The Tigers announced Thursday morning that they’ve designated outfielder Christin Stewart for assignment in order to open a spot on the 40-man roster for lefty Derek Holland, whose contract has been formally selected. Detroit also placed right-hander Rony Garcia on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to March 29, with an abdominal strain.
Stewart, 27, was the No. 34 overall pick in the 2015 draft and was considered one of Detroit’s most promising farmhands for the first few years of his pro career. He mashed his way through the team’s minor-league system and at one point carried the potential to be a bat-first option in left field, but his big-league production simply hasn’t lined up with his minor-league numbers. Stewart has appeared in 157 games for the Tigers over the past three seasons but posted a combined .225/.300/.376 batting line in 586 plate appearances.
Despite having huge raw power, Stewart’s exit velocities (career 86.7 mph) and hard-hit rates (32.2%) have never been particularly impressive. He’s probably been a bit less strikeout-prone than some feared when he punched out in 26% of his Double-A plate appearances, striking out at a 24.9% clip in the big leagues against an 8.3% walk rate.
Stewart still has three-minor league options remaining, so it seems as though he ultimately just fell out of favor with the club’s decision-makers after his lack of production since his 2018 debut. The Tigers inked Robbie Grossman (two years, $10M) and Nomar Mazara (one year, $1.75M) over the winter and took an intriguing outfielder, Akil Baddoo, from the division-rival Twins in the Rule 5 Draft. Baddoo had a monster Spring Training showing, and Detroit also has JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes (another former Rule 5 pick) ticketed for the Opening Day roster. Meanwhile, Daz Cameron and Derek Hill, another pair of former top picks with better defensive skill sets, will open the year at the team’s alternate site.
The Tigers have a week to trade Stewart or attempt to pass him through outright waivers. His raw power and trio of minor-league options could pique the interest of another club with a need for some outfield depth. Stewart’s glove has long been considered to be poor, but he carries a career .264/.366/.501 batting line and 98 home runs in just over 2000 minor league plate appearances.
As for the veteran Holland, it was announced earlier in the week that he’d made team’s Opening Day roster. Those who didn’t track the lefty’s spring training may be surprised due to Holland’s struggles in 2019-20, but there was no way the Tigers were leaving him off the roster after he tossed 9 1/3 shutout innings with just six hits and one walk against a whopping 16 strikeouts during camp.