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MLB trade rumors: Tigers still looking for cheap veteran option in center field

Despite their inactivity this offseason, the Tigers are still looking to fill out their roster.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

You may have heard this before, but the Detroit Tigers don’t have a center fielder right now. Sure, Anthony Gose, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones are all under club control for several more years, but few (if any) Tigers fans are truly comfortable with relying on that triumvirate heading into the 2017 season. There were no quick fixes for the center field problem on the free agent market this offseason — save for Dexter Fowler, maybe — and the trade market has been sluggish at best.

The Tigers still seem to be looking, though. According to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, the Tigers are “seeking a veteran stop-gap in center field.” While players like Jon Jay and Rajai Davis, who signed for $8 and $6 million, respectively, may seem like they fit that bill, the Tigers are hoping to go even cheaper. According to Fenech, the Tigers are hoping to limit their spending to “around $2 million,” the same contract they handed to backup catcher Alex Avila.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. The Tigers have been reluctant to spend all offseason, instead hoping to cut payroll heading into 2017. ESPN’s Jayson Stark noted that the Tigers are one of six teams who have yet to sign a free agent to a contract of at least $3 million, and two of those (the Royals and Nationals) have traded for players above that threshold.

On a positive note, there are still several players on the free agent market who might fall into the Tigers’ price range.

Name Avg OBP SLG wRC+ DRS UZR WAR 2016 salary
Name Avg OBP SLG wRC+ DRS UZR WAR 2016 salary
Peter Bourjos 0.251 0.292 0.389 79 1 2.2 0.4 $2,000,000.00
Colby Rasmus 0.206 0.268 0.355 75 3 1.5 1.4 $15,800,000.00
Gregor Blanco 0.224 0.309 0.311 70 0 -1.6 -0.7 $3,900,000.00
Alejandro De Aza 0.205 0.297 0.321 72 1 -0.1 -0.2 $5,800,000.00
Michael Bourn 0.264 0.314 0.371 79 4 -1.8 0.4 $14,000,000.00
Austin Jackson 0.254 0.318 0.343 79 -5 -4.6 -0.1 $5,000,000.00
Desmond Jennings 0.200 0.281 0.350 73 0 -5.2 -0.4 $3,300,000.00

Yeah, not great.

Most fans will gravitate towards Austin Jackson, who was very productive in his five seasons with the Tigers. He amassed 16.1 fWAR during that stretch, including a pair of four-win seasons in 2010 and 2012. He tailed off after that, posting just 1.3 WAR in four months with the Tigers in 2014 before being traded to the Seattle Mariners. After a decent 2015 season, Jackson signed with the Chicago White Sox, but his season was cut short after he underwent knee surgery in June.

It seems as if he has been around forever, but Peter Bourjos is actually the youngest player on this list. The 29-year-old speedster topped out with 4.2 fWAR for the Los Angeles Angels in 2011, but saw his playing time diminish as his production at the plate waned. He was an elite defender in his prime, even pushing Mike Trout to left field for a season, but has been worth just +3 defensive runs saved over the past four seasons. Bourjos’ elite speed has never translated to the basepaths either, with just 61 career stolen bases in 713 games played.

The other somewhat attractive name on this list is Desmond Jennings, who just turned 30 in October. Jennings showed a lot of promise early in his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, even posting three consecutive three-win seasons from 2012 to 2014. Injuries have cut him down since then, limiting him to just 93 games over the past two seasons. Like Jackson, Jennings also underwent knee surgery last year, but was released in August after posting a 73 wRC+ in 225 plate appearances.