In the early years of Dave Dombrowski’s tenure with the Tigers, he had a track record of signing pitchers to shorter-term contracts. Aside from five- and four-year extensions for Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman, respectively, Dombrowski’s lone long-term pitching investment in Detroit was to keep Aníbal Sánchez on a five-year deal. That fit his history; the only deal longer than three years for his World Series champion 1997 Marlins staff was Alex Fernandez’s five-year deal.
As Scott Harris ramps up his second offseason as the Tigers' president of baseball operations, he also has a pattern. When it comes to free-agent pitchers, he likes to find upside.
In Harris’ previous job as the Giants' general manager, he was part of a front office that specialized in short-term, low-risk signings of pitchers looking for a career reset. Several times, it worked for both sides:
• Kevin Gausman signed a one-year, $9 million deal for 2020 coming off a 5.72 ERA season in ‘19 in stints with Atlanta and Cincinnati. He signed another one-year deal with San Francisco the following winter, doubling his salary, became an NL Cy Young candidate, then signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Blue Jays.
• Drew Smyly also signed a one-year, $4 million contract for the 2020 season after struggling with a 6.24 ERA the previous season with Texas and Philadelphia in his return from surgery. He fanned 42 batters over 26 1/3 innings in the pandemic-shortened season, then he signed an $11 million deal with Atlanta and won a World Series there in '21.
• Anthony DeSclafani signed a one-year, $6 million contract with San Francisco for 2021, posted the best season of his career, then signed a three-year, $36 million extension.
• Alex Wood signed a one-year, $3 million contract for 2021 after two shortened seasons, got the bounceback he wanted, then signed a two-year extension that just ended after the ‘23 campaign.
• Alex Cobb signed a two-year deal prior to the 2022 season after showing signs of a breakout with the Angels the previous season. The Giants just picked up his team option for next year.
• Carlos Rodón signed a one-year contract for 2022, trying to build on a stellar first half for the White Sox the previous season. He turned an outstanding year with San Francisco into a six-year deal with the Yankees.