As most fans are aware, the Tigers are in search for a Centerfielder after dealing Cameron Maybin and his owed $9M to the Angels for fringe prospect Victor Alcantara. There is much debate on whom the team should target. However, the team needs to make a clear cut decision should be in full "go for it" mode or "fire-sale." Many Tiger player contracts are tough to deal; thus, the team is forced into "go for it" mode with the possibility to move players at the trade deadline if out of the playoff race. With that being said, a cheap & mediocre free agent Centerfielder on a one-year deal is not the right move for the organization now or the future. The Tigers cannot go into the 2017 season carrying a $200M payroll, with their current situation in Centerfield.
To begin, the internal options the Tigers have leave much to be desired. Tyler Collins, Anthony Gose, and JaCoby Jones are the in-house candidates. Collins is the most likely of the trio to make the 25-man roster out of spring training. However, he has the ceiling of a MLB 4th outfielder. Over his 134 game career in the bigs, Collins has slashed .235/.305/.401 over 383 PA’s. He has also been below average in CF. In 2016, he graded out a -4 Rdrs,-5 Rtot, and -1.8 UZR over 207 innings. 2016’s opening day CF, Anthony Gose is a possible DFA candidate and would need a great spring training to be considered to open the season with the Tigers. After being demoted to the minors last year, he slashed .203/.276/.312 over 90 games between Triple-A & Double-A. Prospect JaCoby Jones rounds out the list of possible internal candidates. He struggles at the plate over a brief 13 game debut in 2016. Jones slashed .214/.214/.321 over his first 28 PA’s at the big league level in 2016. However his defense in CF has been praised. It is no secret that the Tigers would prefer that Jones starts the year in Triple-A for more seasoning. In addition to these three, Tiger’s GM Al Avila recently brought up Alex Presley as an option in CF. If Presley is a indeed a legitimate option to be the Tiger’s opening day CF, that further solidifies what you will read later in this article.
Recently, Tiger Beat Writer Anthony Fenech reported that the team is seeking a stop-gap in CF with a budget of around $2M. Signing a stop-gap veteran to play CF would be ideal so the Tigers can bridge the gap to prospects JaCoby Jones, Derek Hill, and Jose Azocar. However, with a budget of $2M will not be enough given the free agents available and the current market. Once this news was reported by Fenech, Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com wrote of nice piece on affordable options the Tigers may be interested in. This unimpressive list included the following.
- Peter Bourjos: He has always been considered an excellent defender in CF (His skills at one time bumped Mike Trout out of CF). However, his skills in the outfield have declined since 2014 and Bourjos primarily played RF (115 games) for the Phillies in 2016. In 2015, the last time Bourjos played CF regularly, he posted a -10 Rtot and a 1.1 UZR. At the plate, he hit .251/.292/.389 in 383 PA’s. Bourjos made $2M last year.
- Michael Bourn: He is not the elite base runner and defender during his mid-to-late 20’s when he was suiting up for the Astros. His is now about average in both skill sets. Bourn slashed .264/.314/.397 between the D-Backs & Orioles after being cut by both the Braves and Blue Jays in 2016. In 2016, He had a -1.8 UZR in CF over 609 innings & a -2.0 UZR in RF over 131 innings.
- Austin Jackson: The former Tiger was once a fan favorite before being traded in the deal that brought David Price to Detroit. Jackson’s performance at the place has been lackluster to say the least. Since being dealt from Detroit, he has posted a line of .255/.302/.345 to go along with his average defense in CF. Jackson is not quite the base-stealing he was when he broke into the major leagues. He swiped 17 bases in 2015 with the Mariners & Cubs but only registered 2 SB’s in 2016 in 54 games with the White Sox. Jackson spent 465 innings in CF in 2016 for the White Sox & amounted a dismal -4.6 UZR. He concluded last season on the disabled list after a knee surgery.
