Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Shane Victorino did not play well in 2012, but could prove to be a valuable outfield pick-up as he looks to bounce back in 2013.
Who is he?
"The Flyin' Hawaiian" has been overrated by some in the past, but after a poor showing in 2012 he may prove to be a steal for someone in 2013. Victorino is hitting the open market for the first time at age 31 -- though he turns 32 at the end of the month -- but some are wondering whether he has already lost a step. He hit .255/.321/.383 last season with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs, but stole a career-high 39 bases on 45 attempts. Over the course of his career, Victorino is a .270/.341/.430 hitter.
Why should we care?
One of the main concerns I've seen in the comments of this site and on Twitter is the ability to hit left-handed pitching. The switch-hitting Victorino is a career .301/.373/.508 hitter against lefties and still hit .323/.388/.518 against southpaws last season with 6 home runs in 186 plate appearances. At worst, Victorino would be a nice platoon partner with Andy Dirks or Quintin Berry. If Victorino returns to his career norms -- .267/.330/.402 against right-handed pitching -- he could prove to be the consistent #2 hitter that the Tigers haven't had since Placido Polanco signed with the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2009 season.
Advanced defensive metrics aren't completely sold on Victorino's defense in center field, but they absolutely loved the production he gave the Dodgers in left field during last season's stretch run. In just over 400 innings, Victorino had an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 6.0. By comparison, Austin Jackson's UZR was 4.1 for all of 2012 -- a comparison that either makes Victorino look amazing or completely debunks the validity of UZR as a measuring tool. Regardless, Victorino would look great in either corner outfield spot, though his arm strength would be a bit questionable for right field.
Oh, and speed. While Victorino won't steal 39 bases for the Tigers, his 87% success rate in 2012 is very encouraging. He would provide the upgrade in outfield athleticism that Dave Dombrowski wants as well.
Why should we stay away?
While 2013 could definitely be a bounce-back year for Victorino, his drop off in 2012 can't be labeled a fluke until he proves otherwise. His contract wishes -- which haven't been made public as of yet -- could also play a big factor. His age plays a factor as well; his speed can drop off at a moment's notice and his dip in power is also concerning. There is also a decent chance that Victorino still sees himself as a center fielder and will look to go to a franchise that will give him that opportunity.
Will he end up in Detroit?
I don't think so, but I would love to have him. Victorino would be a massive defensive upgrade over the black hole of suck that was right field in 2012 -- largely due to Brennan Boesch's inadequacies, no doubt -- and any pop his bat provides would be an additional boost to his value. He will be 32 next season, but his speed has shown no signs of declining yet and his gap power will play very well in Comerica Park. He may also be interested in a one year deal (possibly with an option) in order to set himself up for one last payday next winter, which would play right into the Tigers' interests. No doubt some will complain if he signs with the Tigers, but I won't be among them.