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 Wilson, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis, Randy Wolf, Tom Gorzelanny, Alfredo Simon, Joe Nathan, Al Alburquerque, and Neftali Feliz elected to become free agents. Detroit traded Javier Betancourt, Manny Pina, Ian Krol, Gabe Speier, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Kyle Lobstein, and Jefry Marte. Guido 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:
Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmermann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Mike Pelfrey, Mark Lowe, and Mike Aviles signed as free agents. Cameron Maybin, Justin Wilson, Francisco 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.