Depth is important to every MLB team. Unfortunately, the Detroit Tigers have very little. Depth is something that Detroit has struggled with producing for quite a few years, in large part because so many of their top prospects were traded away with aplomb by former president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.
The few depth players that the Tigers have actually managed to scrape together over the years are often a poor facsimile of the player they are filling in for. Few have been competent. These include a couple of players we became familiar with over the course of the 2016 season: Tyler Collins and Steven Moya.
Collins is a viable fourth outfielder, and was fairly valuable to the Tigers as a stopgap during Cameron Maybin's frequent injuries in 2016. Collins has acceptable power and is not a complete liability on the basepaths, but does come with some red flags. He is extremely strikeout-prone and is far from the most graceful of corner outfielders with his glove, but is far from unusable.
Steven Moya, as a prospect, is fundamentally sound. Rob explained why a year ago.
It [is] easy to get carried away with the hype. Steven Moya, a massive individual with surprising speed and athleticism for someone with a 6'7" frame, hit 35 home runs and drove in 105 runs in 133 games for the Erie SeaWolves last season. He has drawn rave reviews for his light-tower power, an easy 80-grade tool on par with the likes of Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers.
In addition, he has an above average arm and his 6'7 stature allows him to make catches others may not be able to, by virtue of the fact that he stands head and shoulders above most other people.
While that is a nice theory, it struggles to come into play in games. In GameThreads this year, he was described by BYB readers as looking like "Bambi on ice," and "cringeworthy." One person even said "gotta cover the eyes when he’s out there most times". That is not ideal.
The silver lining is easy to identify: the power is real. Despite the ridiculous strikeout totals (his at-bats ended in a strikeout 38 percent of the time) and minuscule walk totals (a mere five percent of at-bats ended in walks), Moya still put together a 106 wRC+, six percent above league average, and a 42.1 percent hard-hit ball percentage.
The problem: a team only needs to carry one fourth outfielder. Just stack one in Toledo you say? Well, they're both fresh out of minor league options. That presents a problem for the Tigers.
There are a couple things that could be done about this issue. The club could carry five outfielders at once, but holding onto both Collins and Moya all year is unrealistic. The Tigers have used Collins in limited numbers of outings in both 2015 and 2016, but he has spent more time in Toledo than in Detroit in that time, with 121 games in Toledo to 116 in Detroit. Moya has spent even more time in the minors during that span, and neither player has impressed enough at either level to warrant more than a bench role next season. Infielder Dixon Machado is also out of options, leaving the Tigers with three prospects to fill two roster spots.
The Tigers could also look to trade either outfielder. Neither Collins nor Moya has much trade value, but could return a lower-level prospect in the right deal. Collins could be useful as a regular for a less competitive team, or as a solid fourth outfielder. Moya also has a chance to be a very useful piece, but his floor as a major league player is much lower than Collins.
The Tigers could also dump both players and look for a fourth outfielder elsewhere. One internal option is Jeff McVaney. who has put up solid minor league numbers, batting .291/.402/.858. He also has an impressive 12.0 percent walk rate, along with a fairly small strikeout rate of 16.0 percent. Unfortunately, the Tigers have never seen him as a viable major leaguer, and didn't even give him a September call up. McVaney is also entering his age 27 season, and is probably more of an organizational piece at this point.
The Tigers could also look to bring back another outfielder in a trade, and either trade or designate Collins and Moya for assignment. No matter what happens, the Tigers have a decision to make next spring, one that could shape their bench depth for 2017.