The Detroit Tigers have shown interest this off-season in acquiring a right-handed batter to share time with Andy Dirks in left field. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported this in early December, floating free agent Scott Hairston as a possibility. Adam Rubin of ESPN nixed that when he tweeted “Hairston will not be a Tiger” later the same day. Still, there’s no sign Detroit has abandoned the pursuit of a right-handed outfielder in general. Unless they dive deep into the bargain bin for one, they can stop looking; Dirks can play full-time.
For a 26-year-old eighth-round pick of the 2008 draft, Dirks has an impressive resume. In two partial major league seasons totaling 166 games, he has hit .293 with 15 home runs with solid defense. He made a name for himself in the Dominican Republic last winter with clutch playoff hits, leading his team to a championship. Most importantly, he has shown more than adequate ability to hit same-handed pitching throughout his professional career.
In an admittedly meager 114 plate appearances against left-handers at the big league level, Dirks has hit for a .288/.345/.442/.787 slash line. To compare; major league left-handed batters as a whole hit .232/.294/.353/.648 against left-handed pitching in 2012.
Those numbers don’t shatter records and, considering the small sample, they don’t mean much alone. But, Dirks’ minor league performance supports them. In 295 appearances against lefties from 2008 to 2010, 247 of those coming between Double and Triple-A, he hit .274/.319/.343/.662.
Once upon a time, the Tigers would have liked another right-handed batter regardless of his position. With five righties and a switch-hitter now projected to make their opening day lineup, two being outfielders, those days are passed.
As our Matt Snyder outlined this morning, Detroit has few options left if they feel the need to add an outfield bat before the season. Of the nine free agent options still available, three are Tiger outcasts, one is Hairston, and three more posted negative FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement this year.
While there’s no harm in inviting a few minor leaguers to spring training to challenge for a role, Andy Dirks has easily earned a shot at an everyday job. Left field is not broken; let’s not fix it.