September 7, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch (26) hits a single in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Six Moves The Detroit Tigers Could Still Make This Off-season

With Torii Hunter and Anibal Sanchez now signed for 2013 and beyond, it seems the Tigers have been able to address the top two items on their off-season to-do list. They were very clearly going to be one of the major players in the corner outfield market, and, despite Dave Dombrowski’s insistence that the team was comfortable with both Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly in the rotation, they obviously wanted Sanchez back in a bad way.

But the offseason isn’t over, and the Tigers could find themselves making perhaps up to six (albeit more minor) moves before pitcher and catchers report in mid-February.

Finding a right-handed hitting platoon partner for Andy Dirks in left field

Dombrowski has said that Quintin Berry will “get an opportunity” to earn playing time in spring training, and the Tigers are apparently committing to Brennan Boesch through arbitration, but Andy Dirks is very clearly the primary guy in left field. The organization isn’t convinced, however, that he’s a 150+ game player, so they’ve been keeping their eye out for a right-handed hitter that could platoon with him and make starts versus right handed pitchers.

We’ve named a number of players on this website over the past month or so that might fit the bill (including, but probably not limited to, Jason Bourgeois, Magglio Ordonez, Matt Diaz, Scott Van Slyke, Casper Wells, and Darnell McDonald). There’s also a chance that, perhaps, minor league free agent Kevin Russo or Rule 5 player Jeff Kobernus (though not an outfielder by trade) could serve in this capacity to some degree.

It seems to me that the player they’re looking for is pretty much exactly Casper Wells, but he’s not a free agent so the Tigers would have to swing a deal with the Seattle Mariners to grab him. Wells would bring a pre-arbitration level contract, plus defense in the corners and the ability to play center field, and the ability to pound left-handed pitching. Perhaps they could work something out?

Adding a high leverage relief pitcher

We’ve been told all along that rookie-to-be Bruce Rondon will get every opportunity to claim the closer role this upcoming season – and the Tigers have closer “options” in Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, and even Rick Porcello – but they were apparently seeking “relievers capable of closing” during the Winter Meetings earlier this month. It’s also been reported/speculated that they’re looking for a left-hander specifically, but those desires may have faded now that Sanchez is back as either Porcello or Smyly could move to the bullpen.

They wouldn’t seem to have room (or need) for another bullpen arm, and adding one may signify their lack of confidence that Rondon really is ready for Major League action. But even if he isn’t ready, I’d rather see the team use their “sixth starter” in relief rather than signing (or trading for) a relatively expensive external option.

Upgrading the shortstop position defensively

The Tigers were in and out of Stephen Drew rumors this offseason – an indication that they’re open to making a change at shortstop – but Drew ended up signing a one year, $9.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Drew himself was a questionable upgrade in the first place, but the remaining free agent class looks even worse. The only player that looks somewhat appealing in a numbers sense is Alex Gonzalez, but he’ll be 36 next year and is coming off an ACL tear, so there are certainly plenty of concerns there.

I think if the Tigers really are going to pick up a new everyday shortstop, it’s going to have to come via trade. I like J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles, but they don’t appear to be itching to move him, and I’m not certain what it would take to get him. If a new shortstop was to be acquired, the Tigers would almost certainly turn around and trade Jhonny Peralta.

Trading Rick Porcello or Drew Smyly

I’m not a fan of the idea that the Tigers should trade one of their excess starting pitchers (at least not right now), but Dombrowski is apparently receiving “numerous” calls about his youngest two. He’s not going to simply give either one away just because they have an “extra”, but I’m getting the feeling that trading either one will end up looking like making a move for the sake of making a move.

The Tigers aren’t likely to get immediate value for either pitcher in a trade (unless either Smyly or Porcello was one piece in a larger deal). A platoon outfield bat would undervalue either pitcher, and I hate the idea of a relief pitcher, so the return would pretty much limited to a modest prospect package. And there’s really no reason to trade useful pieces for non-elite prospects when you’re so very much in “win now” mode. Just about every team will need a sixth starter for a not-insignificant number of games during a season, so having a capable guy available would come in handy.

I’ll always caveat my feelings by saying that there is a potential deal out there that would be worth moving one for (an Elvis Andrus deal, if it could be had), but such packages would take so many pieces to fit together just right that it’s almost not worth talking about.

Trading Brennan Boesch

The Tigers have tendered Brennan Boesch an arbitration offer – where he figures to earn roughly $2 million (based on MLB Trade Rumors’ projection system) – that’s a fair bit of money to commit to a player without a real role on the team (and who’s coming off a pretty bad year), and it’s a reason why the Tigers won’t simply trade Porcello to shave dollars off the payroll. If they were trying to do everything they could to keep payroll down, Boesch would either (1) be traded by now or (2) not tendered in the first place.

It appears as though the Tigers are perfectly capable of moving forward without Boesch in their plans. Torii Hunter is signed to handle right field for the next two seasons, and Dirks has apparently supplanted him (Boesch) as the next best corner outfield option. Boesch was reportedly drawing interest from a few clubs during the winter meetings – specifically the Mariners – and it’s hard to shake the feeling that the Tigers would be wise to move him while he has some value.

I would love it if the Tigers and Mariners could work out a Boesch-for-Casper Wells trade, but Seattle would be getting royally screwed in that deal. Of course, they just signed Jason Bay so perhaps they would rather have a left handed hitter on their bench rather than another righty.

Trading Ramon Santiago

Ramon Santiago’s name apparently came up during trade talks at the winter meetings. He’s been a useful bench piece for the last several years, but he and Danny Worth are capable of filling the same role. Santiago is set to earn $2.1 million while Worth would still be at league minimum. Trading Santiago wouldn’t bring back anything of great value in return, but it could be a money saving move that really doesn’t hurt the team in any way. And, if they’re intent on keeping Rule 5 draft pick Jeff Kobernus on the roster all season to keep him in the system, they’re not going to have room for both Worth and Santiago.

It doesn’t appear that Worth has any option years remaining, so either the Tigers will likely either have to (1) offer Kobernus back to his original team, (2) designate Worth for assignment, (3) trade Worth, (4) designate Santiago for assignment, or (5) trade Santiago. Santiago is the guy without organizational upside, so if you can trade him, it might be for the best.

Tags: Brennan Boesch Detroit Tigers Drew Smyly Ramon Santiago Rick Porcello

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