Detroit Tigers: Carving out a path for Eric Haase to maximize his value

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The World Series hardly finished before Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila got to work with 2022 in mind as he continues to re-shape the organization.

With catcher Jake Rogers lost for the 2022 season due to Tommy John surgery and Grayson Greiner or Dustin Garneau failing to be season-long options, the Detroit Tigers required a catcher to pair with Eric Haase.

Avila pulled the trigger on a deal that sent the Tigers a two-time Gold Glove winner in Tucker Barnhart from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for infielder Nick Quintana who is not even mentioned as one of the organizations top prospects.

Barnhart slashed .247/.306/.348 while hitting seven home runs and driving in 48 runs in 116 games this past season.  Barnhart also adds a much-needed left-handed bat to the catching position in Detroit, which will complement Eric Haase nicely this upcoming season.

Speaking of complimenting each other, the 30-year old Barnhart is known for his glove more than his bat, which is the opposite of Haase. Haase drilled 22 home runs for the Tigers in 2021 and drove in 67.

Last season with the emergence of Haase, Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch kept his bat in the lineup by playing in 22 games out in left field, where he produced a fielding percentage of .968.  Haase recorded 29 putouts as a left fielder making just one error in 168.2 innings of work.  Behind the dish, Haase produced a .990 fielding percentage in 66 games, making five errors over 543.1 innings of work.

The 28-year old Detroit native slashed .231/.286/.459 this past season which isn’t anything to write home about, but when a team gets 20-plus home runs from a catcher, it certainly lengthens the lineup.  Haase seemed like he ran out of gas as the season wore on as he was forced to catch every day.  We’ve seen the catcher position stymie offensive production across the league year after year.

Carving out a path to maximize Eric Haase’s value with the Detroit Tigers.

With Barnhart likely to see at least 65% of the starts behind the plate, I’d like to see Detroit utilize Haase’s power elsewhere in the lineup.

The Tigers can run Haase out in left field, moving Akil Baddoo to center and Robbie Grossman in right.  Things in the outfield get dicey if prospect Riley Greene makes the big-league club out of Spring Training; things may begin to get cluttered in the outfield.

Hinch can also plug Haase in as the designated hitter when Miguel Cabrera plays first base but similar to the outfield. If Spencer Torkelson earns a spot in Detroit after Spring Training, spots quickly become few and far between.

For hypothetical purposes, let’s say both Greene and Torkelson begin the year in Toledo, the Tigers are likely to rotate Jonathan Schoop and Cabrera at first base.  This is where I’d like Haase to maximize his roster spot.  Schoop’s overall value is best suited at second base.  His value drops while playing first base; he goes from likely a top-ten second baseman to a middle-of-the-road first baseman.

Suppose Haase, who totaled two innings at first base last season, can become a capable defender at first. In that case, it will allow Hinch to rotate him between first, left field, catcher, and DH, which will keep his bat in Detroit’s lineup far more often than playing as a backup catcher and once a week outfielder.

With Cabrera serving as the team’s primary DH, this is a way to sneak Haase’s power in the bottom third of the lineup a bit more often than initially expected in 2022.

According to FanGraphs, Haase provided the Tigers with a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.0.  Another unique tool provided is a WAR converted to dollars providing us with what a player should make in free agency.

Next. Tigers 2021 season grades for the team’s outfielders. dark

Using this calculator, Haase was equal to $8.3 million last season, yet per Spotrac, the Tigers only owed him $441,648 in adjusted salary; what a bargain.