I'm starting to get sick of talking about this outfield. Maybe it's because the current starting lineup is very underwhelming once you look past J.D. Martinez's glorious biceps. Maybe it's because nothing has changed in over a month. Maybe we're just sick of winter -- though mild, it has been -- and are ready for baseball season again.
Okay, definitely the latter.
Things might be happening soon, though. According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Tigers are still "monitoring outfield and bullpen markets" with a focus on "complementary pieces." While Yoenis Cespedes would complement the middle of the batting order quite nicely, in my opinion, I don't think this is what Rosenthal and Morosi have in mind.
Of course, one could argue that the current outfield (Martinez excepted) consists entirely of complementary pieces. Cameron Maybin, Anthony Gose, and Tyler Collins all have their faults, and the club seems poised to give Mike Aviles some burn in left field as well. Adding another piece, superstar or not, would make fans a lot more comfortable heading into the 2016 season.
Since adding new players is a lot more fun than pointing out how the old ones can't hit lefties for beans, let's review the outfielders that are still available.
|Player||Age||BA / OBP / SLG||fWAR||Qualifying Offer?|
Good news: Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are still available. So is Dexter Fowler, who offers a different skill set but holy crap look how high he can jump. Upton and Fowler would cost the Tigers their third round draft pick if signed, while Cespedes is not tied to any draft pick compensation. All three will push the Tigers well over the luxury tax barrier, and will likely require a three or four-year deal (at minimum) to sign. Inking any one of them to a deal would be an easy fix for a roster otherwise constructed to win now, but the team's reluctance to go over the luxury tax indicates that all three outfielders will ply their trade elsewhere in 2016.
|Player||Age||BA / OBP / SLG||HR||SB||fWAR|
If we're ranking these players in tiers, Gerardo Parra is probably a step above players like Marlon Byrd, Austin Jackson, and Steve Pearce because he has a longer history of above average production. Parra has been a plus defender for most of his career, but graded out very poorly in 2015. He has been a replacement level player for the past two seasons, but was worth 9.1 fWAR from 2011 to 2013. If the Tigers believe the dip in defensive metrics was a one-year blip, he could be a bargain.
Jackson has gone through a similar decline since leaving Detroit, but his offensive game has fallen farther than Parra's. Jackson hit .267/.311/.385 in 2015, and his 5.5 percent walk rate was the lowest of his career. The 28-year-old is trending in the wrong direction, but one wonders if a return to Detroit could revitalize his career.
Byrd is by far the oldest of the bunch at 38, but his skill set is about as "complementary" as it gets. Byrd is a career .286/.337/.465 hitter against left-handed pitching, but he is serviceable against righthanders as well. He has hit at least 23 home runs in each of the past three seasons, and might be amicable to signing a one-year deal.
Steve Pearce has enjoyed the shortest career peak of the players mentioned thus far, but his ceiling is nearly on par with that of the guys detailed in the previous section. He hit .293/.373/.556 with 21 home runs in 383 plate appearances in 2014, falling just shy of 5.0 WAR for the year. Those numbers took a nosedive in 2015, but he still hit 15 home runs in part-time duty. He has spent some time in the infield as well, and could fill holes elsewhere on the roster when injuries strike. The Tigers have already shown some interest in him this offseason, as well.
A little complementary
|Player||Age||BA / OBP / SLG||HR||SB||fWAR|
There are still plenty of nopes available, but some of them make a little bit of sense for the current roster. Ryan Raburn and Rickie Weeks kill left-handed pitching, but are little more than comic relief in the outfield. Weeks also went 3-for-37 against righties in 2015. Delmon Young provides the same outfield lolz, with less of the lefty-mashing perks. Also, he's still only 30. David Murphy and Matt Joyce don't really fit in with the Tigers' other left-handed options, but are legit platoon options when right. Drew Stubbs could be the next Rajai Davis if everything clicks, but he is coming off a disastrous 2015 season. Will Venable and Alex Rios don't really move the needle, but could be assets at the right price. Domonic Brown is an interesting buy-low candidate, but hasn't done anything in his career outside of a scorching hot month in 2013.
Conclusion: I can has Cespedes plz?
Given the steep drop-off in talent after the top few players and the absurdly shallow talent pool in next season's free agent class, it probably makes the most sense for the Tigers to go all-in on either Cespedes or Upton. The market isn't exactly booming at the moment, and people are even whispering about one-year deals for Upton if things continue. Signing another top free agent makes the Maybin acquisition a bit superfluous, but there is enough wiggle room to accommodate another outfielder.