Detroit Tigers: Limited Left Field Options in Free Agency
By Ben Rosener
Ever since the Detroit Tigers traded Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline, the team has been missing a solution in left field. As it stands at the moment, some combination of Anthony Gose, Mike Aviles, Tyler Collins and Steven Moya will patrol left field for the Tigers in 2016.
The team has been linked with some of the top free agents on the market, most notably Cespedes and former Royal Alex Gordon. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman previously tweeted that the team was “looking” at both outfielders.
However, general manager Al Avila shot the rumors down (per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale), saying that the team is “out of Cespedes and Alex Gordon talks.”
It’s looking more and more likely that the Tigers will head into Spring Training without a marquee signing in left field. Obviously that could change if players’ markets dry up, but for now the Gose/Aviles/Collins/Moya four-headed monster seems to be the most likely option.
Detroit is a contending team, and contending teams have quality production at most all positions. Going on that, the current platoon outlook presents a few problems.
Gose will be fine defensively in left, but profiles more as a light-hitting centerfielder with a bat than a typical corner outfielder. Aviles has solid pop for a utility player, but is better suited off the bench. Giving him anything more than the occasional start in left field would limit the value his defensive utility brings.
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Collins, meanwhile, impressed with 18 extra-base hits and 25 RBI in only 60 games in 2015. However, the 25-year-old has only appeared in 78 career games and may not be ready for a significant number of at-bats. If Collins isn’t ready due to a lack of experience, than Moya shouldn’t be in the conversation. The top prospect has a mere 20 games of Major-League experience under his belt. While his power is intriguing, Moya is still relatively raw.
Tony Paul of the Detroit News suggests the team could add a corner outfielder near the trade deadline. While that proposed route has a lot of validity, (especially if Collins or Moya show they can hit enough to justify a constant stream of at-bats), the team needs help how.
If Cespedes or Gordon aren’t options, the outfield markets becomes increasingly shallow.
While free agents options like David Murphy and former top prospect Dominic Brown provide potential, neither is a candidate to start on a full-time basis—meaning they’d just be another option in the platoon carousel.
The Tigers need someone who is a legitimate starter, but doesn’t come with the price tag that Cespedes, Gordon or even Justin Upton carry. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many free agents who fit the bill.
Steve Pearce and Gerardo Parra are quality options.
Pearce had a fantastic season in 2014, mashing 21 home runs and hitting .293 in only 102 games. He struggled last season with a .218 batting average, but the power was still there thanks to 15 home runs in 92 games. His comparative down season in 2015 may ward off potential suitors, making him an intriguing add for the Tigers. Pearce also brings defensive flexibility as he can play both outfield corner positions in addition to first and second base.
While Pearce has never played a full season, Gerardo Parra has extensive experience as a regular starter. The outfielder has started more than 120 games in each of his seven big league seasons, and averages 141 games per year.
Parra has won two Gold Gloves and is generally an excellent defender. In terms of Defensive Runs Saved Above Average, the former Arizona Diamondback has saved 64 runs in seven years. In addition to being a plus defender, Para is a career .277 hitter who has averaged 26 doubles, 10 stolen bases, eight home runs, five triples and 44 RBI per season.
MLBTradeRumors.com predicted a three-year, $27 million contract for Parra. That may be too rich for the Tigers’ blood, but if the market for Cespedes and Gordon drops, it likely means Parra’s market will drop as well. If Detroit can sign Gerardo Parra at a cheaper rate, the team should jump at the chance. He’s a quality offensive player, superb defender and comes with a much more reasonable price tag than the big names on the market.
Whatever happens with the Detroit Tigers’ left field situation, it’s clear that the team needs some help. Unless Cespedes and Gordon become available at discounted prices, there aren’t a plethora of options.