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The Tigers' 9 best options for filling their left field hole

Because if we're all in, we're all in...and well, because Tyler Collins.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

As Mike Ilitch recently said "I don't care about the money".

While no one can deny that Ilitch has been more than generous over the years in allowing the Detroit Tigers to have one of the largest payrolls in baseball, it's quite clearly obvious that he still does in fact care about the money. I think if we're all honest the situation as it stands in regards to left field is; don't need, per se, but very much want.

As we sit here today the depth chart in left looks something like an Anthony Gose/Cameron Maybin/Tyler Collins merry-go-round of a platoon with some potential sure, but limited in actual proven production.

"It might sound silly, but I don't care about spending money," Ilitch said a few weeks ago during the press conference to introduce Jordan Zimmermann. "I'm supposed to be a good boy and not go over (the luxury tax limit). But if I think there are certain players that could help us a lot, I'll go over it."

Well Michael, there certainly are players that could still help the Tigers a lot and they're still sat there on the open market, waiting, wondering.

After the additions of Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey it's clear the Tigers' winter additions to the starting rotation look done, as does the bullpen (granted there still could be something else done here) with the numerous new faces that have arrived in that department, but its left field that still has people wondering if Detroit is still really in good enough shape, should the season start tomorrow.

A while back I analyzed the starting and relief pitching markets as well as the left field free agent market. It's a raw and full of caveats, but it did however give a rough idea of what and who might be out there should the Tigers see fit. Now the pitching has been taken care of I'm going to elaborate further on the left field portion of that article and see where the fits might be at both the top and bottom ends of the market and the guys inbetween.

The High Rollers

Player OPS wRC+ DRS 2015 WAR 2016 Projected Salary
Yoenis Cespedes .805 121 15 6.7 $22 m
Alex Gordon .783 113 94 2.8 $18 m
Justin Upton .825 121 19 3.6 $20 m

The crème de la crème of the left field market sits in this section. Can the Tigers afford them? Not if they want to stay under the luxury tax, clearly not, but this isn't just about that consideration. If GM Al Avila sees the window of opportunity to persuade Ilitch that signing one of the above would catapult the club into favorite status in the AL Central then we all know by now that money can, if Mr I wants somebody, be no object.

Justin Upton would be the one to covet, not to mention he's also the youngest, making a long-term deal less exposed to disastrous back end consequences, but he's also a very streaky player with less defensive value than the other two. Talking of defense, if that's your primary motivator then it's not even a contest, Alex Gordon absolutely blows the others away; however, he's the oldest of the three and is the least valuable from an offensive standpoint. Again, it depends what you're looking for in a left fielder.

The Steady Eddies

Player OPS wRC+ DRS 2015 WAR 2016 Projected Salary
Gerardo Parra .780 108 65 0.4 $8 m
Steve Pearce .711 91 11 0.3 $6 m
Alejandro De Aza .755 104 -22 1.2 $6 m

A clear winner here, both offensively and defensively. Parra has been a bit of a sleeper of mine for quite some time, he's better than league average with the bat, excellent with the glove and has a little pop (14 HR last year) to go with it. Pearce's numbers are somewhat streaky with a stellar 4.9 fWAR in 2014 mixed in with less impressive years either side but he certainly profiles as the slugger of the three, with passable defense, while De Aza offers somewhat of a middle ground between the two.

The Bargain Bin

Player OPS wRC+ DRS 2015 WAR 2016 Proj. Salary
Kelly Johnson .750 107 8 0.3 $3m
David Murphy .739 103 -10 0.3 $4m
Matt Joyce .564 62 -5 -1.4 $4m

Yeah, we're starting to scrape the barrel now however there looks to be a little bit of value in Kelly Johnson with both bat and glove and interestingly he has a career reverse split in OPS of .764 vs. lefties compared to .752 vs. right handed pitching.


What I haven't considered here is the possibility of platooning someone like a Ryan Raburn or delving into the Korean market for someone like a Hyun-soo Kim, though it appears the Orioles have beaten us to the punch on that one.

Sure, there's some value to be had in the likes of Johnson, more so with Gerardo Parra and possible dingers with Steve Pearce but really, I come back to the question in the sub-header. Mr I, the future is now, so go get us one of those high rollers and make what's already been a very promising winter into an incredibly exciting one.

Because if we're all in, we're all in, aren't we?