Detroit Tigers: With Ilitch, Tigers Never Out of Left Field Market


Jul 22, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) hits a single in the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers have been active in filling their holes this offseason by signing Jordan Zimmermann, Mark Lowe, Mike Pelfrey, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and trading for Francisco Rodriguez, Cameron Maybin, and Mike Aviles.

The Tigers need another left fielder, but Al Avila will not act unless given to go ahead from Mike Ilitch. Although rumors swirled earlier this week the Tigers were interested in a left fielder, it is unlikely they will sign Yoenis Cespedes or Alex Gordon to fill that role unless the unpredictability of Ilitch strikes once again.

Ilitch declared the checkbook was still wide open this offseason, but the Tigers’ moves do not indicate that claim. They have signed second tier players at every position where they could have splurged on a top player at his position like David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Joakim Soria, or Darren O’Day who all signed for more money than the Tigers were willing to spend.

Although the Tigers have not signed the top player at the positions they have acquired, but Ilitch could make the move himself as he did in 2012. It took until January 2012 for the Tigers to move on Prince Fielder when there was no market.

When Victor Martinez went down with a torn ACL, Ilitch saw Fielder as the road to a championship. If he decides the Tigers are a top left fielder away from a championship, Ilitch will make the call to acquire Gordon or Cespedes. If he really does not want to break the bank, Ilitch could also make the call to acquire Justin Upton if that is what the market yields.

Money aside, the Tigers believe they acquired their left fielder in Maybin who will platoon with Tyler Collins in 2016. In 2015, Maybin produced a slash line of .267/.327/.370 with 10 home runs, 59 RBI, and 23 steals. Collins produced a .266/.316/.417 split with 4 home runs and 25 RBI earning him a shot at the 2016 roster.

The biggest difference between the Tigers’ duo and the free agents is not at the plate, but in the field. In 2015, Maybin rated -5.3 defensively according to FanGraphs with an UZR of -7.2. Collins rated -5.9 defensively according to FanGraphs with a -2.9 UZR. Cespedes rated the 7th best overall outfielder with a defensive rating of 10.6 according to FanGraphs with the third best UZR of 15.6. Gordon did not play the full season because of his groin injury, but he rated a 2.2 defensive player with a 6.9 UZR.

With Mike Ilitch at the top, the Tigers are never out of the free agent market. Even when all signs say no, Ilitch could say yes and the Tigers could have a new (or old) left fielder.