April 20, 2024

Detroit Tigers sign free agent to fill open starting spot at third base

Gio Urshela joins Detroit on 1-year deal

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers have signed a free agent who will most likely replace the vacant starting spot at third base.

The Tigers formally confirmed Thursday afternoon that Gio Urshela had signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million. Urshela can receive an additional $100,000 for attaining the 500, 530, 560, 590, and 620 plate appearance milestones.

 

Urshela was one of the top remaining free agent bats left on the market. The 32-year-old missed most of last season due to injuries, but in 2022 with the Twins, he posted a .285/.338/.429 line with 13 homers and 27 doubles in 144 games.

Since he first became a full-time player in 2019, Urshela has struggled to remain healthy. But when he is on the field, he’s productive, with a .291 average and .787 OPS during that span.

Urshela isn’t a star, but he’s been rock solid every season except for 2021 — an outlier year with the Yankees in which he hit .267 but didn’t do much else.

The Tigers are getting an average defender who will consistently put the ball in play and provide modest power — certainly an upgrade at the position from last year’s revolving door.

Urshela can play all four infield positions, but he’s primarily a third baseman, and that’s likely where he’ll slot in for the Tigers.

Detroit began spring training exercises with Matt Vierling ready to make his case for the starting third base position. Zach McKinstry, a left-handed batter, appeared to be a viable platoon mate.

But now, Urshela is nearly guaranteed to rise to the top of the depth chart.

The Tigers did not want to make a long-term commitment to a third baseman and perhaps block top-100 prospect Jace Jung in the future, but a one-year deal with Urshela carries essentially no risk.

If Urshela is productive, the Tigers can spend more time with Jung. If Jung is tearing it up in the minors, the Tigers won’t have to worry about moving Urshela. He could always move to a more versatile infield position.

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