Jason Benetti at a Xavier basketball preview event in October 2023. Sports commentator Jason Benetti host the discussion during a Xavier University basketball preseason preview event at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

The MLB offseason is underway, but one of the biggest moves so far there has actually come in the broadcast booth. The Detroit Tigers announced Thursday that they’ve signed Jason Benetti, formerly with the Chicago White Sox in addition to his national work with Fox, to a multi-year deal as their lead TV voice on Bally Sports Detroit:

Here’s more on that from that release, which spells out that Benetti (seen above at an October Xavier basketball preseason event) will be employed by the Tigers and will call at least 127 games for them in addition to his national work for Fox and for Westwood One (specifically with March Madness in the latter case):

Benetti, one of the top voices in Major League Baseball, college football, and college basketball, joins the Tigers after eight seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Known for his elite storytelling ability, creative thinking, and engaging personality on-air and behind-the-scenes, Benetti will work alongside the Tigers, production staff with Bally Sports Detroit, and his partners in the booth to entertain and inform fans across the world.

“I’m incredibly proud to join this historic and ascending Tigers franchise,” said Benetti. “From every single person I talked with throughout the interview process it was clear why so many respected professionals and creative people have joined the organization in the last several years. There’s something special about it, and I’m excited to bring that energy to Tigers fans around the globe. I’d also like to thank Chris Ilitch, Ryan Gustafson, Scott Harris, and everyone else I’ve met with in the last several weeks who have been so welcoming. Everyone I spent time with made it clear this was the right place for me. I was born and raised in the Midwest, and understand how important sports are, especially here in the Motor City.”

…With time built into his schedule to satisfy national broadcast obligations, Benetti will call a minimum of 127 Tigers games each season. When those scheduling conflicts occur, the Tigers will move long-time radio play-by-play voice Dan Dickerson over to television. Dickerson, who has filled in on television in the past, agreed to do this to ensure fans have the best broadcast experience possible throughout the season.

“Jason is a world-class talent and today is another tremendous step forward for the Tigers as we continue to build a championship-level organization and experience for our fans,” said Ryan Gustafson, EVP/COO of Ilitch Sports + Entertainment. “Beyond his talent, Jason’s story is inspirational and our shared commitment to excellence and innovation was apparent throughout our discussions. We are thrilled to welcome Jason to our family, joining an incredible group of broadcasters at the Tigers and Red Wings that create the on-air experience our fans deserve.”

Benetti started calling some White Sox games in 2016, primarily calling home games in place of Ken “Hawk” Harrelson. He took over full play-by-play duties there in 2019 after Harrelson’s retirement, and also worked for ESPN (2011-2022) and NBC (Olympics and Peacock baseball, 2021-22) before joining Fox for national work last year.

Benetti has received plenty of praise for his announcing work. That’s included his work on the local front, with the White Sox (primarily featuring him and analyst Steve Stone, with Len Kasper and Gordon Beckham also involved at times) ranking sixth in our fan survey on local announcers this year. The Tigers’ 2023 team of play-by-play voice Matt Shepard with a variety of analysts, including lead analyst Craig Monroe, Dan Petry, and Kirk Gibson, ranked dead last in that survey. As Zane Harding wrote at Tigers’ blog Bless You Boys in response to that survey, many viewed Shepard as the main issue:

The problem is mainly with Matt Shepherd and the widespread impression that he’s just not a baseball guy, nor a very compelling broadcaster in general. His forced use of catch phrases, particularly his own pet ones that don’t fit into a baseball context, and general lack of easy familiarity with the game are the chief gripes. However, different color analysts have their supporters and detractors too, without any one of the group really seizing the role and becoming a long-term fixture.

One curious element of this move is that in January, White Sox local broadcaster NBC Sports Chicago announced they’d picked up the multi-year option on Benetti’s contract and signed Stone to a new multi-year deal. But those contracts were announced quite late in the offseason, and Jeff Agrest of The Chicago Sun-Times reported at the time that one holdup was negotiating specific numbers of games Benetti would call for the White Sox (with his Fox duties obviously taking some of his time), so those contractual talks weren’t all smooth sailing. But it is unusual to see an under-contract broadcaster who’s still being featured on air (rather than under-contract but no longer on air people, who do exit more often) leave for another job.

Contracts do often have spelled-out out clauses for one or both parties, though, and moves like this do sometimes happen. They’re just more rare than pure free agency moves. And the White Sox put out a statement wishing Benetti well and saying they allowed him to explore this opportunity. So it’s possible that the Tigers made Benetti a better offer, or that they were more willing to have him call fewer games due to his national responsibilities:

There’s a lot still to be seen here, including if Monroe, Gibson (who is battling Parkinson’s disease and has taken a more limited role in recent seasons), and the rest of the current group of analysts will return, or if the Tigers will find a new lead analyst to work alongside Benetti. We’ll also see who the White Sox tab to replace Benetti.

[Photo from Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer, via USA Today Sports]

[Ilitch News Hub]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.