We've scoured the Tiger organization and the free agent market to find an outfielder who could platoon with Rajai Davis in left field, now that Andy Dirks is out for twelve weeks due to back surgery. The internal options aren't pretty and the free agents remaining on the market aren't much better.
When I wrote about the subject in yesterday's article, (a pretty thorough review of the options available) I sort of wishfully came to the conclusion that Daniel Fields might be the Tigers' best hope to fill the void, even though most observers in the know feel that Fields is not quite ready for showtime. Tiger manager Brad Ausmus quickly dashed those hopes before the virtual ink was dry on the story.
"I don't wanna say he's not a candidate, but he's probably a notch below just because of the development,"
Ausmus also hinted that the Tigers might be okay if Rajai Davis stepped up his game and could take the job on a full time basis. Dave Dombrowski added that they didn't sign Davis with the idea of playing him full time, but that he'd be looking internally to solve the problem.
Well, here's the problem: there are no decent internal options. Davis can't hit right handed pitching worth a lick, and Don Kelly can barely hit at all. The team is already short their best left handed bat with the departure of Prince Fielder, and they were counting on Dirks to have a bounce back season along with his usual steady defense in left field.
So if there are no good internal options and the free agent market is bone dry, that leaves the trade avenue as the only reliable means to find a left handed hitting outfielder to fill the void. Keep in mind that Torii Hunter will be a free agent after the 2014 season, and the Tiger bench isn't exactly full of power bats, so there's plenty of room for an upgrade, if the right player can be found without selling the farm.
Steve Adams at MLBTR writes that the Chicago White Sox are taking calls for outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo. Of particular interest to the Tigers would be De Aza, whom the White Sox picked up off waivers from the Marlins after the 2009 season. This is intriguing, if Dombrowki can make it work. After all, the Tigers swung a three way trade with the White Sox and Red Sox to get Jose Iglesias last summer.
De Aza is a left handed hitting outfielder with some speed and increasing power. He was originally signed by the Dodgers, then taken by the Marlins in the rule 5 draft in 2004. He's been around for a while, he'll be 30 in April, and has four years of major league experience under his belt.
De Aza has a career slash line of .274 .336 .408 in 1648 plate appearances. In 2013, he hit .264 .323 .405 in 673 plate appearances, with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases (more than anyone on the Tigers, which isn't saying much). Defensively, he is pretty average by UZR numbers, and he has 300 games in center field, and 100 games in left field.
The White Sox appear to be ready to insert young prospects Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton into their outfield for the 2014 season, so they have an outfielder to spare, and De Aza might just be available. He was Chicago's lead off man in 146 games last season.
One note of caution, De Aza hit .252 .313 .389 .702 against right handers last season, and has generally hit left handers better, although his career slash line against RHP's is .263 .332 .401 .733. That is significantly better than any of the internal options that the Tigers have.
De Aza is set to make $ 4.25 million in 2014 and will be eligible for arbitration one more time for the 2015 season, where he figures to get a raise from that number. He is under club control through the 2015 season. If he isn't playing every day in Chicago, it makes sense for the White Sox to trade him, and there should be no shortage of suitors.
What would it take to get De Aza, if the White Sox would even consider trading him within their own division? Prospects. Major league ready prospects, and this could be a problem for Detroit. Chicago is a team that figures to have bottomed out in their rebuilding effort and hopes to be on the rise as they infuse new blood into their roster. But the Tigers don't have a lot to offer in terms of major league ready prospects.
If not De Aza, Viciedo is a right handed outfielder who comes with more power, a $ 2.8 million salary, and another season of club control remaining. In 378 career plate appearances against right handed pitchers, he has a slash line of .258 .315 .458 .773. The 24 year old Cuban is competing with De Aza for the final spot in Chicago's outfield this spring. Overall, Viciedo hit .265 .304 .426 .731 in 2013, in 473 plate appearances, all in left field or DH.
I won't even get into speculating what the Tigers might give up to get De Aza. Much depends on how much Dombrowski feels that he needs to avoid Rajai Davis, Don Kelly, or Steve Lombardozzi starting against right handed pitchers, and how much the White Sox value any given players that the Tigers might offer them. In all likelihood, there will be another team who can give Chicago better value for a full time lead off hitter who hit 17 homers with 20 steals one season ago. But the thought is intriguing, and worth pursuing.