Detroit Tigers: Which Rockies Outfielder is the Best Fit?
As it stands, Anthony Gose and Tyler Collins are projected to receive the majority of the starts in left field for the 2016 Detroit Tigers.
If the Tigers want to compete for a World Series crown, something has to change in left. Gose and Collins are quality bench options, but neither are starting-caliber outfielder at this point in time.
However, thanks to a recent signing by the Colorado Rockies, Detroit could potentially find a new left fielder.
Entering the offseason, Colorado employed a quality trio of outfielders in Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. Naturally, the Rockies reportedly (per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman) signed another quality outfielder in Gerardo Parra. With designated hitter or any kind of position change nowhere to be seen, it seems rather likely that the Rockies will trade one of Dickerson, Blackmon or Gonzalez.
Given the Detroit’s outfield needs, the teams would seem like a perfect match to make a deal. According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, discussions have been had.
This begs the question, which Colorado outfielder is the best fit in Detroit? Here’s the cases for each of the three.
We’ll start the Rockies’ starting left fielder Corey Dickerson.
The former eighth-round pick holds, perhaps, the most value of the incumbent Colorado outfielders. In parts of three seasons (265 games), Dickerson has shown great versatility at the plate with an ability to hit for contact and power. He isn’t picky with extra-base hits either. In those 265 games, the outfielder has 13 triples, 39 home runs and 58 doubles. Additionally, Dickerson is a .299 lifetime hitter with 124 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
His best season came in 2014 when he posted a stellar .312 batting average, a .931 OPS and a 3.4 WAR. What’s more, he also smacked 27 home runs, 27 doubles and six triples while driving in 76 runs. For the season, his OPS+ of 141 ranked higher than the likes of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz and Jose Altuve.
Despite all the success, there are a few worrying stats. Dickerson is only a .246 hitter against left-handed pitching, and is a .249 hitter away from Coors Field. Should he join the Tigers, he’d need to overcome those splits. Thankfully, it’s completely plausible. In 211 at-bats hitting second in the order, Dickerson is a .328 hitter. The number two spot in the Detroit lineup seems a likely destination for the outfielder given the Tigers’ current personnel. The move could also be beneficial. Hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera can do wonders for a player’s stats.
At just 26 years of age, he’s younger than both Blackmon and Gonzalez. In addition to being younger, he is also more controllable. The left fielder isn’t even eligible for arbitration until 2017, and won’t become a free agent until 2020 at the earliest.
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Based on his relatively cheap salary, controllability and production, Dickerson is probably the best fit for the Tigers. However, all three factors will probably cause the Rockies to value him extremely highly.
The rebuilding Rockies have a number of needs. Pitching is the most apparent, as the rotation and bullpen are in need of help. Colorado could also use a shortstop to hold the position until top prospect Brendan Rodgers is ready. A young catcher would make sense as well given the current age (32) of incumbent starter Nick Hundley.
Hypothetical Trade: Dickerson for Bruce Rondon, Buck Farmer and pitching prospect Austin Kubitza
This would be a win-win for the Rockies and Tigers. Rondon would undoubtedly be the centerpiece of the deal. The 25-year-old could very well be an elite closer one day. He certainly has the stuff, but hasn’t been able to put it together with Detroit. Colorado has invested in power pitching as of late, making Rondon a perfect fit.
Farmer could slot in the Rockies’ rotation or bullpen. He has the potential to find success in either role. Like Rondon, things simply haven’t worked out with the Tigers. Kubitza excels in forcing ground-ball outs, making him an ideal starter at Coors Field. MLB.com notes that he has the “upside of a big, physical, inning-eating back half of the rotation starting pitcher.”
Like Dickerson, Blackmon is a versatile offensive player.
The 29-year-old has hit .288 in parts of five Major-League seasons, the last two of which he spent as a starter. From 2014 to 2015, the 29-year-old hit .287 with a .786 OPS, 36 home runs, 130 RBI, 58 doubles and 12 triples.
Blackmon also displayed his ability as a speed merchant. Over the past two years, the outfielder has swiped 71 bases, including 43 stolen bases last season in addition to a cumulative 4.5 WAR.
