Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth hasn't been explicitly linked to the Tigers this offseason, but there's always a chance that the Muskegon native will try to come home if given the opportunity.
Who is he?
As mentioned above, McLouth is a 32 year old outfielder from Whitehall, Michigan. He was a 25th round draft pick out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000. McLouth debuted with the Pirates in 2005 as a 23 year old. He finally put things together in 2007, hitting .258/.351/.459 with 13 home runs and 22 stolen bases. The following season, he was selected to the National League All-Star team and won a Gold Glove. He also led the National League with 46 doubles and hit .276/.356/.497.
He was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2009 but struggled for a couple years before signing with the Pirates in December 2011. Things did not improve, and he was released in May of 2012 before signing with the Orioles in June. Last season, he hit .258/.329/.399 in 146 games for the Orioles.
Why should we care?
While Andy Dirks' defense in left field was a bright spot in 2013, the Tigers could always use more help on that front. Defensive metrics considered McLouth to be around league average last season, with above average range in left field. This may not be an improvement over Dirks -- though the jury is still out as to whether he is actually as good as the metrics said in 2013 -- but it's an improvement over Torii Hunter in right field.
McLouth is also no slouch on the basepaths. He has four seasons with 19 or more stolen bases, including a career high 30 with the Orioles last season. His steal totals were not as impressive during his lean years in Atlanta, but consider this: McLouth has double digit steals in each of the five seasons where he has played more than 100 games.
Why should we stay away?
Outside of a few good years for the Pittsburgh Pirates in his mid-20s, McLouth is just a slightly faster version of Andy Dirks. He stole 30 bases last season, but only put up a .729 OPS with an on-base percentage of .329. All of these figures are better than what Dirks did in 131 games, but not at the price that McLouth will command on the open market.
Additionally, McLouth has struggled against left-handers in his career, hitting just .221/.301/.347. He hits righties to the tune of a .786 career OPS, but still leaves a big void in the lineup with a southpaw on the mound. Unless the Tigers can find someone to replicate Matt Tuiasosopo's first half again in 2014, they would have the same platoon split issue they dealt with at the end of 2013.
Will he end up in Detroit?
I doubt it. With Andy Dirks already on the roster, signing McLouth would be redundant. And if the rumors about their interest in Jacoby Ellsbury are true, the Tigers may be looking to make a bigger splash in the outfield.
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