Detroit Needs a (Left) Hand

From the get-go, Scott Harris mentioned a lefty-hitting infielder as a priority this winter. Pickings are slim via free agency (hello, Jace Peterson and some recently non-tendered depth pieces), but the trade market opens up a whole new world to explore. With that in mind, here's a few options possibly available, and a brief framework of what a trade offer might include.

The Star Rental

Tigers trade SP Jackson Jobe, C Dillon Dingler and SP Reese Olson to Red Sox for 3B Rafael Devers.

Much ink has been spilled on this topic. Devers is inarguably an amazing hitter, and he perfectly fits the gaping hole at 3B in Detroit. However, he's a rental, making his long-term fit inn Detroit tenuous at best. Without some guarantee of an extension before the trade, mortgaging so much of the future for a single opportunity seems extremely unwise. With an extension locked in, however, maybe there's reason to explore this. Devers really is a special hitter.

Controllable Veterans

Tigers trade SP Wilmer Flores, RHP Tyler Mattison and cash to Rays for 2B Brandon Lowe.

The Rays churn. And churn. And churn. At the end of the day, they have too many players for their 40man roster, too little payroll to pay them all, and somehow always flip their most expensive assets for down-the-road gold. Brandon Lowe, for those unaware, is a slugging, three-true-outcomes 2B who probably fits best at 1B/RF/DH in a few years. He's a strong hitter, but is making $14M over the next two seasons, has club options totaling $22M for the two after that, and spent most of the season on the 60 day IL with back issues. When on the field, he's the fastball-raking, homer-bashing lefty the Tigers thought they'd get from Austin Meadows, and the two could resume their dynamic duo in Comerica for the next few seasons. It's not a terribly steep price for a proven MLB slugger, but definitely a gamble.

Tigers trade LHP Joey Wentz and INF Isaac Pacheco to Rockies for 3B Ryan McMahon.

The cleanest fit on paper, Detroit gets the ages 28-32 seasons of a traditional glove-and-power 3B for relatively little. Why? Because those 5 seasons cost $65M total, mainly, but also because a lot of his offensive production is suspect outside of Coors. A dead fly ball hitter, leaving high altitude could terribly impact his offensive value, especially for one who feasted on breaking balls (for those unaware, high altitude breakers don't move the same as regular ones). It'd be risky, but you get what you pay for; between the contract, the Coors effect, and the Rockie's general ineptitude, the Tigers shouldn't have to give up too much young talent.

Unproven Babies

Tigers trade RHP Ty Madden, CF Parker Meadows, and INF Gage Workman to Rays for INF Jonathon Aranda.

Again, Tampa Bay's incredible depth lets them deal a recent top prospect without flinching. There's so much high-quality depth in this system, anyone from Lowe to Paredes to Curtis Mead could replace Aranda without too much issue. Aranda could be the 3B we need for 2023, but odds are, he outgrows the position and winds up further down the defensive spectrum, either in a corner OF spot or 1B/DH. He's a nice hit-over-power option who consistently ran low-K and high-BB lines in the minors before struggling to adapt to upper-level pitching in his first go at 24. For what it's worth, Steamer at FanGraphs projects him for a 120 wRC+ and 3.2 WAR/162G in 2023, as he enters his prime.

Tigers trade RHP Matt Manning and C Eric Haase to Cardinals for INF Nolan Gorman.

Ouch. Top prospects are expensive. Gorman, a 22 year old 3B from St Louis, might be expendable with Jordan Walker, Arenado, and Goldschmidt occupying his main homes of 3B, 3B, 1B and DH on a rotating basis. The things Gorman does, he does well; he hits the ball, hard, in the air, with regularity. Unless he strikes out. He does that a lot, too, but the power is real and he's young enough to improve at least a little bit. Probably. He doesn't fit the Harris mold, but he fills a need, which is nice. With so much club control, though, St. Louis can easily sit back for the best offer they can get to help their MLB team, likely forcing Detroit to part with a strong arm and a nice supplemental piece.

Tigers trade RHP Joe Jimenez and RHP Garret Hill to Rangers for INF Josh Smith.

Here it is! The real prize. Smith, a contact-and-glove, hard-to-K, high-walk infielder controllable for another 5 years. He's a plus defender at 3B, and essentially scratch at SS or LF, but is completely squeezed out of Texas by top prospects and star infielders galore. Smith won't wow anyone with power, but he's the perfect match for Harris' stated needs. In 2023, Detroit can give Harris every opportunity to grow into a consistent Major Leaguer by flattening out his swing - his average launch angle is tied with Kyle Scwharber for 14th in the league if he qualified in 2022. Suffice it to say, that isn't going to work for a 5'10, 172 pound utility INF, but it's also a fairly tenable issue for a new hitting staff. His patience and contact ability raises the floor to MLB utility guy; if all else fails, he backs up Keith, Baez and whomever starts at 2B for contending 2024 and 2025 Tigers teams, all while still in his pre-arb days.

In all honesty, only two of these trades seem to match Detroit's need for a controllable solution in the dirt with the talent cost a "not-quite-there" team can stomach spending. Brandon Lowe offers a potential buy-low on a slugger who was in an All-Star Game the last time he was healthy, and shouldn't cost more than a strong prospect arm and some depth pieces. He could truly elevate Detroit's ceiling over the course of his contract. Smith, on the other hand, raises the floor, with his strong plate discipline and defense filling a few less obvious holes. He does have the upside of untapped potential - many have opined the Tigers need speed and gap hitters, which Smith can bring as well. Most importantly, both are controllable, and neither would come with a prohibitive salary, so additions like a righty OF or a C could still be in play.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.