By Dan Jenkins
Now that the regular season is over, it’s time to start looking toward what the Detroit Tigers are going to do during the winter.
The Tigers have four players who are eligible for free agency after the World Series has concluded, including team options for closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Cameron Maybin.
Here’s a look at those four players, the seasons they put together in 2016 and whether they should return in 2017.
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
92 games, .171 avg., 12 home runs, 38 RBIs, .630 OPS
Jarrod Saltalamacchia provided some exciting moments and timely hitting for the Tigers in 2016, but he never really showed much consistency. He came in the Top 15 among catchers in home runs and tallied seven game winning RBIs, which was tied for fifth among catchers.
He filled in for the injured James McCann early in the season, but never did enough to unseat the 26-year-old (who had a sub-par season as well).
The Tigers could take the same approach as this past season — let McCann continue to develop while keeping Salty on the roster as a veteran presence and suitable backup.
IF Erick Aybar
29 games, .250 avg., 1 home run, 8 RBIs, .691 OPS
Erick Aybar didn’t spend a whole lot of time with the Tigers this season, but he was a noticeable upgrade over Mike Aviles, the player Detroit traded to Atlanta for Aybar on August 16.
Aybar played a starting role when he first came to Detroit due to shortstop Jose Iglesias’ hamstring injury.
Bringing Aybar back next season wouldn’t likely be a significant move for the Tigers. They could surely find other cheap utility options.
RHP Francisco Rodriguez (team option)
61 games, 3.24 ERA, 44 saves/49 opportunities, 8.02 K/9IP, 1.13 WHIP
Francisco Rodriguez was all that the Tigers hoped he would be in 2016.
Did he blow some games in fantastic, traditional Tigers bullpen fashion? Sure. But so does every other closer in the league.
Rodriguez was second in the American League in saves only to Baltimore’s Zach Britton. His 44 saves were the most by a Tigers’ closer since Jose Valverde’s perfect 49-for-49 season in 2011.
Picking up K-Rod’s option is a no-brainer. There’s not too many better options out there and the Tigers don’t have a sure closer waiting in the wings.
OF Cameron Maybin (team option)
94 games, .315 avg., 4 home runs, 43 RBIs, .801 OPS
When Cameron Maybin joined the Tigers in mid-May, the team had lost 11 out of 13 games and it looked like it might be a long, disappointing season.
After inserting Maybin into the lineup for the first time on May 16, the Tigers would go on to win eight of their next 10 games and jump right back up into contention. In fact, the Tigers were 55-39 with Maybin in the lineup this season and 31-36 without him.
Bringing Maybin back in 2017 might look like an easy decision, but his team option is for $9 million next year. The Tigers may rather promote someone like JaCoby Jones on a much cheaper contract to play center field.
Maybin surely overachieved in 2016 — posting career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS — but will he be worth the price tag in 2017?
Who — if anyone — should the Tigers bring back in 2017? Vote for all or none in the poll below!