April 22, 2024

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The Tigers are signing Gio Urshela, who can fill the need at third base

The Tigers are signing Gio Urshela, who can fill the need at third base

LAKELAND, Fla. – Turns out the Detroit Tigers were willing to bring in an outside bat at third base after all.

Detroit agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with infielder Gio Urshela on Thursday, a team source confirmed to The athlete.

Urshela fills an obvious need for the Tigers: an experienced right-handed hitter who can play third base and also move around the infield. This need was evident throughout the offseason and became even more apparent in the early days of spring training.

Urshela clearly makes sense in the Tigers' bullpen-heavy lineup. The right-handed hitter is a career .290 hitter against left-handed pitching and hit .373 in 51 at-bats against lefties last season. He has relatively low walk rates (4.4 percent last year) but also has plus contact skills.

Urshela, 32, is coming off a year in which he hit .299 but was worth just 0.4 fWAR in 62 games with the Angels. He missed most of the season with a fractured pelvis. He hit .285 with 13 home runs and was worth 2.4 fWAR in 2022. He's been a good defender at third base throughout his career and was worth six defensive runs saved at the hot corner last season. He also has experience playing shortstop, second base, and first base.

Before signing with Urshela, Matt Vierling was expected to start at third for the Tigers, possibly sharing the role with Andy Ibanez and left-handed hitter Zach McKinstry.

Signing Urshela could allow the Tigers to use Vierling in a more versatile role where he could see time in center field. It's a deal that could have ripple effects across the roster, from Vierling providing insurance for rookie Parker Meadows at center to the way Ibáñez and McKinstry are used.

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Based on the way manager AJ Hinch handled the roster last year, when the Tigers used pinch hitters more than all but four other teams, it's conceivable to envision Urshela (third base), Ibáñez (second base) and Vierling (center field) all starting at Left-handed pitching, with McKinstry, Colt, Keith, and Meadows available to hit. The move could also make the path to a roster spot more difficult for right-handed prospect Justin Henry Malloy and outfielder Ryan Kreidler.

Although president of baseball operations Scott Harris has seemingly been reluctant to ask for more veteran backup, a one-year deal with Urshela would provide more stability at third base while potentially pitching Jess Jung (who has already been told He won't be on the Opening Day roster honing his skills in the minor leagues.

“If you look around the diamond, there aren't as many bats available for another type of daily life,” Harris said last week. “So we felt there was room for one guy (veteran outfielder Mark Canha), and then the rest of the additions would be complementary to the day-to-day lineup.”

Urshela can be used in a number of ways, but this signing adds much-needed support to Detroit's backfield.

(Photo: Steve Chambers/Getty Images)