It would be natural to think the Detroit Tigers would be looking at the market for outfielders when considering their options for finding a platoon partner for Andy Dirks. But what the Tigers are really looking for is a right handed bat, it just happens that to get that right handed bat in the lineup, they would have to put someone in left field.
March 9, 2011; Lakeland, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco (27) before a spring training exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Tigers have options to accomplish this without having to limit themselves to available outfielders. In fact, the answer could come in the form of a familiar face.
It’s an outside the box idea that just might work.
The first issue to deal with is the fact that Placido Polanco is not an outfielder and no, I won’t suggest the Tigers try him in left field. He could take his spot so familiar to Tigers fans, second base, with Omar Infante taking Dirks’ spot in left field. Unconventional? Maybe. Unrealistic? I don’t think so.
Infante has seen action in the outfield in six of his 12 seasons in the major leagues, including all three of his season with the Atlanta Braves where he was an All Star in 2010. Perhaps it would be more moving parts on defense than the Tigers would like but there will be some give and take with any option the Tigers will look into if they truly want to use a left field platoon.
Would Polanco accept such a role? That’s hard to say but it seems to fit where his career is at this point. The Phillies declined their portion of the $5.5 million mutual option, paying a $1 million buyout instead. The market for Polanco has been soft, save for some rumblings about the Marlins showing at least a little bit of interest. If you’re Polanco, doesn’t a platoon role with a contender in a familiar place look more attractive than the Marlins? It should, especially considering back issues limited his play last year and led to two trips to the disabled list. The platoon role could be just what Polanco needs to stay healthy through what will clearly be one of the twilight years of his career.
The Tigers might want a platoon partner for Andy Dirks but they don’t necessarily need one. There isn’t any reason to spend big dollars or commit to a player beyond the 2013 season to fill this item on the want list. If Polanco’s back issues can be kept in check and he’s willing to take on a limited role, he could be a great option. Over his last three seasons, Polanco has put up an OPS just above .700 against left handed pitchers. That isn’t anything special, it’s actually a tad below average, but Polanco’s bat could be useful in 40-50 games against left handed pitchers and as a pinch hitter that can help turn over the lineup to get the big boys to the plate.