General manager Dave Dombrowski has hinted all along this offseason that the Detroit Tigers would like to add a right-handed hitting corner outfielder to the roster to serve in a platoon role with Andy Dirks. They’re comfortable with Dirks, they say, but a legitimate platoon bat would solidify one of the few positions with a question mark still attached.
The Tigers haven’t yet addressed the need through free agency (though they reportedly had some interest in Scott Hairston early on), electing to allow options such as Matt Diaz, Darnell McDonald, and even Ryan Raburn to sign elsewhere, and few options remain on the maket (Delmon Young, anyone?).
They could still trade for such a player — I suggested Casper Wells the other day — but they haven’t even been rumored to be scouring the trade market for outfielders. They could wait until spring camps are about wrapped up to acquire a guy that would might be headed for another team’s chopping block — an option Dombrowski alluded to himself — but they appear to be rolling ahead with options already in the organization.
Option number one, of course, is for no right-handed hitting left fielder to make the team. If everyone is completely turrible (or terrible, if you don’t speak Barkley) in the spring, then they could very well just hand the job to Andy Dirks and call it good. Quintin Berry and/or Brennan Boesch could also make the team as bench outfielders, but neither would figure to get much time unless an injury occurred or Dirks struggled mightily. Perhaps Jeff Kobernus could get some time in the outfield versus lefties, even though he hasn’t played the outfield in his professional career and probably wouldn’t be expected to hit better than Dirks (even versus lefties).
Option number two would include either Avisail Garcia or Nick Castellanos making the team. Garcia is really the only right-handed hitting option already on the 40-man roster (not counting Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter, of course), but if either of these two top prospects were to make team, they’d be there because they won the full-time job, not to be a platoon bat. Spending the year in the minors getting full time at-bats would be better for their development (and for the organization in the long-term) than sitting the bench in Detroit. Castellanos has received an invitation to major league camp, and Dombrowski has stated that he (as well as Garcia) is in the mix to win the job. One shouldn’t expect either player to win the job and make the team, but the organization hasn’t ruled it out.
Option three would be for either Kevin Russo or Matt Tuiasosopo — minor league free agents who the Tigers signed this offseason — to win the job in the spring. Both were among the 17 non-roster players to be invited to major league camp, both have had success hitting left-handed pitching in their minor league careers (both posting an .830+ OPS versus lefties in the minors the last two years), and both would bring the versatility of also being able to play some infield. I would expect to see a lot of these two every time the Tigers face a left-handed pitcher down in Lakeland because, when it comes to platoon options, they’re really all the organization has.