The headline could read: “Detroit Tigers Stay the Course” and that’s exactly what it would be.
We’ve heard already and will hear plenty more this offseason that the Tigers model is no good and that they need to strip it down and rebuild in the manner of the Cards and Sox… to be a grittier team that runs the bases and plays D. What if that isn’t the problem? What if the problem with the Tigers – and I particularly mean the Tigers in September and October – is that they just didn’t mash enough? How important is that defense when your staff only needs the D to record one in every three outs? Can Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez run themselves into trouble if they’re trotting around the bases as the #6 hitter’s fly ball leaves the stadium? No, no they cannot.
Sept 1, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Corey Hart (1) reacts after hitting a game-winning home run in the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park. The Brewers beat the Pirates 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
If that’s what the Tigers need – another genuine home run threat as opposed to a singles hitter that occasionally hits a ball over the fence – there are only a handful of decent free agent options, but that’s better than zero decent options. In my mind the best of those – particularly for a team looking for shorter term deals to capitalize on their narrowing window of opportunity – would be the Brewers Corey Hart, whose role would be to play the majority of the time in left field and fill the #6 spot in the order in the absence of Jhonny Peralta.
Hart missed the entire 2013 season, so he’s no low-risk signing for anyone. That’s also the reason why he would be available for less than – say 4 years and $60 million. MLBTR reckons he’ll sign a one-year deal for a bit less than the $10 million he made last year and that he’d greatly prefer, all else equal, to resign with Milwaukee. Adding another year would probably be enough to pry him away – an offer in the 2-years and $17 million range.
It’s a little unfair to look at his pre-2013 stats and say how great he’d be for Detroit – if that’s all there was to it he’d have a lot more suitors. But… Hart hit 31, 26 and 30 home runs in 2010-2012 and has a career .825 OPS. He hits lefties well and strangely, that’s something the Tigers had trouble with last year. If you look at the stats page and see “bad defense” for 2012, don’t be so quickly convinced. It appears that the position he couldn’t competently play was actually first base – in the outfield he has been approximately average. Though he hasn’t played much in left field, his advanced metrics in right show a big positive from range but a big negative from his arm balancing one another out. Left field would be the traditional home for guys that fit that pattern and left field would be where the Tigers might have a vacancy in 2014.