gabe SpeierChad GreenLuis CessaKyle Lobstein, and Jefry MarteGuido Knudson was claimed off waivers.

Steamer predicts this bunch will net just 2.7 WAR in 2016 (removing those projected to end up with a negative number), with Avila and Simon combining to account for two-thirds of that value and only five others contributing above replacement level.

And here are the 10 players the Tigers have brought in to help right the ship:

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
Jordan Zimmerman pitches for the Washington Nationals during a game in August. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Justin UptonJordan ZimmermannJarrod SaltalamacchiaMike PelfreyMark Lowe, and Mike Aviles signed as free agents. Cameron MaybinJustin WilsonFrancisco Rodriguez, and Kody Eaves were acquired in trades.

Steamer projects this group will compile 9.5 WAR this year, with Upton at 3.4 (more than all the outgoing Tigers put together), Zimmerman at 2.4 and Maybin at 1.1.

That’s a net gain of 6.8 WAR for the offseason, according to Steamer. That’s statistically significant even considering how far off projections can be, especially for individual players.

However, it’s worth noting that the players Detroit acquired will make a little more than $70 million in 2016, not including potential bonuses. Meanwhile, it’s clear the Tigers’ outgoing players would have been much cheaper. Rajai Davis at $5.25 million, Neftali Feliz at $3.9 million, and Alex Avila at $2.5 million are the most expensive of the bunch under contract so far, and, though Simon and Nathan remain free agents, neither will break a team’s bank when they do sign deals.

Mike Ilitch probably has paid more than the going rate for each victory he has bought this winter, but no one will care if Upton and Zimmerman win his team a World Series.

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