The Tigers entered Monday’s game against the last-place Twins with a disappointing 16-21 record. After signing Monday’s starter Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year, $110 million contract, signing Justin Upton at six years and $132.75 million, and acquiring closer Francisco Rodriguez, the Tigers expected to be quite competitive in an otherwise uninspiring AL Central division. But it didn’t happen, which has led to rumors of firing manager Brad Ausmus.
The Twins were kind enough to spot the Tigers an 8-0 lead after the first inning of Monday night’s game, as Jose Berrios couldn’t finish the inning. The Tigers used four walks, three doubles, two singles, and a homer to put up an eight-spot. But not even that was enough. The Twins would score twice in the second, once in the third, and four times in the fourth to nearly erase the deficit, all against Zimmermann, who entered the start with the American League’s lowest ERA at 1.50.
Understandably, Ausmus was not in a good mood. He let home plate umpire Doug Eddings have it after Nick Castellanos was called out on strikes to end the bottom of the fourth. Ausmus was ejected immediately, then came out and got in Eddings’ face. As the coup de grace, Ausmus removed his sweater and draped it across home plate. It was art, really.
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Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.