Not that Tigers will be looking for outfielders this off season, after a strong playoff performance from Delmon Young, solid defense from Austin Jackson, and another pair of solid half seasons from Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn, but Mike Ilitch did say that he would like to have another “big bat” in the lineup, and there aren’t a whole lot of them among the class of free agent infielders. More to the point, the Tigers might be looking for a No. 3 hitter with a bit of pop and some on base ability to replace a big chunk of what they got from Magglio Ordonez before the power outage zapped Magglio in early 2009. So it’s worth a look at what might be available should they decide to go shopping for a bat, rather than moving around the guys that they have, such as, ohhh, hitting Avila third or something. My list of the top ten free agent outfielders this winter:
1. Nick Swisher; The Yankees hold a $ 10.25 million club option on Swisher, with a $ 1 million buyout. Figures he’d be back after a strong season, but you never know with the Yankees. Swisher hit .260 .374 .449 .822 with 23 homers and 83 RBI. He’s a switch hitter, and 11 of his 23 HR came on the road. He’s a switch hitter and gets on base from either side of the plate, and would slot very nicely into the 2 slot in the Tiger lineup. He is also a Type A free agent, bit it seems unlikely that New York would decline his option, then offer arbitration. He’s 30 years old, but went to Ohio State, so that kills the deal.
NOTE: The Yankees have just picked up Swisher's option, but he may be available in a trade should New York go after another outfielder, such as Beltran.
2. Carlos Beltran, A switch hitter, still a solid defender, hit .300 .385 .525 .910 with 22 homers and 84 RBI playing for the Mets and Giants in 2011. Beltran is a Type A free agent, and it always hurts to give up a first round pick if he is offered arbitration. The Giants figure to make a push to keep him although at a reduced salary. He has made $ 18.5 million each of the past four seasons, and would be looking at a big pay cut, but will be looking for a multi year deal. His biggest issue has been health, as he played half a season or less in 2009 and 2010.
3. Josh Willingham; One of last year’s real free agent bargains (whom I wanted the Tigers to sign), and a true power hitter. Josh hit 29 homers in that cave in Oakland, and had a stat line of .246 .332 .477 .810. He hits RHP’s just as well as lefties even though he is a right handed batter. He’d be a No. 3 hitter with three year splits of .257 .360 .479 .839. Put that in front of Cabrera and watch the runs pile up! He is also a Type A free agent, and the A’s have said they’d like to have him back, so they may offer arbitration. If not, get him and let the other guys figure out how to get playing time.
4. Michael Cuddyer The arch enemy of the Tigers hit a respectable .284 .346 .459 .805 on the worst team in the league (love saying that) and added 20 homers and 70 RBI. Those numbers have been pretty consistent over the past few years. The Twinkies would like to have him back, so I’d like to steal him, even if we trade him to Buffalo.
5. David DeJesus; DDJ is coming off a bad season in Oakland. He has been a good hitter that kills right handed pitching, a solid outfielder, and a guy that gets on base at .350 or better in his career. In 2011, he was reduced to ..240 .323 .376 .699. He still hit RHP’s at a .265 .357 .430 .787 pace, and that works at the top of the lineup, no problem.
6. Grady Sizemore; The Tribe holds an $ 8.5 million club option on Grady with a $ 500 K buyout. Could we get them to pay his whole salary and send him over? Wouldn’t it be cool if the Tigers signed him and then he didn’t have any more back spasms? How about Inge, Iorg, Brad Thomas, David Purcey, and Raburn for Grady, and we’ll pick up half of his contract?
NOTE: The Indians have declined to pick up Grady's option, but they may be interested in signing him for a lesser amount.
7. Raul Ibanez: The Phillies lefty outfielder seems to be finally fading, after hitting just .245 .289 .419 .707 this season. He still managed 20 homers and 84 RBI in that lineup, in that park. He’d be on a short term contract, and I’m not even sure that the Tigers need another outfielder with power that doesn’t get on base a lot.
8, 9, 10. Ryan Ludwick, Cody Ross, Juan Rivera; Barely worth mentioning. Not much of an upgrade, if any, from what the Tigers have already. Just an indication that this year’s free agent outfield crop is not all that bountiful.