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What to do with Ryan Raburn


There is a lot of talk these days about areas of need for the Detroit Tigers. The holes are glaring and easily identifiable, and we will spend countless hours pouring over the possible ways to fill each of these gaps in the coming days, weeks, and months. It is the rite of Autumn in the baseball world.

Of the problem areas, second base seems to be the biggest need. While an upgrade at third base would be nice, I think we all recognize that Brandon Inge and either Don Kelly or Wilson Betemit will likely be manning the hot corner next season. The fifth starter will either come by way of a veteran one-year deal or though an internal candidate. Both of these positions will be talked about ad nauseum anyway, but the solutions are fairly clear.

But second base is on the front burner these days in large part due to the speculation that Ramon Santiago, who became the de facto second sacker late in the season and through the playoffs. Word is that Razor Ramon is seeking a significant bump in salary (he made just over $1 million in 2011) and perhaps more importantly, a significant bump in playing time with his next contract. Chances are, he won’t get everything he seeks from the Tigers, so he could wind up in a different uniform come Spring.

Where would that leave the Tigers? Follow me through the jump to find out.

The staff here at MCB has already been trowing around names of possible solutions, ranging from Howie Kendrick or Neil Walker to Kelly Johnson or Jamey Carroll, or even staying in-house with Will Rhymes and Danny Worth. One name that has been readily dismissed is Ryan Raburn.

I read Chris Hannum’s piece here yesterday and I fully understand and agree with most everything he says on the subject of Raburn as a second baseman. The trouble is that I prefer to deal more in what I think will happen versus what I think should happen. And in Raburn, I see a guy who the manager likes an awful lot. Those guys tend to see the field as often as possible.

The best possible solution would be to use Raburn as an outfielder, where his defense is actually pretty good (just ask Miguel Olivo). But I don’t see any way the Tigers don’t open the year with Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch in the corners. Now, both of those players missed significant time to injury last year and it’s reasonable to assume that one or both will do so again next year, so having Raburn as a fourth outfielder certainly could still get him close to 300 at bats.

But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the Tigers decide to focus their efforts this winter on shoring up other areas of need and go into camp next year with Raburn, Rhymes, and Worth at second base. Heck, you could even re-sign Santiago if you’d like; I doubt it would change the equation much. Knowing Jim Leyland’s feelings on Raburn, and seeing also how quickly he pulled the plug on Rhymes last year and his unwillingness to use Santiago as often as Ramon or any Tigers fan would like, I just have to think that Raburn would see the bulk of the action at second base.

Leyland has always paid lip service to defense when constructing a lineup. Even as he began to alter that approach somewhat late last season (can I call 2011 “last season” yet?) he still would occasionally run Raburn and Betemit out there on the infield together, and even more alarmingly did so when a guy like Brad Penny or Rick Porcello was on the mound. Having a solid defender is certainly important to Leyland, but it seems more important to him that he can bring that defender off the bench late in games. Hitting will always be more important that fielding for this manager.

It is with that in mind that I can foresee Raburn not only getting time while filling-in in the outfield, but getting a good number of starts at second base as well.

Of course, Dave Dombrowski likely sees the same thing I do in regard to his manager. If he wants to put pieces in place that will actually be used, a trade might have to be in order. Raburn probably has a decent amount of trade value, so they could always put him in a package to fill a hole somewhere.

Dare to dream.