Detroit Tigers: Hole in the Roster Still Remains


There is still a full list of free agents available for the 2016 season and Detroit Tigers fans know it. They also know there is one weak spot left in the Tigers lineup. The two names that continue to pop up, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon, could easily fill that weakness. Fan Twitter feeds are full of Little Caesars pizza photos to show their support for the team and their wishes of adding Cespedes or Gordon to the roster. The big question remains: Will Al Avila and Mike Ilitch sign anymore big names?

Aug 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos (right) celebrates with teammates J.D. Martinez (28) and Ian Kinsler (3) after hitting a grand slam against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

According to Tony Paul with The Detroit News, the answer is probably not. When the Chicago Cubs gave Jason Heyward the ridiculously large contract, the bar was set high for the other outfielders. The price and length of the contract Cespedes wants is too rich for the New York Mets. And, according to our sister blog, Kings of Kauffman, the Kansas City Royals will not be signing Alex Gordon. Again, the issue is price.

If the Tigers do decide to fill left field with someone like Cespedes or Gordon, they will most likely make a trade for the spot. Paul reports that some teams have inquired about Nick Castellanos and that Ian Kinsler is a valuable trade piece for Detroit. Castellanos does not open up much money, but Kinsler certainly does. Now that Mike Aviles is a Tiger, he could easily fill in at second. Dixon Machado could fill the third base spot.

Is Cespedes worth trading Kinsler? Not according to the numbers. In 2015, Kinsler finished with .296/.428/.770, with 11 home runs and 73 RBIs. Cespedes finished the season with .291/.542/.870 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs. Kinsler struck out 80 times and Cespedes struck out 141 times. Kinsler had one less at-bat than Cespedes. Kinsler’s WAR was 6.0 to Cespedes’s 2.3. As a true team leader, Kinsler is a valuable player in Detroit. If Kinsler were swapped for Gordon or Cespedes, the weak spot would move to the middle infield. It simply does not make sense.

May 18, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Anthony Gose (12) makes a catch during the seventh inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Unless Ilitch decides to pay the luxury tax, the 40-man roster seems to be set. What is not set is where the outfielders will be positioned. After a season of watching Anthony Gose play in center field, it is clear that he can cover space and make plays. Cameron Maybin had a .991 fielding percentage in center in Atlanta in 2015. Gose had a .989 percentage. There is a possibility that the outfield could be comprised of Maybin as the regular center fielder and Gose in left. Gose covered left in a few games with the Toronto Blue Jays and played the position well. J.D. Martinez will most likely remain in right field, which as his numbers show is the spot he should play.

Another possibility for left field is Nick Castellanos. He covered the outfield in the minor leagues and in his few games in Detroit in 2013. This would open up the hot corner, which could be covered again by Machado or Aviles. While Castellanos does have a few issues fielding third base, his numbers at third are significantly better than Aviles and Machado.

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It seems that the moves to fill the hole at left field open up holes in other areas. Avila and Ilitch must be aware of the deficiency, but story from the front office continues to be the same: they are not signing a hot left fielder. But, fans have repeatedly been surprised by the whims of Mike Ilitch.