Today is the deadline for the Tigers to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. The team announced all 7 eligible players were offered deals for the coming 2013 season.
Eligible for arbitration are Alex Avila, Phil Coke, Doug Fister, Austin Jackson, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. Those 6 Tigers are considered core players on the reigning American League champions and were going to be offered contracts, no matter what.
The only arbitration eligible player who was not sure to be offered a deal for 2013 was 27 year old outfielder Brennan Boesch.
The Boesch question was officially answered this afternoon when the much derided right fielder was offered a contract.
Boesch's status remained in question despite being given a vote of confidence by GM Dave Dombrowski during his end of season press conference. At that time, Dombrowski said the team believed Boesch still has untapped potential.
Based on a solid, if injury shortened, 2011 season, Boesch was expected to be the full-time right fielder in 2012. Instead, he became a prime reason why the Tigers' corner outfield production was one of the worst in baseball. Boesch is coming off a brutal season on offense (.240/.286/.372 in 470 at bats) and defense (-17 total zone). Using bWAR, Bosch was one of the worst players in MLB at -1.4.
Regardless of his struggles this past season, the extremely streaky Boesch remains an inexpensive outfield option and is under team control until 2016, which is why the Tigers elected to offer Boesch a contract instead of allowing him to walk. The team must believe Boesch's 2012 was an ugly outlier which won't be repeated.
But once burned, twice shy. The Tigers more than hedged their right field bets by signing Torii Hunter to play the position for the next 2 seasons. Boesch's best case scenario will be making the team as an extra outfielder. If he can fix what ails his swing, Boesch could be a valuable left handed bat off the bench for a team which struggled mightily against right handed pitching. Rumors have been swirling Boesch could also be used as an additional chip in a trade.
Boesch can't expect much of a raise, if any, over the $502,500 he made in 2012. So it's not going to cost the Tigers much cash to find out if Boesch can reverse his downward trend.