- Desmond Jennings: Of the free agent CF’s left on the market, Jennings has arguably the most upside. He once looked like an up-and-coming star with Tampa Bay but injuries have slowed him through his career. Jennings has only managed to play in 93 games over the past two seasons while slashing .222/.295/.347. Over 229 innings spent in CF in 2016, Jennings posted a -5.2 UZR. He could opt to take a short term deal with the hopes of having a healthy and productive 2017 & hit the market again next off-season.
- Gregor Blanco: Unfortunately for Blanco, he his free agency one year too late. In 2015, he slashed .291/.368/.413 over 115 games with the Giants. Last year, Blanco regressed & only managed a line of .224/.309/.311. With the addition of Denard Span, the Giants utilized Blanco primarily in RF instead of CF. However, he did manage to log 126 innings in CF & registered a -1.6 UZR. Blanco will enter the 2017 season at the age of 33. He may be interested in taking a one-year deal in effort to boost his value by playing CF & proving he is the hitter he was in 2015.
- CoCo Crisp: He has not spent a total of 36 games in CF over the last two seasons. Crisp, at 37, is not a viable option for the Tigers at the CF position.
- Other options: There are other "4-A"type players on the market like Sam Fult, Craig Gentry, Drew Stubbs, & Will Venable.
Options via trade: After some searching on RosterResource.com, some of the following names could interest the Tigers & appear to be expendable by their current teams. These are not big time, top prospects but rather guys whom are capable of playing CF, as well as hitting, at a higher level than the internal options listed above. These are guys whom may be "extra parts" to their organization & could possibly be had for some of the Tiger’s "extra-parts" and/or fringe prospects. It is clear that the Tigers do not currently have a centerfielder it takes to make a run at the pennant, nor do they want to spend the money or deal the prospects it takes to acquire one. Therefore, the best option for the organization is to find a team with an expendable player who is a better option over Tyler Collins and Anthony Gose and who does not cost a top prospect and doesn’t break the bank. In a perfect scenario, the Tigers could dump some salary at the same time, but let’s face it, no one is taking Mark Lowe or Anibal Sanchez. Therefore, Mike Pelfery is the most tradable and likely to get dealt…even if the Tigers have to eat $1-3M of his $8M due.
- Mason Williams, New York Yankees: Williams, whom was once rated the #32 overall prospect by Baseball America in 2013, is stuck in Triple-A behind guys like Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin, & possibly prospects Clint Frazier & Dustin Fowler. Williams is capable of playing a quality CF with a strong arm. Over 123 career major league innings in the outfield, he has posted a 2.3 UZR. Williams swings from the left side but with little power (23 HR’s over 7 minor league season). Injuries have slowed the now 25 year old Williams. He only managed 138 PA’s in Triple-A in 2016 while posting a line of .296/.313/.376. He also had a "cup-of-coffee" in the Bronx to the tune of 12 games and 29 PA’s. The Yankees may want to hold on to him in case Judge, Hicks, or Austin struggle or get injured and/or want to keep guys like Frazier in Triple-A. The Yankees possibly need some rotation depth, infield depth, & possibly a left handed reliever. Names like Pelfrey, Dixon Machado, Blaine Hardy, & Josh Turley could interest Yankee GM Brian Cashman. Pelfrey & his 52.2 GB% could be intriguing in a homer friendly park that is Yankee Stadium.
- Ben Gamel, Seattle Mariners: Gamel, acquired from the Yankees this past August, appears to be blocked at the major league level by Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Marin, Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia, and possibly prospect Tyler O’Neill. Seattle also has other depth pieces in Taylor Motter and Kyle Waldrop while Danny Valencia could also see time in the outfield. In 2016, Gamel spent most of the year in Triple-A Scranton where he slashed a line of .308/.365/.420. He also played 33 games at the major league level in 2016 where in which he hit .188/.278/.292 over just 57 PA’s. Over 132 innings in the outfield (primarily in RF) at the major league level in 2016, Gamel had a -1.8 UZR. He also played 70 games in CF for Triple-A Scranton. The Mariners could use some middle IF depth. Machado or Andrew Romine could be of interest to the Mariners.