Also like Dickerson, Blackmon had a strong 2014 campaign. The left-handed batter hit .288 with 19 home runs, 72 RBI and 28 stolen bases. His efforts that season earned him a spot at the All-Star Game.
While most of his innings come in center field, Blackman is also able to play right and left field. He’s logged 224 games between the outfield corners, and would potentially provide manager Brad Ausmus with a considerable amount of lineup flexibility.
Blackmon would also fit in well at the top of the Tigers’ order where his speed can be unleashed upon opposing teams. The center fielder has done the majority of his damage as a hitter from the leadoff spot.
The Rockies’ outfielder hits both righties (.291) and lefties (.281) well, but is only a .241 hitter away from Colorado. That could prove problematic, but hitting in Detroit’s stacked lineup should help him improve upon his non-Coors Field stats.
This offseason, Blackmon will enter arbitration for the first time. He won’t be eligible for free agency until 2019.
Hypothetical Trade: Blackmon and Adam Ottavino for Steven Moya, Bryan Holaday, Jefry Marte, Jose Valdez and Angel Nesbitt
The Rockies already have Gerardo Parra coming in to play one of the outfield spots, so Moya would be brought along slowly. The top prospect would serve as Gonzalez’ long-term replacement in right field. Additionally, Moya’s immense power would play well in Colorado. If there’s a stadium tailor-made for Steven Moya, it’s Coors Field.
In Holaday, the Rockies may find a solution behind the dish. Hundley was superb in 2015 with a .301 batting average, but he’s on the wrong side of 30. Holaday, who hit .281 last season, would provide a veteran compliment to the power hitting Tom Murphy.
Marte seems one of the most likely players to get the axe should the Tigers make any kind of addition. Blocked at both first and third base in Motown, Marte could eventually provide Colorado with a solid platoon at first base with Ben Paulsen. Marte is much better against left-handed pitching (.270 career hitter), while Paulsen excels against righties (.287 career hitter).
The Rockies signed Mark Reynolds to pair with Paulsen, but Marte’s presence would allow the Rockies to shop Reynolds at the trade deadline for more assets.
Valdez and Nesbitt are both power relief arms with some upside. Colorado is in desperate need of pitching, and both pitchers are Major-League ready arms.
Earlier in the offseason, I looked at the potential of a Gonzalez-to-Detroit trade. You can read that piece here if you feel so inclined. If not, here’s the CliffNotes version. The man dubbed “CarGo” is an excellent all-around player capable of winning Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards alike. From an on-field product standpoint, he’d be a perfect fit in Motown.
However, the only real downside is the player’s salary. Gonzalez is owed $37 million over the next two seasons. While that’s a relative bargain, the Tigers may not want to spend that kind of cash when Dickerson or Blackmon provide cheaper alternatives.
However, if Detroit’s brass/ownership desire a top left fielder, CarGo will likely be much cheaper from a financial standpoint than top-tier free agents like Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton.
If Colorado is willing to move him, and Detroit is willing to take on the salary, Gonzalez may be the easiest of the three to acquire simply because he isn’t controlled for as long and is much more expensive.
I proposed an Iglesias and Moya for Gonzalez trade in the aforementioned article. While that would make a good return for the Rockies, the following hypothetical trade would also make sense.
Hypothetical Trade: Gonzalez for Rondon, Kubitza, pitching prospect Kevin Ziomek and catching prospect Grayson Greiner
In return for the team’s star outfielder, Colorado gets a potentially elite closer in Rondon as well as and two pitchers that profile as dependable, big-league starters in Kubitza and Ziomek. Greiner is the Tigers’ 13th best prospect, according to MLB.com. The same publication calls the backstop a “defensive-first catcher… with some raw power.” Like Holaday, Greiner would be a solid player to pair with Murphy.
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The Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers are perfect trade partners at this point in time. Of the three incumbent outfielders Colorado could move, Dickerson seems like the best fit for Detroit. In a perfect world everyone would love to see CarGo hit in the same lineup as Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Victor and J.D. Martinez, but Gonzalez’ salary may be too high. Dickerson is a complete hitter with plenty of seasons of control left. He’s the player who the Tigers should target.