It doesn’t seem possible that the Tigers would be interested in brining back Ryan Raburn, the soon-to-be 32 year old infielder-outfielder who hit just .171/.226/.254 in 222 plate appearances last season, but when his name came up at yesterday’s press conference, general manager Dave Dombrowski didn’t rule it out.
“In Ryan’s case, I’m really not prepared to address that one because I haven’t talked to him”
Of course, Dombrowski could simply be affording Raburn the courtesy of telling him he’s not coming back in a face-to-face chat before discussing his future with the media – and that’s certainly the implication here, in which I’m likely making much out of nothing – but could there be a chance that Dombrowski “isn’t prepared to address that one” because he’s not yet sure that the organization is really through with him?
Detroit struggled last year when opposing left handed starting pitchers, and Raburn has hit lefties for an OPS of about .800 in his career. That’s not an overly exceptional number considering it’s a platoon split, and he certainly didn’t reach anywhere near that mark in 2012, but a repeat of those numbers would make him an effective part time player. I don’t think anyone would hold their breath while waiting for Raburn to hit like a big leaguer again, but simply casting an arbitration eligible player aside without careful consideration isn’t prudent either.
The Tigers are looking to address the corner outfield situation this off-season – Dombrowski said as much at the news conference – but he also said they plan to tender Brennan Boesch with an Arbitration offer and that Quintin Berry would be allowed to compete for a job in the spring. So, while they will be players in the corner outfield market, they also appear to be stockpiling internal options to fill the void. With Andy Dirks, Berry, and Boesch all hitting from the left side, Detroit may wish to find a right-handed hitting option or two to throw into the mix. None of these players (Raburn and Avisail Garcia included) could be counted on to provide an above-average bat if handed the starting job, but the team could likely squeeze value out of a straight platoon, especially when considering the associated cost involved with the above players).
This wouldn’t be the ideal scenario – Avisail Garcia probably needs another year in the minors to develop into the complete player that some project him to be, and I’m not hopeful that Berry could be more than a replacement level bat even in a platoon role – but it’s a scenario by which the Tigers could still win the division and make a run in the playoffs. And by that I mean it’s not any different than what they ended up with this season.
Raburn is arbitration eligible for the third and final time in his career, and would figure to earn the same $2.1 million that he made in 2012. That’s a lot of money for a wing and a prayer, but that would be similar money to what a team would spend on the free agent market to gain a half a win.
Unfortunately, 0.5 WAR would be a lot to expect from Raburn who hasn’t hit at all in a year, and hasn’t hit well in two years. He’ll be 32 this upcoming season so his peak years are likely in the rearview mirror. I highly doubt that the Tigers are even considering tendering him an arbitration offer – again, Dombrowski was likely just being courteous to an outgoing player with his response – but Raburn is one of those guys that always seems to just stick around.