Ryan Raburn is now headed to the DL after making only 3 appearances since his September callup. In those 3 appearances, Raburn gave us a .393 OPS. He isn’t healthy now, but he certainly was earlier in the season when putting up similar numbers, and it would seem somewhat unlikely that he will be filling the Tigers right-handed reserve role that he has (off and on) for the past 5 years. No one is likely to mourn Raburn – but a handful of us held out hope that he might start to hit a little like the Raburn of old at least for a month. Not going to happen.
Raburn’s woeful inadequacy – a .480 OPS for 2012 with only a .477 against left-handed pitchers – led Dave Dombrowski to deal for Jeff Baker. But… after finding that Baker’s .500 OPS wasn’t much of an improvement over Raburn’s he promptly flipped him to the Braves. Since when did finding a righty that can only hit lefties get so hard? The other guys that the Tigers have employed in that sort of role haven’t looked much better (and haven’t stuck). Brad Eldred gave us a .610 OPS in 5 games before heading off to Japan – and that’s from a guy who can’t play any position other than 1st. Danny Worth has given us a .575 OPS (which may be his true talent at the plate) that does include a .664 against lefties. Worth’s glove is generally seen as compensating for his bat, but he has been statistically below average in 2012.
Where do the Tigers go from here? The current consensus pick is obviously Avisail Garcia, who in my opinion is getting a lot of yet-undeserved praise. In his short stint as a Tiger the guy has overachieved thanks to a .385 BABIP (make you own judgments about sustainability) leading to a .313 batting average. That’s where the impressive-sounding numbers end, though. Despite all the talk of his tools, fleet-footed linebacker Garcia has yet to get an extra base or a steal at the major league level. He can undoubtedly cover more ground than Brennan Boesch, but those advanced metrics don’t seem to think that he has done a great job in the outfield over the past 2 weeks. With Raburn down and Baker gone if the Tigers need a right-handed bat off the bench down the stretch or in the playoffs it is going to be Garcia for better or worse.
Garcia and Nick Castellanos will get a long looks for 2013 should the Tigers be looking for a right-handed fourth outfielder (and I think they’ll need one). Both may have good futures in the major leagues, but do you want to bring either one up before he is ready so that he can play every 3rd day? I don’t think that’s a good strategy for development nor do I think either would do well as a full-timer in April 2013 (2014? Quite possibly). I and others on this side have called for Ben Guez to get a look for a reserve role, but since the Tigers did bring up Garcia to fill this spot over Guez it would seem a little strange if they gave it to him for 2013. There’s nothing the Tigers can do now about the lack of a right-handed option (Garcia & Worth aside) but they may need to look around on the free agent market to find this suddenly scarce commodity. If the Tigers could get Ryan Raburn on a minor-league deal, I’d be in favor of that – but though he might very well hit in 2013 I wouldn’t want to bet on it. If they could resign Delmon Young to be a part-time player, he would fill this role admirably. The problem is, though he hasn’t produced enough the past two years to warrant a full-time job much less a fat contract as a free agent, a lot of teams will be looking for a right-handed, offense-first reserve and guys never seem to like to resign with their old club for less money and less playing time. Can’t really blame them, either. This is also the only thing Brandon Inge was ever good at offensively (since he basically hits like Delmon Young) – but I doubt there’s any chance of a reunion. Look for this particular roster spot to continue to underperform in 2012 and be a major topic of discussion during the offseason.