It was the last thing on anyone's mind as Austin Jackson jogged off the field on July 31st. First, there was the initial shock of the trade that had brought David Price to Detroit. Then, the sadness that Jackson and Drew Smyly were no longer members of the Tigers organization. Then, a wave of concern. The Tigers lost to the Chicago White Sox that afternoon, capping off a 5-9 stretch since the All-Star break.
Only after all of those emotions did the realization come that Ezequiel Carrera was one of the Tigers' new center fielders.
Carrera signed with the Tigers as a minor league free agent in Jaunary. He was mentioned as a potential dark horse to make the Tigers' Opening Day roster once Andy Dirks was injured in Spring Training, but the Tigers assigned him to minor league camp and rolled with rookie Tyler Collins instead. Collins flopped early -- and it's possible that his early demotion was by design -- but Carrera was never recalled.
While he was stuck in the minors, Carrera proceeded to have his best season yet as a professional. He hit .307/.387/.422 with 26 extra base hits and 68 runs scored in 434 plate appearances. He drew walks in a career high 11.1 percent of those plate appearances and struck out at just a 15 percent clip. He stole 43 bases in 56 attempts, falling just short of last season's 43-for-55 effort in the Indians' organization.
Despite the excellent numbers, Carrera seemed destined to spend the entire season in Toledo. Then, the big trade happened. The Tigers recalled Carrera from Toledo, inserting him into a quasi-platoon with Rajai Davis. Carrera only started 10 games in the month of August, but appeared in 17 more, often as a defensive replacement.
Carrera played in 45 games with the Tigers in August and September, but only logged 73 plate appearances. He gathered 18 hits in 69 bats for a passable .261 batting average. However, his excellent minor league walk rate disintegrated and he ended the year with a .301 on-base percentage. To his credit, Carrera stole seven bases in eight chances and scored 12 runs in his limited playing time. This made him worth 0.3 offensive WAR, putting him on a similar pace as Kansas City's Jarrod Dyson.
Unfortunately, that lofty comparison ends there. Carrera rated as a slightly below average defender in center field, and the eye test largely agrees with this. He made a couple of spectacular plays like this...
...but balanced those out with a couple of boneheaded ones as well. In particular, his ill-timed dive in the ninth inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins looms large as an unnecessary error.
Despite the promising peripheral numbers, Carrera wasn't a very good addition to the team once Austin Jackson was traded. His 78 wRC+ indicates that he was well below average offensively, and he wasn't the game-changing defender in center field that some made him out to be. It speaks volumes that the Tigers traded one of their better prospects for Anthony Gose, a player with a similar skill set. Carrera could be a good fit for a team with the right team -- considering the above comparison, a Dyson-like role would work -- but he probably doesn't have much of a future with the 2015 Tigers.