Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has been the talk of baseball for his recent, sometimes controversial, personnel moves. He traded the believed to be untradable Prince Fielder straight up for Ian Kinsler. Dombrowski followed up by dealing Doug Fister for either his eventual rotation replacement in young left-hander Robbie Ray or for spare parts, depending on your point of view.
Dombrowski having cleared a huge amount of future salary obligations, he began spending that cash by signing an elite closer in Joe Nathan, for what is believed to be $20 million over two seasons. Despite all the maneuvering, the Tigers' offense remains a work in progress. Even with the acquisition of Kinsler, the team badly needs to replace the significant offensive production of the departed Fielder, Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante.
According to sources of Mark Feinsand, Yankees beat writer for the New York Daily News, Dombrowski's next move will be offensive oriented, setting his sights on a free agent outfielder.
A very expensive free agent outfielder.
Source: Tigers are hot for a left-handed outfield bat; Shin-Soo Choo is their top target.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) December 3, 2013
If true, the salary clearing moves start to make sense. Choo may be the top outfielder available on the open market, but he will command a price to match. He reportedly looking for a long-term contract which will pay him in the range of $100 million. Though Choo's price may have gone up significantly after the Yankees set the market on top-of-the-order outfielders by inking Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million deal. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal adds he believes up to eight teams are actively pursuing Choo.
The nine-year-veteran is primarily a center fielder, but has experience playing the corner positions during his earlier tenures with the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians. The 31-year-old Choo is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .285/.423/.462, for a career high .885 OPS. Batting from the lead off spot, Choo added 21 home runs, 54 RBIs, 107 runs and 20 stolen bases for the Cincinnati Reds.
In our series of possible Tigers off-season targets, Rob made a compelling case for Choo.
If you were paying attention when Choo was roaming the Cleveland Indians' outfield, then you need no introduction to his skill set. Still, let's go blow-by-blow. He hits for average, including three consecutive seasons with a .300 average or better from 2008 to 2010. He hits for power, with three 20-homer seasons since 2009. He draws walks -- though he probably won't match this season's ridiculous 15.7% walk rate again. He plays good defense in the corner outfield spots and has a cannon for an arm. He has 50 outfield assists in the last five years, sixth among all major league outfielders. He can even steal bases, having swiped 20 bags in four of the past five years.
The rumored targeting of Choo would seem to confirm Dombrowski is re-imaging the Tigers, moving away from a plodding, powerful team to one more which is more speed and defense oriented.