The Tigers announced they had named a reliever Jacob Barnes for assignment and optional outfielder Derek Hill in Triple-A Toledo. Moves open up a pair of 26-man spots for right-handed Drew Hutchison and left-handed Tyler Alexander, which will be added to the active list tomorrow. Hutchison is selected at Toledo, while Alexander will be reinstated from the 15-day injured list. Detroit’s 40-man count remains at 38.
Barnes signed a minor league contract in the offseason and broke camp with the club. The seven-year MLB veteran made 22 appearances for skipper AJ Hinch, mostly working in low-leverage situations. Barnes struggled to hit a 6.10 ERA in 20 2/3 innings and, more concerning, saw his swing and failure propensity drop precipitously. He’s generated swing strikes on just 7.7% of his offers, and his 11.2% strikeout rate is the fourth-lowest rating among 160 relievers with 20-plus innings pitched.
It’s a surprising development, as Barnes has generally posted strong strikeout and odor numbers throughout his career. The speed and spin of his fastball and cutter are virtually unchanged from last season, but he just isn’t getting the kind of swing-and-miss he was used to. Barnes is out of minor league option years, so the Tigers had to single him out for assignment if they weren’t ready to continue giving him the chance to work things out at the major league level. .
Detroit will now have a week to trade the 32-year-old or place him on waiver. Given his rocky start to the year, Barnes will likely land on the waiver wire. Even if he passes unclaimed, he would have the right to decline a minor league assignment while collecting the remainder of his $1.13 million salary due to his five years of MLB service this season.
Hutchison returns to the big leagues for the second time in 2022. He made 10 appearances earlier in the year after cracking the Opening Day roster, but Detroit designated him for an assignment last month. Hutchison reached free agency after being granted waivers, but re-signed a minor league contract and was on his way after five good outings with the Mud Hens. The veteran allowed just three runs in 9 2/3 innings with Toledo, hitting 13 batters with three walks.
A starting pitcher early in his career, the 31-year-old Hutchison has mostly worked in relief lately. That includes all of his early-season work in Detroit, where he pitched 15 2/3 innings of nine-run pitch. Hutchison has 15 batters and 12 walks in that span, but he’s capable of supporting multiple executives out of the bullpen and will likely step into Barnes’ middle relief role.
Alexander, meanwhile, returns after a six-week absence. The southpaw started four times in April but suffered a sprained elbow which has kept him on the board ever since. Originally targeted for a swing role, he will likely return to the rotation of a losing club Casey Mize to a Tommy John procedure and saw Matt Manning and Michael Pineda sidelined due to long-term injury concerns. Detroit will also be without Eduardo Rodriguez indefinitely while he takes care of his personal business.