Detroit Tigers: Three Potential Low-Risk Bench Additions
Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila recently eluded to, in an interview with WMGC-FM (105.1) that was reported in the Detroit Free Press, that the Tigers probably won’t supplement the team with another big contract.
And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. There’s significant value in minor additions. Justin Turner, Franklin Gutierrez and Stephen Vogt were all low-key additions at one point or another. All three posted a 2.4 WAR or higher last season.
While that makes a signing of Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon unlikely, it also means the team is more likely to potentially go after one of the following players. All three would be improve the ball club without costing much.
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Slugging outfielder Jonny Gomes has made it a habit to be employed by winning ball clubs. You may remember him from recent Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics teams that matched up with the Tigers in the playoffs. Not only was Gomes a part of those teams, he also won a ring with the Kansas City Royals last season.
For his career, Gomes has mashed 165 home runs over the course of 13 big-league seasons. He’s also driven in 565 runs. Most of his recent damage has come in a part-time, or reserve role. The outfielder hasn’t played more than 120 games since 2010.
Despite that, he has shown well in limited at-bats.
Gomes has 10 career pinch-hit home runs and is a .272 career hitter with two outs and runners in scoring position. What’s more, the former Royal is an ideal platoon partner for incumbent left fielder Tyler Collins.
Collins is a .264 hitter against right-handed pitching while Gomes owns a .273 average against lefties in over 1,600 career plate appearances.
Another platoon option in the outfield, David Murphy is more of an accomplished contact hitter than Gomes. Murphy is a career .274 hitter, including last season when he hit .283 in a year split between Cleveland and Anaheim.
The former Angel has done much better in his career against right-handed pitching with a .278 batting average. This would still fit well with Collins, who hits .263 against lefties.
While Gomes holds more appeal as a bench cog and occasional starter, Murphy has legitimate appeal as a full-time, or nearly full-time hitter. Since 2008, the free agent has averaged 24 doubles, 13 home runs and 57 RBI. Adding that kind of a bat to the team’s lineup on the (relatively) cheap would be a massive boon for the Tigers.
Aug 9, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman
(30) doubles in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Johnson didn’t exactly set the world on fire during the 2015 season. The infielder spent time with the Braves and Indians last season, hitting .283 with three home runs, 18 RBI and 74 strikeouts in 83 games. This was a significant drop off for a player who averaged 11 home runs and 55 RBI per season from 2010 to 2014.
Capable of playing first and third base, Johnson would be nothing more than a bench piece in Detroit. However, there is potential if he can start to drive in runs again. Maybe hitting in the Tigers’ fearsome lineup would help.
Even if he can’t rediscover his power, there is value in a player who can spell both Miguel Cabrera and Nick Castellanos while hitting for average (Johnson is a career .280 hitter) and occasional power.
Johnson was recently designated for assignment by the Tribe as Cleveland made room for former Tiger Rajai Davis.
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Signing Gomes, Murphy or Johnson won’t make massive waves in an offseason that has yet to see some major free agents find new homes. However, all three present the kind of low-risk, low-cost signings that could pay dividends for the Detroit Tigers.