Step One: Sign Shane Victorino. (For 3 years and $30 million) This is my personal preference – but it doesn’t look like this is Dave Dombrowski’s personal preference. If we change it to “Step One: Sign Torii Hunter” I’m fine with that.
Step Two: Sign Nyjer Morgan. (For 2 years and $5 million)
Step Three: Sign Jason Bourgeois. (For league minimum)
Adding those three guys to Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks would provide a formidable defensive and middling offensive outfield going into 2013. Either Hunter or Victorino would provide a right-handed bat and improve the Tigers offensive performance against lefties. Strangely, though Victorino is a switch-hitter he’s actually the one with the bigger splits. He’s also a lot younger than Hunter and coming off a down year rather than an inexplicably good one – to put it another way, if both had been free agents prior to 2012 Victorino would have been looking for a 5-year $80 million contract and Hunter would have been fishing for 1 and $10 million (which might have been hard to find). Either guy would be almost certain to hit second behind Jackson and either guy should be getting regular days off when tough righties are on the mound (Hunter due to age, Victorino due to those insane splits). We would also like that 4th outfielder (to whom we could devote actual cash and a certain roster spot for multiple years) to serve as a backup plan, as pessimistic as this sounds, should 2013 Andy Dirks be no better than 2011 Andy Dirks. And, of course, we want him to be a surer bet to do at least some part of the game well than Brennan Boesch.
The Tigers also need a guy who can fill in when Austin Jackson needs a rest (again, should be a lefty) that can actually play center field well – something Dirks certainly cannot do and Victorino and Hunter probably cannot do anymore. So we need a slick-fielding CF with a left-handed bat who hits righties well (we don’t care about lefties) who’ll be willing to sign a deal for limited PT. We also know – based on how Jim Leyland fills out lineup cards – that whoever fills in for Jackson or Victorino/Hunter is going to take their spot in the lineup, which means we want a guy with OBP rather than power. My pick: Nyjer Morgan. Morgan was DFA’ed by the Brewers already this offseason and has become a free agent. His 2012 wasn’t great offensively, but over his career he has a .297/.352/.385 line against righties (and something godawful against lefties). He covers a lot of ground (with good instincts) in the outfield and makes some noise on the basepaths. He’d be perfect for spelling either Jackson in center or Victorino/Hunter in right. He’d also be a better option than the Tigers have had in several years should Jackson spend time on the DL again.
The last part – after we find a right-fielder that can bat second, mash lefties and actually play the position well for a change and a 4th outfielder to spell that right-fielder (and provide an emergency backup for Jackson) – is to find a platoon partner for Andy Dirks. That guy doesn’t need to do great things as far as getting on base, he’s likely to be batting towards the bottom of the order. He’s also going to need to be available on a budget one-year deal, since Garcia is going to be doing this in 2014. There won’t be any need for him to play great center – but we could certainly use somebody who would be a real base-stealing threat as a pinch-runner rather than just a guy who can go first-to-third. We’d also like any guy we’d be looking to sign from outside the organization to be a guy well suited to Comerica Park – which basically means a gap hitter (or triples guy) rather than a power hitter. My pick for this role is (as I mentioned a few days ago) Jason Bourgeois formerly of the Kansas City Royals. Bourgeois has L-R splits very much like Nyjer Morgan, but he’s right-handed so his overall numbers don’t look so great. Still – a .754 OPS (vs. L) from a speedy guy seems great.