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Mailbag: Should the Tigers trade Ian Kinsler?

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Would Jason Heyward make sense in Detroit? How good is Devon Travis? Do we want Ichiro? All of this and more in this week's mailbag!

Gregory Shamus

Now that the Tigers have made a couple moves this offseason, mailbag questions have gotten more diverse than "Should we acquire this guy?" There are still a couple of those in this week's mix -- I found these ones particularly interesting -- but we've also got some actual lineup construction to talk about! Remember, be sure to send us your questions on Facebook, on Twitter, or email us at bybtigers@gmail.com!

Honestly, if either team were to add any pieces in this hypothetical trade, it would have to be the Atlanta Braves. Ian Kinsler is coming off a clunker of a second half in 2014, but is still under contract for three more seasons (with a team option for 2018). Meanwhile, Jason Heyward only has one year of club control remaining before he hits free agency. Heyward was unable to work out a contract extension with his hometown Braves -- he grew up 30 minutes outside of downtown Atlanta -- making it extremely unlikely that he would re-sign with anyone else before he hits the free agent market. Because of that, this deal doesn't make much sense for the Tigers unless you really believe in Hernan Perez.

I also can't see the Braves wanting to add a 32 year old second baseman when the rest of their core is so young. None of their starting position players were 30 years old in 2014, and their two biggest stars -- Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons -- just turned 25. Top prospect Jose Peraza finished the 2014 season at Double A and could potentially be ready for a starting gig in 2016. With their new Cobb County stadium opening in 2017, the Braves are looking to keep their competitive window open as long as possible. A mid-30s Kinsler doesn't fit with that mold, regardless of how good Heyward would look in the Olde English D.

Here's how I look at the new Tiger lineup assuming there's still one piece yet to be filled:

Against lefties: (1) Kinsler-R, (2) New-L, (3) Cabrera-R, (4) V-Martinez-L, (5) JD Martinez-R, (6) Avila-L, (7) Castellanos-R, (8) Gose-L, (9) Iglesias-R

Against righties: (1) Kinsler-R, (2) Davis-R, (3) Cabrera-R, (4) V-Martinez-R, (5) JD Martinez-R, (6) Castellanos-R, (7) Avila-L, (8) New-L, (9) Iglesias-R

(Side notes: Ausmus has shown a desire to "set the table" with a speedster at the 9-hole where he's used Iglesias and Davis at times. He's also swapped Avila and Castellanos at times when he wants more of that left-handed lineup.)

So, the Tigers need an every day corner outfielder with solid defense particularly in the zone-related metrics so he can cover ground at Comerica. He should bat left-handed with enough solid contact and running ability to bat second against right-handed pitchers. Against lefties, the demand to hit is much lower since he can bat fairly low in the order. I can even see him at #9 to make life tough for left handed relief pitching.

How is my logic? Is that too much to ask at this point? Does such a player exist out there? What about in-house: Collins, Moya, or Carrera?

-Dan

Assuming that the Tigers are going to platoon Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose is a dangerous game. They used Rajai much more than they should have in 2014, though this was largely out of necessity. Thanks to a BABIP-fueled first half, Davis had his highest batting average and OPS since 2009. Will this lead the club to inappropriately define Davis as an everyday outfielder? Or are the Tigers so cash-strapped that they are unwilling to spend more than the league minimum on another outfielder? This is the inherent danger of the "stars and scrubs" model.

If money is no option, the obvious choice for an everyday outfielder would be Melky Cabrera. He's a switch hitter, hits both righties and lefties, and is better than Torii Hunter defensively. Nori Aoki would be another solid choice, one that I'm higher on now that there's no chance the team would try him in center field. Aoki will likely only receive a two or three year deal, so future payroll flexibility isn't jeopardized if he gets signed.

If you're looking for a lower cost option, a couple of names I would not mind seeing pop up are Nate Schierholtz and Mike Carp. Both players had awful seasons at the plate in 2014, but have previous success at the MLB level unlike the Tigers' internal options. Schierholtz hit .262/.300/.499 against righties in 2013 and has a career .720 OPS against them. He's also the better defender, with a career UZR of 21.8 in 4,600 outfield innings. Carp hit .300/.367/.537 against righties in 2013, and his career platoon splits are just about even. He also has the ability to play first base, giving the Tigers a bit more roster flexibility.

Of the in-house options, I'd wager that Moya is actually the most likely to get a full-time starting gig. The Tigers were unwilling to let Collins handle a pure platoon in left field to begin the 2014 season. He's a near-lock to make the team in 2015, but will probably be the team's fifth outfielder unless Don Kelly miraculously makes his way back onto the roster. Carrera could also work his way into the mix, but the team seemed to sour on him down the stretch of 2014. Moya's playing time depends entirely on whether the club thinks he's ready for MLB action. I hope that he begins the year in the minors to continue developing his plate discipline, but the Tigers have not been shy about moving prospects aggressively through the system in the past.

I have seen many rumors linking Ichiro to the Tigers to be a 4th outfielder. Is that something we should be interested in?

-BT Mike

Not one bit. Ichiro has a .308 on-base percentage over the past four seasons, will be 41 years old on Opening Day, and still made $6.5 million in 2014. He is a decent defender and can swipe a base once he gets there, but so can a lot of guys. A sizable amount of Ichiro's value came from his ability to reach base consistently. He has only been worth 3.9 WAR in the past four seasons. Now that he's a one win outfielder, it makes no sense to spend premium dollars on him when you have a slightly worse version in house already in Ezequiel Carrera.

Is Ichiro a Hall of Famer? I'd vote for him. But I don't want him anywhere near the 2015 Tigers.

If the Tigers re-sign Max Scherzer, one of two things have happened. Either the Tigers have already traded Price, or Mike Ilitch is giving the luxury tax a bony middle finger, putting the Tigers in super-uber-ultimate-win-now-like-I-mean-win-right-now mode in 2015. If scenario number two is the outcome, I don't think Price gets traded. The Tigers would likely ride out the 2015 season with the Greatest Rotation Ever, hoping to leave nothing but scorched earth and broken dreams in their wake.

In reality, I think a Price trade is completely independent to what Scherzer does this offseason. With only one year of club control remaining, teams will not be offering up a Wil Myers-type package for Price's services. This trade package became even more unlikely when the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman, who tried to pry his new team's prize prospect away when he was shopping Price last July. There isn't another team in baseball with the combination of desperation and prospects that the Tigers would need to pull this off.

Baseball America's recent top prospect list was somewhat dumbfounding. They were irrationally high on Devon Travis last season, ranking him the number two prospect in the system behind a now-graduated Nick Castellanos. That he would be bumped up to number one on their list this year is not surprising, but I still think that they are overrating Travis. The former Tigers prospect only has one tool that projects to be above average, as his stolen base totals belie the fact that he only has average-at-best speed. He could be a decent starter if everything clicks, but will more than likely end up as a bench infielder. The solid second half at Erie is a point in his favor, though.

The curious thing about Baseball America's 2015 list is how much it deviates from their 2014 rankings. Only three players -- Travis, Domingo Leyba, and Hernan Perez -- are on both lists. Jonathon Crawford dropped off after an unimpressive season, while guys with lower ceilings jumped into the mix. For an organization that has historically overrated toolsy prospects with high ceilings, putting Derek Hill fourth on the list is surprising. Hill would have been at the top of my list even before Travis was traded, and he would have been miles ahead of Steven Moya, who appears second on BA's top 10.

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