Facing a midnight deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft by placing them on the 40-man roster, the Detroit Tigers purchased the contracts of seven players they did not want to lose.
Pitchers Kyle Lobstein and Justin Miller, as well as first baseman Jordan Lennerton, were added from the Triple-A Toledo roster, as were outfielder Daniel Fields and shortstop Eugenio Suarez from Double-A Erie and Single-A Lakeland pitcher Jose Valdez and outfielder Steven Moya.
The moves leave the Tigers with 39 spots filled on the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft at December’s Winter Meetings. Generally, teams only protect those players who are likely to be selected and kept on the big-league roster by another MLB team — i.e. those who are close to being ready to contribute at the big league level.
Lobstein came to the Tigers organization in the aftermath of last year’s Rule 5 draft, when the Tigers traded for his draft rights, then acquired his long-term rights from the Tampa Bay Rays by trading catcher Curt Casali after spring training.
He was 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 28 starts split between Erie and Toledo last season, and was the Tigers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month in May.
A 26-year-old right-handed reliever, Miller is a former Rangers farmhand still coming back from 2012 Tommy John surgery. He was signed to a minor-league deal by the Tigers in September, after Texas released him.
Ranked the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect last season by MLB.com, Fields is former sixth-round pick of the organization out of Detroit U-D Jesuit who finally seems to be shaking off a few injury-plagued seasons. The son of former Tigers hitting coach Bruce Fields, the organization’s current minor league hitting coordinator, Daniel Fields hit .284 with 10 homers and 58 RBI for Erie last season, ranking 10th in the Eastern League in hitting.
Slotted just behind Fields on that MLB.com prospect list, Suarez hit .254 with 37 extra-base hits and 45 RBI in 111 games with the Sea Wolves.
Moya ranks No. 11 in the Tigers’ organization, according to MLB.com, and the enormous (6-foot-7, 230-pound) power hitter had 36 extra-base hits and 55 RBI for the Flying Tigers in Lakeland last season, three years removed from Tommy John surgery of his own.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old Lennerton hit .278 with 43 extra-base hits for Toledo, earning a spot on the World Team for the Futures Game in July, and was awarded with a Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove after the season.
Valdez is a 23-year-old right-handed reliever who racked up 33 saves between West Michigan and Lakeland last season, earning selection to the Midwest League Midseason All-Star team.
No one was removed from the Tigers' 40-man roster, meaning the couple of non-tender candidates are safe for the moment. Prospects Melvin Mercedes, Casey Crosby, Jose Ortega Ramon Cabrera, Dixon Machado, Francisco Martinez and Hernan Perez were already on the 40-man roster.