- Raimel Tapia, Colorado Rockies: Currently ranked as Colorado’s 4th best prospect, Tapia proved all he can in the minor leagues but is in an organization with logjam in their outfield. Colorado has one of the best group outfielders in the majors that includes All-Stars Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez, youngster David Dahl, veteran lefty Gerado Parra, and depth piece Jordan Patterson. This doesn’t included recently signed utility man Alexi Amarista and former Ranger centerfielder Ian Desmond, whom is projected to play 1B. Baring an injury or trade, Tapia seems destined to begin 2017 in Triple-A Albuquerque. Over 128 games between AA & AAA (24 in AAA), he slashed .328/.361/.458 and 23 SB’s. In 41 major league PA’s in 2016, he struggled to a tune of .263/.293/.263. In 52 innings in Colorado’s CF, Tapia posted a UZR of 1.3. The Rockies could use starting pitching depth as well as right-handed bullpen depth. Once again, if the Tigers pay down some of his salary, Pelfrey and his high ground-ball rate could be of interest in a homer inducing home ballpark. Alex Wilson, Shane Greene, Drew VerHagen, and Adam Ravenelle could also be some names that could fit Colorado’s needs.
- Steven Duggar, San Francisco Giants: Duggar along with Tapia, are two guys that their respective organisations will be less likely to deal. However, Duggar’s route to the majors in 2017 appears to be blocked by Denard Span, Hunter Pence, Gorkys Hernandez, and Mac Williamson. The Giants also have Orlando Calixte, Justin Ruggiano, and Austin Slater fighting for a spot on the 25-man roster. Duggar, a sixth-round pick in 2015, know how to get on base. He has not had an OBP below .388 since playing professionally. In 2016, over 60 games in Double-A Richmond, he slashed .321/.391/.432. Although he has a knack for getting on base, he displayed little power but is only be 22-years-old at the start of the 2017 season. He is an exceptional athlete and should be an average to above-average in CF. Duggar is listed on MLB.com as the Giants #10 prospect but was unranked before 2016. San Francisco would be a tough trade partner to match with Detroit in terms of meeting both teams’ needs.
- Brian Goodwin, Washington Nationals: With the recently acquisition of Adam Eaton, outfielder Brian Goodwin is very much expendable. On the Nat’s depth outfield depth chart, he sits behind Eaton, Bryce Harper, Jayason Werth, Michael Taylor, Clint Robinson, Chris Heisey and probably new signed Cuban Yadiel Hernandez. Also, prospects such as Rafael Bautista, Andrew Stevenson, and Victor Robles are or will be soon competing for at bats. Goodwin uses a patient approach & uses the entire field to hit. During 2016, in 436 PA’s in AAA he compiled a line of .280/.349/.438 and over 44 PA’s in the majors he slashed .286/.318/.429. During a small sample size of 79 innings of defense played in the majors, Goodwin has posted a -1.0 UZR. According to MLB.com, his speed, arm strength, and instincts make him a solid defender. In 2013, Goodwin was rated the #52 overall prospect in baseball by MLB.com. The Nationals appear to need some bullpen help, rotation depth, and infield depth. Their projected 5-man rotation looks strong behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, & Joe Ross; however, their 6th starter projects to be either former Tiger Jacob Turner or prospect Austin Voth. Their bullpen appears to even less uncertain as they lost Mark Melancon to free agency. The Nats project to lose a total combined 242 innings pitched last season from their bullpen to free agency. They also project to open 2017 with Wilmer Difo, whom only has 77 career PA’s, as their backup infielder. The Tigers appear be a match to help the Nationals with depth. Names like Pelfrey, Machado, Romine, Farmer, A. Wilson, Greene, VerHagen, or even Warwick Saupold could interest Washington. Due to the needs of both the Nationals & Tigers, Goodwin could be the best fit. Dave Nichols of the National's SB Nation site, FederalBaseball.com, told me via Twitter, Goodwin is a "faded prospect" and "wouldn't take a lot" to acquire.
- Other potential trade options: Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals; Derek Fisher, Houston Astros; Jaycob Brugman, Oakland Athletics; Ezequiel Carrera/Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays (If they bring back Jose Bautista on a multi-year deal).