Detroit Tigers Need More Outfield Depth

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Mar 2, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; (EDITORS NOTE: caption correction) Detroit Tigers right fielder Justin Upton (8), outfielder J.D. Martinez (28) and outfielder Cameron Maybin (4) before the game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; (EDITORS NOTE: caption correction) Detroit Tigers right fielder Justin Upton (8), outfielder J.D. Martinez (28) and outfielder Cameron Maybin (4) before the game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Tigers outfielders have been solid this year. J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton both seem to be heating up, while Cameron Maybin has continued his strong start. Still, depth is needed.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila has done a solid job in constructing a roster that looks primed to contend for the rest of the 2016 campaign. That includes an excellent starting outfield.

As it stands, the Tigers current starting outfield consists of Justin Upton in left field, Cameron Maybin in center field and J.D. Martinez in right field. That’s a fantastic starting unit that provides significant contributions on both offense and defense.

After the starting three is where things start to get dicey. Upton and Andrew Romine are Maybin’s current backups in center field, while Mike Aviles backs up Martinez and Upton in the outfield corners.

Detroit does have Steven Moya and top prospect JaCoby Jones waiting in Triple-A, but that’s about it in terms of legitimate outfield depth—at least based on this season’s stats.

Tyler Collins hit only .100 in the Majors this season, and hasn’t done much better with the Mud Hens, posting a .208 batting average and a .278 on-base percentage. Fellow outfielders Wynton Bernard and Anthony Gose haven’t fared much better with Toledo this season. 

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Along with Jones, who the Tigers may want to develop a bit more in the minors before calling him up, Bernard and Gose represent the only depth where true center fielders are concerned.

Both players bring a similar skillset to the table with speed and solid defense, however neither has been too productive at the plate. Bernard hit just .235 with a .588 OPS in 46 games. He did steal 10 bases, but that was one of the few positives. The outfielder was optioned to Double-A.

After struggling immensely in the Majors this season, Anthony Gose was sent down to Triple-A. Things haven’t exactly worked out for him with Lloyd McClendon’s team.

The former Blue Jay is batting a paltry .178 with a .250 on-base percentage and a .235 slugging percentage. The 25-year-old has also continued to strike out at an alarming rate, with 48 punch outs in 107 at-bats.

More depth is obviously needed, but Detroit obviously shouldn’t break the bank and go for a high-profile addition like Ryan Braun or Jay Bruce. A more low-profile acquisition to provide insurance seems the much more prudent move.

Here are two possibilities.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis

, Milwaukee Brewers

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While Nieuwenhuis has just a .223 batting average so far this season, he’d be an excellent depth piece for the Tigers. Despite the low batting average, the outfielder does have a solid .337 on-base percentage. He also can play all three outfield spots and profiles as a positive defender in center field.

Considering that Milwaukee is already 15 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central, a deal involving Nieuwenhuis and one of the Brewers’ veteran relievers (Carlos Torres or Blaine Boyer) would make sense for the Tigers.

While Jennings has struggled this season—a .264 on-base percentage certainly isn’t anything to write home about—the outfielder has shown that he can make an impact on a Major League roster.

From 2011 to 2014, the former top prospect averaged 40 RBI, 22 stolen bases, 22 doubles, 12 home runs and five triples per season. During that time, he hit .249 with a .327 on-base percentage. If he can come close to replicating those numbers, Jennings would provide the Detroit Tigers with a quality fourth outfielder.

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At only 29 years old, Jennings still has time to rediscover his previous form. What’s more, a change of scenery could be just what he needs to turn things around. Given his struggles and Tampa Bay’s 30-32 record, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Rays move Jennings.

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