With seemingly infinite possibilities facing the Detroit Tigers and their roster remodeling project following the Prince Fielder trade, left field is sure to get some attention. If the Tigers make a move here, expect it to be for a left-handed hitter, and likely one with some pop in his bat. The Tigers have three options:
- Go in-house with Andy Dirks/Nick Castellanos
- Sign a free agent
- Swing another blockbuster trade
The combination of Dirks and Castellanos would be serviceable. Whether it was a spring training knee injury or a sudden decline in skill for Dirks, his 2013 was a disappointing campaign following up his 2012 in which he hit .322 with a .370 on-base %.
Castellanos would probably thrive in more of a full-time role, which he would be more likely to get if the Tigers shift him back to 3rd base. If he remains in left field, where his defensive skills will remain a work in progress, he will split at-bats with Dirks.
One intriguing aspect of this duo is that they are cheap. The Fielder trade, while freeing up $76M over the long-term, only frees up $8M in 2014. With the pressing need to add two bullpen arms the Tigers would be wise to save a few bucks in left field, if possible.
Another in-house option could be moving the newly acquired Ian Kinsler to left. This has been rumored but Kinsler has been a career 2nd baseman and if he’s on the roster, an infield spot would be a more natural fit.
Free agent focus
As we have certainly learned by now, the Tigers will shock and awe. Shed one, giant, horrible contract in Fielder and what do they do? They fly the #1 free agent on the market, Robinson Cano, in for a visit late last week. All options are on the table.
As mentioned above, if the Tigers bring in a new left fielder it will almost certainly be a left-handed hitter, and preferably one with power. The closest thing on the market to that is Shin-Soo Choo. The 32-year old Choo has set himself apart as an elite leadoff man. Last year for the Reds he sported a dynamic .423 on-base %. He batted .285 with 34 doubles, 21 homers, and 20 steals. 2013 was the 3rd time he has put up a 20-20 season.
Plant Choo in front of Hunter and Cabrera and good things would happen. But Choo wants something in the neighborhood of 5 years and $100M. He’s actually worth it, but will the Tigers be inclined to fork out that kind of dough? I honestly have no idea.
Another jumbo contract is going to be given by someone to Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. He is another top-shelf leadoff guy that could allow the Tigers to either trade Austin Jackson or move him over to left field. He wants $200M. Funny that he wants double what Choo is asking but only had a .355 on-base%. And he’s no spring chicken either as he’ll turn 31 in September.
With Jacoby, it is his rare base stealing ability that truly sets him apart. In 2013, he stole 52 bases in just 56 attempts. He would give the Tigers something they haven’t had since, what, Ron LeFlore? I personally don’t see Ellsbury coming to Detroit but the Tigers are sure to at least consider the option. But to spend $200M on 30+ year old legs? Pass.
Carlos Beltran is also out there but I see him looking for a home with a vacancy at designated hitter. He’ll turn 37 in April and doesn’t have a lot left outside of the batter’s box, where he is still special. He too will want a boatload of money.
Of these obvious options, I greatly prefer Choo.
Trade winds blowing?
When GM Dave Dombrowski strikes, it usually comes from out of nowhere. As such, I like to find potential matches that support his track record. Occasionally I nail one, like I did with Jose Veras this past July.
I have recently mentioned Philly’s Domonic Brown. Why do I love this guy? Because he’s young, powerful, bats left-handed, plays a great outfield, and is dirt cheap. While the recently turned 26-year old was busy swatting 27 bombs in 2013, the Phillies were happily paying him the league minimum of $500K. And that’s exactly what he’ll make in 2014 as well before heading into three years of arbitration.
With his ability and extremely user-friendly contract, the Phillies would be asking a premium. And I would give them Doug Fister, Hernan Perez, and James McCann if that’s what it took.
Why Fister over Rick Porcello? Because I think Fister is as good right now as he’ll ever be and Porcello still has untapped upside. I’m not a major league GM but that is a hefty package coming from the Tigers. Maybe it’s too much. If so, then back it down accordingly but getting a left-hander with pop like Brown is a rarity, and it will cost. Brown could bat 5th behind Victor Martinez.
Moving Fister or Porcello would also rid the team payroll of about $7M this coming year and even more in 2015.
The Tigers have to find a way to replace some of the power that left the lineup when Fielder approved the trade to Texas. If Brown isn’t on the market, then another exciting option is that of Colorado Rockies star Carlos Gonzalez.
The Rox have said they aren’t looking to move him, but Gonzalez’s contract is about to increase and Colorado likes to keep a low payroll. He made just under $8M in ’13 but will get nearly $11M next season and up it goes from there. From 2015-17 he’ll make $16.4M, $17.4M, and $20.4M, respectively.
A similar package to what I outlined for Brown would have to be enticing although the Rockies would have greater use for Castellanos than Philly and might demand he be included in the deal, which would work for me. Either Fister or Porcello and their groundball-inducing ways would be ideal in the Coors Field altitude. CarGo could bat right behind Miguel Cabrera and in front of VMart.
The main knock on Gonzalez is that he is injury prone (but so is Kinsler). He has never played more than 145 games in a given season. Since 2010 he has played in just 79.8% of possible games but has still averaged 27 homers, 22 steals, and hits well over .300. Plus, he’s only 28-years old, just now entering his prime.
Given his injury history and ballooning contract concerns (that is still way more affordable than what any free agent the Tigers could get will be seeking), we might be looking at two huge reasons why the Rockies could be convinced to move him. And he has to stay healthy eventually, no?
So there you have it. Just one position is put under the microscope here and about eight different ideas are on the table. Of all of the ones mentioned, I would love to see the Domonic Brown trade take shape. Which option do you think works best?
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