Tigers Acquire Mark Canha From Brewers

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The Tigers announced that first baseman/outfielder Mark Canha has been acquired in a trade with the Brewers.  Minor league reliever Blake Holub heads back to Milwaukee in return.

It can be assumed that Detroit will exercised the $11.5MM club option on Canha’s services for the 2024 season, which is essentially a $9.5MM decision since that option came with a $2MM buyout.  The trade saves the Brewers from at least that $2MM payout, while also bringing a 25-year-old reliever into the farm system.

Canha’s contract was initially established with the Mets, when the veteran inked a two-year, $26.5MM free agent deal during the 2021-22 offseason.  Canha’s 2022 season in New York was solid, though his performance dipped to a .245/.343/.381 slash line over 303 plate appearances in 2023 before the Mets dealt Canha to Milwaukee at the trade deadline.  The change of scenery sparked Canha’s bat, and he hit .287/.373/.427 over 204 PA for the Brew Crew to help Milwaukee capture the NL Central title.

It is fair to guess that the Brewers only viewed Canha as a rental piece, yet his performance probably gave the front office some second thoughts about whether or not to retain the nine-year veteran via the club option.  The $11.5MM price tag might’ve been simply a bit too high for the Brewers’ liking, plus Canha turns 35 in February and Milwaukee also has a bit of an outfielder surplus.  With those outfielders needing time in the corners and at DH, Canha might’ve been considered a luxury, even though the Brewers are still in clear need of some first base help heading into 2024.

Milwaukee fans may bristle at the idea of moving Canha for payroll purposes or for “just” a minor league reliever, yet Holub might be the type of under-the-radar bullpen arm the Brewers have had a knack for discovering in recent years.  A 15th-round pick for the Tigers in the 2021 draft, Holub posted a 6.23 ERA over 52 innings at the A-ball/high-A levels in 2022, but took a nice step forward this past season.  Over 65 1/3 combined innings at high-A and Double-A, Holub had a 3.03 ERA, 29.34% strikeout rate, and 6.56% walk rate.  The improved control is particularly noteworthy, considering how Holub struggled to avoid free passes in 2022.

Today’s trade marks one of the biggest moves made by Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris in his year-plus tenure, and the first sign that the Tigers could be planning to contend next year.  Granted, one year of Canha isn’t a huge expenditure, and Canha might very well find himself on the move again at the deadline if Detroit isn’t in the AL Central or wild card race.  However, Canha does add some veteran reinforcement to a young Tigers team, and his skillset is a fit in many ways for Detroit’s roster.

Spencer Torkelson has first base spoken for in the Motor City, but Canha can act as a right-handed hitting complement at DH or in the corner outfield for any of Kerry Carpenter, Riley Greene, Parker Meadows, or Akil Baddoo (who all swing from the left side).  Canha projects as the regular left fielder for the moment, with Carpenter at DH and Greene probably targeted for right field, depending on how the Tigers deploy Greene and Meadows between center and right field.  Matt Vierling, Andy Ibanez, and Zach McKinstry are also in the mix for corner outfield work, and with so many unproven commodities competing for jobs, Canha adds some stability to Detroit’s lineup.

In a related move, the Tigers yesterday also declined their $30MM club option on Miguel Cabrera for 2024, paying the future Hall-of-Famer $8MM in a buyout.  Cabrera had already announced his retirement and is now moving into a special assistant role with the team, so the buyout was just a formality.  It does officially end Cabrera’s 16-year run as a player in Detroit, while also ending the team’s financial commitment to the slugger.  With Cabrera’s eight-year, $248MM contract now off the books, it could allow Harris a bit more flexibility to spend, such as this trade to add Canha’s deal to the Tigers’ payroll.

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